Jesus Burdens Our Religious Freedom

Jesus Burdens Our Religious Freedom March 31, 2015

Jesus Burdens our Religious Freedom

I think this political cartoon makes an excellent point. Various things may or may not be legal, but if one is a follower of Jesus, it can be argued that his teachings burden our religious freedom. To quote Paul, “All things are lawful – but not all things are beneficial.” Christians may have the right to refuse service based on the dictates of our conscience. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we should, or that Jesus would want us to.

Let me also share a slightly edited version of a comment I made on Facebook, related to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act:

I object to legislation that makes it legal to put up a “no gays allowed” sign, even if no one were to do so despite its legality.

And the notion that American Christians, living on land stolen from others, buying cheap goods made by underpaid workers, buying gas which is connected to our support for the oppressive regime in Saudi Arabia, suddenly become complicit in evil when they bake cakes for a wedding that is not in line with their beliefs, is reprehensible nonsense.

We are entangled with injustice and unrighteousness in all sorts of ways. It is telling to me that many conservative Christians chose to stop sponsoring starving children through World Vision because it indicated a willingness to accept gay and lesbian Christians. Not all conservative Evangelicals have those sorts of priorities. But some do. And yet somehow I can’t see Jesus causing harm to children in order to exclude people. It seems to me an example of managing to be as unlike Jesus as possible, in two different ways simultaneously.

Jesus burdens us. He calls us to give up our freedom. And yet those who embrace this challenging path of love find that his burden is lighter than that of hatred which we once carried.

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  • Pearly1

    Excellent post, James. “And yet somehow I can’t see Jesus causing harm to children in order to exclude people.” Spot on!

  • joriss

    “And yet somehow I can’t see Jesus causing harm to children in order to exclude people. It seems to me an example of managing to be as unlike Jesus as possible”
    I fully agree. But suppose you were the responsible man of World Vision. Would you have returned to the former situation or would you have continued on the new way?

    • I hope that, if I had been in charge, I might have pressed on, rather than making both sides equally unhappy. But it is hard to know, not having the same views as that individual and not having been in that situation myself.

      • Nimblewill

        I wonder which group are (were) sending in the vast majority of their donations? I really don’t know. I wonder also if the Kingdom can be advanced without money? Can it?

    • Jonathan Bernier

      In fairness to World Vision they were facing a situation wherein they were forced between two goods: inclusive hiring practices on the one hand and feeding children on the other. They opted for the latter. I’m not sure that I can begrudge them for that.

      • R Vogel

        No, they were given the same choice as Mordecai, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and they made the wrong one. It is always a false dilemma to say the only way you can do good is to be complicit with evil.

  • Jon Fermin

    Dr. McGrath, Just one question. let’s assume for the sake of argument that Jesus as a carpenter, ran his own shop and took commissions for work from clients. Would Jesus knowingly accept a commission to construct an altar to be used in a pagan ceremony?

    • We can only speculate. But given that he is supposed to have taught his disciples to not merely go along with carrying a Roman soldier’s belongings (some of which were tainted by idolatrous images, and all of which were involved in domination over Judaea), but go further than the law required, hints at what the answer might be.

      • Jon Fermin

        in the example you have given, Dr. McGrath, whatever sin may have been committed with those belongings is implicit, not explicit. it is significantly different from facilitating a direct sin in the same sense as the altar. we do not know the intentions of the centurion (after all, some were opposed to Jesus, some were not) we do know the explicit purpose of the altar is idolotry. therefore, rephrased, could Jesus knowingly materially facilitate the act of idolotry by creating the altar for the pagan?

        • Mark Z.

          Well, Jon, we don’t know what Jesus did in that situation, assuming it ever came up. You asked a speculative question about it, and now you’re arguing for your preferred answer to that question so that you can somehow use it as evidence in another argument you imagine you’re having.

          This does not seem like a productive activity.

