Friday, April 3, 2015

Lessons from Indiana

With the amending of the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana and the vetoing of a similar bill in Arkansas, it’s become clear to me that American “culture warriors” have lost yet another battle. And, truth be told, there are more losses to come.

Now, such people can complain all they want that the gay-rights movement is acting like “bullies” in getting major business to reconsider doing businesses in such states for what they consider an encroachment on their "religious freedom."

There are several problems with such a stance.

One, when the act was enacted on a Federal level during the Clinton Administration its aim was to protect specific religious rituals — in essence, the “free exercise” of religion; one case in particular surrounded the use of the controlled substance peyote by certain Native American tribes. And the law already contained provisions for churches, ministries and affiliated groups to bar active gays from positions in the organizations.

Which leads to another issue: What the culture warriors have always really wanted was not so much “freedom” but privilege, that only their views would be unquestioningly paramount in society. Trouble is, Christians in general and the church in particular were never instructed to become part of any “establishment,” perhaps because when you become establishment you tend to want to remain such and thus get hooked into the world’s way of thinking. That does more to damage the church’s effectiveness than anything coming from the outside because the faith is often liberalized in its own right.

Not helping matters is that gays over the years cultivated allies, whether in business, government, culture or, today, even some churches. And contrary to popular opinion, that wasn’t the result of some nefarious campaign from any gay lobby — it’s just that when people “came out” to their families and other places they gained sympathy in their respective worlds. In such an atmosphere blood ties and friendships often trump any “moral” concern.

In other words, the modern acceptance of gay rights and especially same-gender matrimony came as the result of, essentially, an underground phenomenon that has now bubbled up to the surface. We didn’t see it because, frankly, we didn’t want to, and now many of us complain that our country is abandoning Biblical “values.” (Which was dubious in the first place.)

Let me say that I do oppose same-sex marriage and would have a serious problem with, say, baking cakes or pizzas for such a wedding were I as a business owner asked to do so. But conservative Christians have never made a strong case as to why they feel homosexuality is morally wrong; as things stand now — especially since they do have a history of race- and gender-based discrimination on “Biblical grounds,” even though they don’t really exist — we can expect such controversies to occur again and again.

And I suspect that Indiana was just the first salvo.

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