A column in the Dallas Morning News calls out Christofascist claiming that they are being persecuted and demanding "religious freedom" laws that would exempt them from public accommodation laws and non-discrimination laws and ordinance. Surprisingly, the author is a Baptist pastor - it goes without saying that his church is NOT part of the Southern Baptist Convention. And his message to Christofascists? That they are selfish and guilty of behavior that is the antithesis of the Christian conduct. From my experience, the author is 100% on target. No one is more selfish and self-centered than the fundamentalist/evangelical Christian crowd. If you want to see true Christian charity and behavior, the last place to look for it is in the churches of such modern day Pharisees. Kudos to Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas for rejecting the selfishness that now defines "conservative Christians." Here are op-ed highlights:
Imagine this scenario: An evangelical Christian couple is planning their wedding and wants a cake for their reception from the best bakery in town. So they visit the Jewish baker to make arrangements but are greeted with bad news: "Sorry, we don't bake cakes for Christian weddings." Can you imagine the outcry in the Christian community?Or how about this: You are involved in a horrific automobile accident near a small town and rushed by ambulance to the nearest hospital. You are taken to an emergency room to be treated by a doctor who first takes down vital demographic information, only to conclude: "I'm sorry. I'm a Muslim and my faith will not allow me to do the procedure you need to live. You'll have to wait until we can transport you to a larger hospital with other doctors." Again, can you imagine the outcry in the Christian community?
Or one more: Your best friend at work recommends a manicurist she loves, so you make an appointment. Upon arrival, you are made to feel unwelcome because everyone else there is lesbian, but you're not. The clear but unspoken message is that straight Christian women who don't condone same-sex relationships are not welcome here. How would you talk about that at your weekly Bible study group?
All these things happen in America today, but usually with the roles reversed or with different categories of people involved. Hearing these tales with a twist shines a light on how wrong they are. Things look different when you're the minority instead of the majority. Or at least, things should look different.
In most every contemporary instance of calls for additional legislation or presidential executive orders or city ordinances to address religious liberty concerns, Christians — and particularly the evangelical Christians from whence I have come — are presented as the aggrieved parties who desire additional protections to freely express their religious convictions. Seldom, however, does anyone stop to consider how it would feel for the shoe to be on the other foot. How might evangelical Christians see ourselves on the other side of the story, not as the persecuted but as potential persecutors? Would that make a difference in what we demand for ourselves?
One idea is to think about how the First Amendment in particular is a double-edged sword: What we expect of others, we must be willing to do ourselves.
And that, in case you've forgotten, is a decidedly Jewish and Christian idea. It was Jesus who said, quoting the Torah: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Of course, Jesus isn't the only one to have taught the Golden Rule; this idea of reciprocity permeates many cultures and teachings. But Christians, of all people, should understand the concept.
Contemporary calls for religious freedom legislation or presidential executive orders or city ordinances mostly run afoul of the First Amendment because they forget the Golden Rule. Most often, these are attempts to prevent me from having to do something for you that I don't want to do while still demanding that you be required to do that same thing for me. There's another simple word for this: Selfishness.
There has arisen among us a line of reasoning that elevates the free exercise clause of the First Amendment above the establishment clause. The establishment clause says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Which means the government may not prefer one religion over another. Adherents of all religions must be treated equally. And the free exercise clause adds that government may not make any law "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion. Not just the free exercise of my religion, but the free exercise of all religions.
My "sincerely held religious belief" should not allow me to discriminate against others on the basis of things they cannot change. No workaround to the First Amendment and existing law is needed to solve this "problem," because it should not be a problem if we follow the Golden Rule.
To make exceptions to our cherished religious liberty based on one person's "sincerely held religious beliefs" is the equivalent of making exceptions to the Golden Rule based on the idea that the rule should only benefit me.
Religious liberty as expressed in the First Amendment is a golden rule that works just fine and has for 225 years. No further clarification is needed. What is needed is greater living out of the Golden Rule.