          • Jonathan Bernier

            We can move to a situation wherein it is significantly less speculative. Paul says that there is no problem with Christians eating meat sacrificed to pagan gods. He says that those who do have difficulty with thus eating have weak consciences. It is not clear to me that building the altar for the sacrifice represents any greater participation in the ritual than consuming the sacrifice itself. It is also not clear to me that the non-Christian folk of Indiana should be held hostage by weak Christian consciences.

          • Jon Fermin

            In the case of the scripture you mention, it seems as though you have given a partial reading. Paul goes on to say:

            1 Cor. 9-12 (emphasis added)
            Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. **When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.**

            here Paul is not admonishing not the meat itself (for meat used after a sacrifice is just meat, no more no less), but instead is admonishing poor witness by those who are giving the impression that they are going along with a pagan cause. Paul conversely says that in a situation where one would give poor witness by their act it would be better if one does not participate at all.

            In the altar scenario however, there is no purpose to create that altar, but for the act of the sacrifice itself, which is enabling the act of idolitry directly.

          • Henry Case

            And the implementation of a law disallowing discrimination solves that problem by eliminating the ambiguity in your actions in the eyes of the believer with poor conscience. You are simply adhering to the law and are released from the burden of being misapprehended as condoning the sinful action.

          • Jon Fermin

            And teach that the law of the state is superior to conscientious objection? the RFRA law that is comming under fire these days people forget has a requirement that those with religeous objections must prove those objections in court. its not some carte blanche to turn people away on a whim. like it or not It’s a fairer compromise than using the law as a cudgel to keep people from living according to their consciences as you propose.

          • Mark

            The suggestion isn’t that the law is superior to conscience on these matters, but that the operation of sound conscience takes account of what the laws are. Similarly the distancing provided by market relations affects what a reasonable conscience thinks. Considerations of law and market don’t decide everything, but it’s one thing to sell stuff that you know some people will misuse, and another to make yourself an accomplice who brings the stuff in order to get a percentage of the final take. Of course this ‘distancing’ can be carried too far and used to wash one’s hands of things. It is as much the seller who is burdened by the new law: sale and purchase are now more intimate in Indiana and suchlike places, so everyone will have to subject each sale to a close moral scrutiny, since they can’t say ‘well it’s just a market relation’ (I mean even in their consciences, and in truth as they see it.) It is proof enough that this is just hate blather that the legislators didn’t consider this — i.e, that they were making it impossible for religious citizens to use the law as input in their moral decisions and as a distancing factor since now they have to decide as they would have decided if there were no laws in the matter at all, and this will make them *actually complicit* where they *really weren’t* before.

          • Jon Fermin

            I am not entirely convinced that the RFRA actually makes the seller and buyer more intimately connected in each other’s activities than they were beforehand. the same objections could have been raised beforehand, the only difference is that the seller now has the ability to legally defend themselves if they get sued. it allows both parties to have their day in court.

          • Mark

            I don’t see any way of understanding the law except as containing the claim: “You cannot in good conscience ever understand yourself to be off the hook for complicity with what you think is wrong, because *you are merely complying with the laws of Indiana*” For most of us what the law permits and require is related to what our consciences forbid and require — obviously there are limits to this, and the connection is very easy to abuse of course. But in Indiana, there are basically no limits. When I ask myself whether something is conscionable, I cannot use the law as one of my inputs – even if in the end I have to over-rule it and disobey — since, with this law added to them, the actual meaning and application of the laws generally presupposes that conscience has already done its work. The law says: you decide if its conscionable first, then I’ll decide whether I require it.

          • Jon Fermin

            our consciences were never “off the hook” merely because we obeyed the civil law of the land. not then, not now.

          • Mark

            I’m not sure what you mean by ‘off the hook’. I am was above assuming an agent who always and everywhere acts in accordance with conscience, and only does what accords with it. What a sound and correct conscience finds, though, is not independent of the laws and the structure (family, political society) in which the agent is acting. To deny this is to reject the whole tradition of casuistry for some American fantasy.

