Christian commerce, conscience, and coercion
As I’ve been relaying my struggle to determine the godly decision regarding same-sex weddings at our party center (I’m now on part 3), I’ve imagined some of you thinking, what’s the big deal? Why the prolonged struggle? Same-sex couples are human beings deserving of respect like the rest of us. The right thing to do is not to treat them any differently than heterosexual couples. Boom. Decision made. And I picture others shaking their head in amused amazement at what they perceive to be an irrational fear on my part that God will smote me if I choose wrong.
If a person is committed to living out the faith that lives within, he or she will often be found thinking longer and harder about choices that others don’t struggle with. But it’s not because we’re afraid of punishment. It’s not so much because of what we don’t want but what we do. As Christians we want to be the salt and light that Jesus talked about. Salt acts as a preservative and light reveals truth. We want to represent God’s character accurately and honor him by calling attention to his will and obeying it.
So we find ourselves in a culture that opposes God by calling good and right something that he calls “an abomination.” And we can’t simply resolve not to commit that sin – it’s a lot more complicated than that. Some of us are being required by law to indirectly be a party to it by providing goods and services to be used in celebrating the sin. And we have to ask, what would God have me do here?
I mentioned yesterday that my involvement in a same-sex wedding as a venue provider is of a much less personal nature than that of one who contributes his or her own unique artistry, like a baker, florist, or photographer. So they are likely to feel more involved in the sin than I would. Whether or not we think they are actually involved in it shouldn’t matter. Each of us has to follow his own conscience and the First Amendment is supposed to protect that.
There is an even more personal level of involvement which when considered might help us all better understand the conflict this issue confronts Christians with. On my list of events that I could allow at our facility I included a meeting of the American Humanist Association, whose motto is “Good without a god.” I could have substituted American Atheists. If these atheists wanted a cake for their meeting and I was also a baker, I would accommodate their request. However, if they wanted me to decorate the cake with the words, There is no god…now we have a problem. Similarly, if a same-sex couple wanted Gay is great or God is not great and has nothing to say about our sex life…
If they brought in a cake so inscribed would I throw them off the premises? No. I wouldn’t like it, but as Paul says in the 1 Corinthians passage I quoted on Wednesday, we’d have to leave the world to avoid associating with those involved in immorality. But requiring me to make a statement that denies God or his will is not terribly far removed from putting a knife to my throat until I confess that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.
I’m not saying that currently a baker would be required by law to use her skills and sweet icing to make such statements. But I fear that’s just another step or two away from where we’re at right now. Nevertheless, I think these hypothetical situations illuminate the difficulties Christians face today in being faithful to God in an increasingly secular society, as well as the threats to our personal freedoms.
So finally I come to my decision, though I can’t say I have no reservations about it. If a same-sex couple wants to rent our facility for their wedding, I will not turn them away. But this is the decision I’ve made after much thought and personal soul-searching, and I can’t speak for anyone else. Another Christian service provider may decide differently and we all need to have our thoughtful, conscience-driven decisions respected.
If you’ve gotten this far and have read all three installments of my argument…boy, thanks. I really appreciate it. This is pretty new territory I’m having to navigate and I may have stumbled a bit. Feel free to point out any discrepancies that you may see. My desire is to be loving, faithful, honest and authentic and your feedback may help redirect me if I’ve strayed from that. And again…thanks for reading.