(Credit: ColsonCenter.org Screengrab)
Recently, The Colson Center created a statement entitled Preserve Freedom, Reject Coercion in which they ostensibly call on the federal government to ensure “religious freedom” and oppose “coercion or censorship of fellow citizens who have different views.”
It is signed by many of the sorts of
straight white guys people whose signatures you would expect to find at the bottom of such a document, including Franklin Graham, Albert Mohler, John MacArthur, and Eric Metaxes among many others.
It’s a document full of lots of lovely sounding euphemisms about faith and freedom, but to anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention, it’s clear those statements are just that: euphemisms.
This isn’t a call for religious freedom. We already have that in the United States and have ever since the Constitution was ratified in 1788.
This statement is a call for non-affirming Christians to be able to legally discrimination in the name of Jesus against the LGBT community in the public square.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Statements like this are, of course, nothing new. They’ve been coming out in droves ever since (and before) the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in the summer of 2015.
And they’ve accomplished essentially nothing.
Well, nothing other than to reinforce a persecution complex in the minds of certain Christians.
While the election of pandering-to-our-baser-instincts Donald Trump has given hope to folks who would sign such a document as this – hope that the tide of history will turn and their ability to be able to legally discriminate in the name of Jesus will become the law of the land – it’s a vain hope…at best.
Yes, Donald Trump did say, “If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths.” However, Donald Trump also said he’s “fine with” the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage and considers the matter “done.”
So who really knows? It’s Donald Trump.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say the First Amendment Defense Act is passed. Let’s even say it stands as the law of the land for a few years until the United States Supreme Court inevitably rules it to be unconstitutional. Even if that were to happen, it’s a small battle won in a bigger war that is already over for everyone except the most strident conservative Christians – and those who suffer their wrath.
Already, some 55% of Americans support same-sex marriage and that number will only continue to rise. Why? Because for all our faults, our history tells us that once we do recognize discrimination for what it is, American opinion changes and it never looks back (even if we don’t always live out or newfound ideals). For example, when is the last time you saw anyone with any credibility come out in favor of the reinstitution of slavery? Or Jim Crow laws? Or oppose interracial marriage?
The answer, of course, is never.
But each of those horrendous issues – slavery, Jim Crow, and opposition to interracial marriage – were once vehemently supported by Christians in the name of Jesus and “the Bible says so.”
Which is important to remember when talking about same-sex marriage and “religious freedom.”
This isn’t the first time Christians have played the Bible card in order to seek legal protection for sanctified discrimination and, sadly, it probably won’t be the last. But when it comes to this particular matter – the rights and inclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters – the tide of not just American history, but Christian history has turned and it’s not turning back.
Which brings us to the hard, but simple truth for non-affirming Christians.
No matter how many euphemistic statements you sign, no matter how many state-sanctioned discrimination laws are passed in the next 4 years, and no matter how vehemently you believe otherwise, the Church will look back in generations to come at this period in our history in much the same way we do now when we look at Christian support for slavery and Jim Crow and interracial marriage bans.
We’ll be embarrassed and wonder how we could ever have been so blind to the gospel and the moving of the Spirit.
I know, I know. If you’re a non-affirming Christian you’re probably screaming at me through your computer screen right now, “Oh yeah! You just wait and see!!”
But here’s the thing: we don’t have to wait and see.
As of 2016, 71% of all Millennials support same-sex marriage.
That number is only going to continue to rise.
Which means when the people who signed the Colson Center’s Preserve Freedom, Reject Coercion statement and folks like them pass on into entirety, there are not going to be legions of holy warriors standing ready to take there place on the front lines in the battle for sanctified discrimination.
Will there be some? Of course. And sadly, I’m sure there always will be, just as there continue to be racist Christians today and misogynistic Christians who believe women are second class citizens in the kingdom of God. There will always be pockets of sin in the Church this side of eternity, no matter how hard we work to eradicate them.
But despite the festering malignancies that are sure to linger, at some point in the very near future, when the children of today’s non-affirming Christians grow up or when their children grow up or when their children’s children’s children grow up they will do so in a Church that is fully inclusive of their LGBT brothers and sisters and they’ll do so gladly and proudly while looking back at their forefathers and wondering why they could so easily exegete their way out of Paul’s call for slaves to obey their masters, but couldn’t extend that same exegetical grace to their LGBT neighbors.
I know that claim is hard to hear and likely impossible to accept for many, if not most non-affirming Christians. But if you are non-affirming, please know I don’t make such a claim in order to rub defeat in your face.
I know how hard it is to change one’s mind on something you’re so sure of, something you’re convinced the Bible is crystal clear about. I’ve been there. I grew up deeply conservative and could argue with the “best” of them about why homosexuality is a sin. It’s incredibly difficult to change one’s theological convictions. And when you top that conviction off with a theology that says having the wrong idea about things is a one way ticket to eternal conscious torment, it makes it all but impossible to even consider the possibility that what you were taught in Sunday School and what you have come to accept as gospel isn’t actually the gospel of Jesus.
Believe me, I get that. Deeply and truly, I do.
But it’s not just society that’s changing. It’s the Church too. The Spirit is moving and the Spirit has been moving to open up the eyes of Her people and see where we need to extend grace where once we extended only condemnation.
Your children see it and if not them, then their children and their children’s children for generations to come will see it. No matter what you do today, future generations will grow up in a world in which the idea of LGBT opposition is just as antiquated and offensive as segregation is today.
You can continue to “fight the good fight,” but I would invite you instead to beat your swords into plowshare and your spears into pruning hooks. Come together around the table of Christian fellowship and let us reason today.
The Spirit is moving.
Your brothers and sisters see it, some of your children see it, and the polling numbers guarantee that when you’re gone you’re children’s children and their children will see it too.
So, instead of leaving behind a legacy of sanctified discrimination, begin working now to leave behind a legacy of grace. Begin getting to actually know your LGBT brothers and sister instead of keeping them at arms length or treating them as token friends in a friendship that only exists to save face. Learn to see in them the image of God in the same way you do yourself and maybe, just maybe the Holy Spirit will begin a new work in you too and open your eyes to reality that LGBT folks can love and incarnate Jesus every bit as much as you and me.
Ultimately, you have a decision to make.
You can either continue to fight a losing battle for legalized (and sanctified) discrimination.
Or you can become an agent of grace that your descendants will be proud of for generations to come.
It’s up to you.