          • Mark

            It very often happens that conscience requires, in the presence of a law, is something that it would reject in its absence. Even paying your taxes is like this – and even where the state is not itself up to no good; if there were no tax laws, it would be unconscionable of you to make a gift of this money to the state rather than using it for your children’s education. The sound conscience is constantly working with the laws — except in Indiana, where the laws explicitly state that they only enter where conscience has done its work.

          • Jon Fermin

            I used the term “off the hook” i the manner I thouht it was presented, as an excuse to one’s culpability one could provide simply because they were “following orders” I agree a moral agent always and everywhere is beholden to a well formed conscience. and yes there is an obligation to follow law in that well formed conscience but insofar as it does not conflict with that which is objectvely morally true. in such a circumstance, the civil law is subordinate and subject to civil disobedience. because of appearance among some to be a conflict even in following this, I think it is only fair that both parties have the ability to justify their position civilly and where applicable, preserve our first ammendment rights. Hence, RFRA, though imperfect (due to human limitation), does allow for such, and should be preserved in the abence of a better solution.

            in the matter of tax, there has already been case precident for that, and ot favors paying tax. I am not arguing that case because in that one it is a matter of proximate cause which the citizen has some indirect control over. it’s a different situation than direct facilitation such as in the wedding matter.

          • Mark

            Right, but the effort of the Indiana legislators is to make it the case that civil disobedience can never be justified. The legislators have also arranged that they need never in the future pose the question ‘will many of my constitutuents be forced into the position of becoming prisoners of conscience?’ since they know that they have already arranged that this is impossible. (Remember that ‘the erring conscience binds’.) Their consciences are off the hook; the consciences of their subjects are hereafter exhausted and complicit in everything. The structures that (actually, genuinely, in moral reality) keep us from being complicit in each others bullshit – insofar as they do, which is quite a bit – have been blown up, on what appear to very high minded, principled grounds. As Anscombe says, “it is I think quite characteristic of very bad degenerations of thought on such questions that they sound edifying”.

          • Jon Fermin

            I fail to see how it is that the indiana legislators are making the case that “civil disobedience can never be justified” by enacting this law. rather it is the intent of the law to do just the opposite. as I said before the law itself is not some carte blanche. this law has been enacted in 20 different states and the federal version which covers states that do not have a state version has been on the books for almost 20 years, this is not new stuff. It has been tried and tested and is not nearly the catastrophe people are making it out to be.

          • Mark

            It hasn’t been tried and tested, it’s just demogical nonsense meant to incite crowds. This is the function of meaningless drivel, witness Nazi anti-semitism. Conscientious objection means *acting against the law* and *doing it for reasons of conscience*. The claim of the Indiana legislature is that its laws are now structurally incapable of giving rise to that possibility. (Of course this statement needs plenty of qualification; the law has a somewhat restricted scope for example.) To put the point incredibly crudely, they can now make a law that says everyone has to go to Satanist religious services, in the confident expectation that the judges will find that the law will not apply to those for whom this is a conscientious or religious difficulty. The decay of thought and casuistical intelligence in this is total.

          • Jon Fermin

            Mark, I must admit, given the history of this law and it’s practical application over these past 2 decades, that your proposal for the effects of the law are unrealistic at best, and pattently absurd (for lack of a more charitable term) at worst. I am honestly at a loss of words to comprehend by what grounds you can make an assertion like that. the law itself does not deal in any way with proscriptive legislation, but rather preservative legislation on the part of the free exercise clause of the 1st ammendment. your proposition on it’s face could not even be conceived because it is a direct violation of the establishment clause. that sort of nonsense would be thrown out of any court without question. I am not sure at this point if you are entertaining absurdity for it’s own sake as some kind of april fools’ day prank, but if not, then I really do not know how else to answer that.

