Leaders at this week’s National Religious Broadcasters conference warned Christians may soon be forced to practice civil disobedience.
Southern Baptist leader Richard Land and NRB board member Janet Parshall cited same-sex marriage and President Obama’s birth control mandate as the reason why.
Land said those issues are non-negotiable, even at the cost of paying fines and going to jail.
What on earth is Richard Land talking about? Is there any way to make sense of this? What could it possibly mean to say Christians should or could “practice civil disobedience” in reaction against marriage equality?
Here is the current legal context for Southern Baptist congregations in states that do not yet legally recognize same-sex marriage:
Your Southern Baptist church can celebrate and affirm the marriages of opposite-sex couples while refusing to celebrate or affirm the marriages of same-sex couples. The marriages celebrated by your church are legally recognized by the state.
The Episcopal or MCC or UCC church across the street can celebrate and affirm the marriages of same-sex couples, but those marriages are not legally recognized by the state.
And here is how that changes in the few states that now do legally recognize same-sex marriage:
Your Southern Baptist church can celebrate and affirm the marriage sof opposite-sex couples while refusing to celebrate or affirm the marriages of same-sex couples. The marriages celebrated by your church are legally recognized by the state.
The Episcopal or MCC or UCC church across the street can celebrate and affirm the marriages of same-sex couples, and those marriages will be legally recognized by the state.
The change does not affect the Southern Baptists at all. At all. It does not require them to start doing something they have not been doing or to stop doing anything they have been doing. It does not compel or prohibit them in any way. It does not require their obedience and thus it is not subject to their disobedience — civil or otherwise.
And because it is not possible for them to disobey this law, there is no way for them to wind up “paying fines and going to jail.”
So what is Richard Land talking about?
He’s just masturbating — fap-fap-fapping to the self-pleasuring fantasy of being a bold and courageous martyr for his faith.
Land’s statement is only slightly less ridiculous regarding the so-called birth-control mandate. Here, at least, his talk of “paying fines” is not completely irrelevant. Large for-profit companies that refuse to provide minimum standards of preventive health care coverage could indeed wind up paying fines under this “mandate.”
But again this does not affect “Christians” either. The law does not apply to churches, only to large secular employers. It applies to corporations. And while campaign-finance law may insist that corporations are people, my friend, I am not aware of any corporations that have been born again after praying the sinner’s prayer and inviting Jesus into their hearts as their personal Lord and savior.
I suppose some devout Southern Baptist corporate executive might follow Richard Land’s suggestion and refuse to provide the minimal preventive coverage out of solidarity for the religious liberty of Christian Scientists and faith healers, but even then such an executive would not be personally subject to “paying fines and going to jail.” The company would be fined, not the executive. So that’s not so much “practicing civil disobedience” as “screwing over shareholders.” (Those shareholders might, in turn, sue the company for a violation of fiduciary responsibility, and I suppose somewhere down the line that could mean the executive could personally face SEC penalties, but I’m reluctant to say that makes him the moral equivalent of Rosa Parks.)
The CBN “report” includes even more egregious wankery from the head of the National Religious Broadcasters:
Meanwhile, NRB President Frank Wright warned that Christian broadcasters’ religious freedom is at risk.
Wright urged this year’s convention goers in Nashville to unite to defend their right to spread the Gospel.
He warned biblical teachings are being dubbed hate speech — and there’s growing potential for discrimination lawsuits against Christian organizations for refusing to hire non-believers.
Wright told leaders, “Restrictions on religious freedom anywhere are threats to religious freedom everywhere.”
Again, what is Wright talking about? What is the basis for his claim that Christians “right to spread the Gospel” is under attack? His reference to “hate speech” is supported only by discredited urban legends, and his talk of “growing potential for discrimination lawsuits” is utter nonsense following a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling in the Hosanna-Tabor case. So what is the substance of this complaint?
That’s not the point. This isn’t about substance or reality. It’s about how saying such things makes him feel.
Wright’s not actually trying to defend “religious freedom,” he’s just trying to feel the buzz of imagining himself as an imperiled and courageous member of some righteous remnant facing persecution from the ungodly because of his awesome godliness.
That’s much more exciting than the rather glum reality of presiding over an industry convention representing broadcasters who make lots of money catering to a privileged and pampered majority.
Talk of “civil disobedience” and supposedly imperiled faith makes people like Land and Wright feel good about themselves. They require such fantasies to feel good about themselves because their reality doesn’t allow that. In reality, they know themselves not to be heroic champions of the underdog. And that reality has got to be depressing.
One option would be to change — to become better people who use their power, privilege and influence to make the world a better place. But that’s hard. It’s easier just to play make-believe.
So they spin out fantasy scenarios in which they’re not privileged and powerful, but rather an oppressed, beleaguered and aggrieved minority suffering injustice at the hands of some other, imaginary powers that be. Then they can imagine that, in this fantasy, they’re just like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi and Harriet Tubman all rolled into one and they can imagine just a tiny taste of how proud they would be of themselves if anything at all like that were actually true.
I don’t begrudge them whatever pleasure they give themselves with such fantasies. But that sort of thing really shouldn’t be done in public.