          • Mark

            I’m not talking about the ‘effects’ of the law, which will be nil, since it doesn’t actually mean anything. I am talking about its content and the moral depravity of those who defend it. Or maybe you think that an act can’t be intrinsically wrong, we just have to look to its ‘effects’.

          • Jon Fermin

            I certainly think acts can be intrinsically wrong, I just think you have made a great deal of unfounded speculation on those who defend the law is all.

          • Mark

            I’m not speculating on these people really, just considering what could possibly be going on with a meta-law that says “none of our laws are ever to be interpreted to mean that anyone ever has to act against his or her conscience or religious beliefs; we declare this in advance and irrespective of the apparent content of those laws” – however restricted it is in scope. It makes complete nonsense of the idea of a legal system and of the idea that conscience is informed by such a thing but sometimes over-rides it. Of course judges will just do what felt like doing anyway when given this kind of nonsense, as happened with Hobby Lobby and so on. The law can’t have been genuine input for them since it has no cognitive content; they are just engaged in word play. Given that it’s meaningless and self-contradictory, there is the question what is making people pass such ‘laws’. The forces of nonsense are the forces of violence and murder.

          • Chuck Bryant

            The effects are already beyond nil. The pizzaria who has never catered a wedding but went on record saying that catering a wedding for a gay couple is against their religion has since shuttered their doors .

          • Rick Cook

            “meant to incite crowds”? No, that’s the choice of those who cannot grasp that showing actual bigotry is not a valid action to protest merely hypothetical bigotry. No one in support of the law is inciting anything – they simply wish to live as they choose.

          • On the one hand, engaging in bigotry is not merely an unacceptable response to bigotry, it completely undermines the morality of one’s own stance.

            On the other hand, I find the “they simply wish to live as they choose” response ironic, since the same has often been said about gays and lesbians, people of African descent, and other groups, and that is precisely the issue with this legislation – one should be able to live as they choose without fear of discrimination. No one has infinite freedom. We are all constrained by laws which maximize freedoms for each of us while also safeguarding freedoms for others.

          • Rick

            Totally agree, James. Unfortunately, the morality therein is lost on those whose morality says that the end justifies the means; that bigotry is ok if you’re doing it to protest bigotry.

          • Chuck Bryant

            This law is Very different from the federal one with a similar name

          • Richard

            Would it, then, be required for a baker to bake a cake for KKK convention, even if his or her conscience objected to participating in the event?

          • Richard Roberts

            Yes, the passage in 1 Corinthians regarding meat and idols is limited by the participation in the act of idolatry itself, as opposed to the intrinsic qualities of the meat (which would have been sold in a market, not off the sacrificial table). 10:19-22 states, “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” It is clear that the apostle sees a participation in the table of the pagan altar a demonstrably different conscientious issue than buying the sacrificed meat at the market. If one’s work is a participation in the act which God calls detestable, then it is something which the apostle clearly says in participating with demons and something to be avoided.

          • win meer

            Paul is not God giving a commandment from Mt Sinai written in “stone”. Advise about other people and their conscience pertains to having a sensible conversation about your actions. Selling knives, guns do not condone murder with these implements. Making an altar does not condone worshipping gods/idols.

        • JoeNCA

          But the two are different. You bake a cake for one person is fine, and you do the exact same thing for someone else and it’s suddenly a sin? These couples didn’t ask for any THING special, just what other people asked for.

          Believe me, had these couples asked for a big rainbow cake that said “Gay marriage is awesome” (just like something specific like a pagan altar), they might have had s case.

          They didn’t. They didn’t have a chance to because the businesses said, “Sorry, we don’t serve your kind here.”

          If Jesus made it for other people, I have not a doubt in the world he would have made it for anybody else, including pagans. He catered a wedding, turning water into wine. Did he ask, “Now are you virgins so I’m not ‘participating in your sin’?” Nope. He just did it. He even healed the gay lover (pais) of a Roman solider.

          Luke 6, Sermon on the Mount: “Give to everyone who asks of you. Do not judge. Do not condemn.” That’s His commandment to us.

          • Jon Fermin

            Joe in any cases that have come under scrutinty, intention has always been shown. Any act that can be sinful is either by itself intrinsically sinful (sinful under all circumstances due to the act itself, such as abortion) or extrinsically sinful due to circumstances surrounding it (IE drinking when it crosses the line into drunkenness). A sin requires an act and intentionality (therefore the claim that sexual attraction to members of the same sex is a sin is invalid, it requires action on temptation to become sin.therefore we must distinguish between persons who experience homosexual desires vs those that acts that legitimize that desire, untl then they are under temptation to sin just as we all are of one sort or another, but this is a wholly separate topic) For a simpler example take arson. Burning down a house without intention is an accident, burning down a house with intention is arson. in both cases, the same material outcome is present, the fire burning the house down. where the sin enters is intentionality, as the sin is an act of will. in the cake example, if say for example a gay couple just asked for a generic cake with no specified reason, the baker could not know the purpose for the cake and therefore could not be culpable. but in the case of the wedding cakes as they have appeared in cases, the baker knew in advance that they were preparing a cake for an intrinsically disordered union, having agreed to be a facilitating factor to this intrinsically incorrect union (which under no circumstances could ever become valid, even post facto) they have then entered material cooperation. the sin itself is not the cake, but the intentionallity associated with the act of making the cake.

            to tie this back to the other comment about Paul. just as it is not a sin to eat meat used in pagan sacrifice qua meat, it is not a sin to eat a wedding cake used in a gay wedding qua cake. the sin of scandal occurs when one eats the pagan meat at the sacrifice or with the intention of showing support or indifference to the sacrifice itself. likewise with the cake. it is not the consuming or creating of the cake qua cake which is the issue, but to what degree one particpates in facilitating the sins of others and thus making oneself culpable in sharing in their sin.

          • Mark Z.

            And now you’re off into Traditionalist Catholic Jargon Land. I thought we were talking about Jesus, not who’s more intrinsically incorrect than you.

          • Jon Fermin

            What i’ve said could have been said by any number of Christian theologians, Catholic or not. Insulting an argument is not the same as refuting it.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “or with the intention of showing support OR INDIFFERENCE to the sacrifice itself.”

            Sorry, you just completely made the part in caps up in your head

          • JoeNCA

            So a straight couple orders a cake. The baker makes the cake. The groom gets jitters and calls it off. The cake is already made. A gay couple says, “Hey we’ll buy that cake from you,” and the cake transubstantiates into something sinful simply by who buys it?

          • Jon Fermin

            Joe, If you read what I had written, you would already know how I answered that question. the matter is not the cake, it’s the facilitation. the cake is incidental. just as this scenario can be substituted by photographer instead of baker and still be essentially the same argument.

          • Mark

            Before such laws came into being, it would be obvious that your casuistry was wrong: the baker was not complicit in anything, for the reason that he was just interacting through the market and in accordance with the laws that give it its shape. *These are precisely what kept his intention from reaching to the wedding.* In the presence of these laws you must interact with clients generally and in all cases as you would with your own children. If the children ask you for something, it is your business to know what they’re going to do with it! This peculiar law proposes to eliminate from Indiana any structure in which *we conscionably do things, that, apart from the legal framework, would not be conscionable.* That phenomenon, which is fundamental to human society, and which has nothing to do with a general superiority of law over conscience, is simply being destroyed in principle.

          • See my latest post on this blog for breaking news about the law in Indiana.

            Returning to Jesus’ teaching, we find he doesn’t leave any of the loopholes that Jon Fermin seems to be looking for: If someone compels you to go with him one mile, go with him two – unless he is carrying something that is connected with idol worship, or on his way to engage in false worship or oppression. I only eat with tax collectors who demonstrate that they have quit their jobs. Before I heal the servants of Romans, I make sure that they don’t have a sexual relationship with one another of a sort that was common in the Greco-Roman world. Before I praise the faith of a Roman Centurion, I make sure that he is not just including me and my God among a pantheon of gods he worships.

            These kinds of things are not new issues. And so if Jesus had intended to leave loopholes, then I for one would expect him to have done so explicitly.

    • JoeNCA

      Actually under this law, since paganism is a religion, it gives them more power to use their religion to force it onto other people, not less.

    • Andrew Dowling

      Would Jesus have permitted Gentile disciples? . . .no proof he would have . . .

      • milchap

        No proof he wouldn’t have.

        • Andrew Dowling

          Not exactly. The oral tradition even after Christianity began accepting Gentile converts has Jesus instructing his disciples not to go to Gentile territory; all of the disciples in the Gospels are Jewish; and Jewish holy men generally didn’t have Gentile followers. That a robust debate occurred among early Christians regarding acceptance of Gentiles shows the Great Commission to be ahistorical.

          Does that “prove” Jesus would have never accepted Gentiles? No, but it does put the onus on those asserting the affirmative.

    • The Roman occupation of Palestine was a sin against God. Yet Jesus commanded aid to the occupiers.

      • Jon Fermin

        But he would not ask them to sin, of which facilitating an act of idolitry would be.

      • Michael Wilson

        And the context of the aid is coercion, right? Would Jesus advise followers to voluntarily accept contracts to further immoral acts?

    • Ishmael Zaphod

      I think he would. And then he would “go the extra mile” and do it up right. Or build two altars. The point is he would demonstrate that he was building the altar for his enemy because he loved him, and not because he was compelled to. And so he would do whatever he was compelled to do (build the altar to minimum standards) and then he would go above and beyond out of love for his enemy.

    • win Meer


  • ccws

    “I object to legislation that makes it legal to put up a ‘no gays
    allowed’ sign, even if no one were to do so despite its legality.

    “And the notion that American Christians, living on land stolen from
    others, buying cheap goods made by underpaid workers, buying gas which
    is connected to our support for the oppressive regime in Saudi Arabia,
    suddenly become complicit in evil when they bake cakes for a wedding
    that is not in line with their beliefs, is reprehensible nonsense.”

    There are ethically questionable economic choices we all make that are
    nearly impossible to avoid. Maybe the only shoes you can afford for your
    kids are the cheap Chinese ones – and who knows where the gas in your
    tank came from? But one thing we CAN avoid is direct personal cruelty to
    our neighbors. And doesn’t the apostle tell us all to serve one another
    with love? Not a lot of wiggle room there for “no [fill in the blanks]

  • toni

    Let Them Eat Cake!

    Just weighing in on this thought provoking blog. I want to live like Jesus. I choose love over judgment or religious freedom.

    “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

  • Mike Wilson

    James, isn’t the most important point that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality? When Christians refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding, they are making the mistake, encouraged by a number of biblical writers, that homosexuality was immoral, a crime against decency. The problem isn’t that they are refusing to act in love, I don’t think love means making money to promote evil. Its wrong to refuse because it is wrong to believe homosexuality is not as valid as heterosexuality. It not a case of going the extra mile because doing what is expected of you is not the extra mile, you are expected to not treat people like shit just because you think their sexlife is gross.

    James, do you really think Jesus would have taken work making idols? What if he felt as Peter and Paul did, that these were symbols of evil, or themselves evil? Should a christian artisan really use their time to promote anti-christian ideas for no other reason than they were asked? How much would it cost for you to teach facist race theory? Is it not loving to say, no I won’t support your evil cause? Really, the only reason we should ask them not to discriminate is because there is nothing wro g with being gay.

    • Jonathan Bernier

      At first blush I was thinking, “No, that can’t be right, because who decides that homosexuality isn’t wrong?” But then I thought: we all do. We have, as a species, delivered a strong “No” against fascist race theory. We are in the process of also delivering a strong “Yes” to homosexuality and the rights of LGBT persons. The logic in each case is the same: inclusion is to be maximized, discrimination minimized. So maybe the real test is not a juvenile and selfish notion of freedom (“I don’t wanna and you can’t make me!”) but rather a mature and universal commitment to our shared humanity.

      • Yes, I think this gets it just right. People are ultimately free to believe that people of other races are inferior, that being gay is wrong, and so on. But we decide as a society that, even if we protect the right of people to believe such things, we do not affirm them, or allow practices based on those beliefs, in our society.

        But perhaps this leads to the most challenging part of this: ultimately we don’t want to merely legislate against discrimination on the basis of race or sexual orientation. We want to persuade people who are prejudiced to think differently about their fellow human beings.

    • Mike – your point is spot on. Some progressives/liberals do not understand this basic idea: that given certain (erroneous) assumptions, the way conservative Christians act is not hateful but in fact a moral outpouring. Now, I think the assumption that LGBT “lifestyles” are wrong is itself fatally flawed – but given that assumption, many acts which seem purely hateful and bigoted are revealed to have internal logic. I have met very few people that wish to “protect traditional marriage” who actually want to harm gay people – their actions do result in this, but they are trying to protect something in their own minds. We really have to understand the opposing argument in its own terms rather than in the terms we’d prefer. We’d prefer it if all conservative Christians were just evil haters using religion to justify their prejudice. That would make for a tidy Manichean story. But it’s actually much more complicated than that – and if you are truly interested in changing hearts and minds, you’ll go to the root of the matter as Mike has done here. (Please don’t misunderstand: I don’t expect LGBT people who have been hurt by these policies to do this, rather it is primarily the responsibility of fellow religious people.)

      None of us like to be strawmanned – and when it happens it just reinforces our own sense of self-righteousness. But to be TRULY understood, TRULY have your arguments well represented – and THEN refuted. . . that is what alters perspectives. It is what altered my own perspective years ago. I’m also not suggesting this hasn’t been done and isn’t being done (Justin Lee and John Corvino as two examples of this), but it needs to become a widespread popular model. Trust me, posting “You’re just a hater” rhetoric on facebook goes right over the heads of conservatives. It reinforces a feeling of being misunderstood and justifies flawed assumptions. It may feel good and in alot of cases even be accurate, but if you’re interested in getting to the roots of moral disagreement, it’s a dead end.

      • JoeNCA

        I’m sure a lot of segregationists who believed God created the races, separated them by continents and confounded them with language were well intentioned people as well. It doesn’t make their actions any less hurtful.

        • Joe, I was very clear that their intentions do not excuse their behavior. Their beliefs lead directly to actions which lead to hurtful outcomes. Understanding the origin of the beliefs is the crux of my argument – that does NOT mean condoning the actions or outcomes, which have been so disastrous to individuals, families, and communities. Understanding is not condoning. But the truth is that only by understanding can we address the deeper issues. And the deeper issues are usually not: “These people are pure evil sociopathic bigots using religion to mask their villainy.” If that were true we would be in a very hopeless situation indeed.

          Your analogy is a perfect example of how they will deflect. I know what an anti-LGBT conservative will say to that comment. “The Bible has no sanction for racism (Ham’s curse not withstanding) – all are equal before God. The Bible does condemn homosexual behavior.” So the pro-LGBT response has to deal with what the Bible sanctions, the nature of the Bible, doctrine, etc. If the Bible lacked verses which appear to condemn homosexuality, then the racism analogy would have merit. These ideas REALLY do come from sincere religious belief which can be supported in the Bible – religious belief is not just a cover for prejudice. Don’t get me wrong, there is homophobia out there which is purely due to a toxic cultural disgust, but the widespread religious injunctions against homosexuality have more to do with doctrine than pure prejudice. The prejudice and the dogma feed into each other, but they have to be dealt with in different ways to be effective.

  • Anna Marion Howell

    *mic drop*

  • Scrub

    Without the argument that the Bible clearly speaks against homosexual relationships… I think the BIG issue here was to keep hard working business owners from constantly being sued by a group that “claims” to be thick skinned and just wanting “equal” treatment. All we keep hearing is that someone said they wouldnt honor a request at their business and next is a law suite being filed against them because THEY apparently arent allowed to stand up for THEIR personal beliefs and are being FORCED to put their beliefs aside. So how does that differ from being given the right to refuse? Because it falls to the Christian/moral side rather than to the LGBT side. Thats why all of this started, is because rather than going to a different bakery/florist/printer, the LGBT community saw an opportunity to “BULLY” someone who doesnt share their beliefs…

    • This makes no sense. When people with darker skin sought equal service from businesses in the United States, were they bullying people who did not share their beliefs?!

      • R Vogel

        You need more randomly CAPITALIZED words, or you just DON’T seem to really MEAN it.

      • Are gay men and women prevented from buying products from Christian businesses? Or are they finding that they’re having trouble only buying specific products that promote sinful behavior, making the seller of said products complicit in that behavior? Since you compare it with race, how is this different than a black baker who refuses to bake a cake for a Klan rally, with a burning cross and hooded men on top? Or a Jewish baker for a Nazi rally, with a swastika and ss insignia? Should they both be forced to bake the cake? I can tell you one way in which it’s different. The Christian isn’t doing it out of hatred, but to avoid sin, one sin which is one among many. Should a Muslim baker be taken to court for not baking an x-rated porn cake with decorative genitalia?

        • Mark

          The employment of the abstract concept of sin is misleading you. The whole idea of constitutional democracy is to produce a framework in which we can live alongside each other even though each thinks the other is sunk in sin, and going to hell. This was *always* the essence of the matter, it is not a modernist deviation. Any Southern Baptist thinks that every Catholic is a hell bound idolater, and reciprocally. No amount of ‘sin’ on the other side impedes ordinary market relations; again, this is not a decadent recent illusion, it has always been the whole and precise essence of America for example. It is quite different where we come to the quite special form of *injustice* and wronging others, murder and violence being the principal rustic forms of injustice and they are what the Nazis and KKK are about. Reciprocal toleration draws to a close at injustice; the category of sin is too general to work with. We oppose murder because it wrongs *the victim*, not because it is sin-in-general or even wrong-in-general.

          • Jon Fermin

            speaking as a catholic, you obviously have not studied the catechism.

          • It’s not misleading me. It’s misleading you to the point where you’re confusing the issue in order to make your argument functional. There is not discrimination against gay men in a Christian bakery. A gay man is free to buy the products in the bakery and I can’t think of any practicing Christian who would deny him that right. The only problem is when the baker is asked to participate in unethical behavior as a Christian baker, that behavior in this case being to produce a cake which violates that baker’s religious liberty. The free practice of religion does not stop at the steps of the church or mosque, but follows the adherent in every aspect of their life. You have then turned around to give a pass to the anti-Nazi and anti-KKK agenda of the Jewish and black man. I raised that issue specifically because you are framing this in terms of racial injustice and you have now made it quite plain that you support a double standard based specifically on what you find acceptable or abhorrent. I also deliberately left off the “hate message”, opting instead for symbols known to the group that are not necessarily “hate messages” – even the burning of the cross. Is it a violent injustice for someone to have a cake for their rally, where like minded people gather and no violence is fostered? What if they were merely white separatists who were not intent on violence and murder, with no such past? I don’t think they should be forced to bake such a cake and that it would be an egregious violation of their rights to force them to do so. And “any” Catholic does not reciprocally think that every Southern Baptist is a hellbound idolater. This betrays a lack of knowledge on the subject of Catholicism in the least. I believe this is also why you cannot see how the religious belief is being violated by the demand that the believer be required to commit an act of sin which violates his or her conscience.

          • Andrew Dowling

            They didn’t ask for a :”gay” wedding cake . . they wanted a wedding cake like any straight couple would get. So your attempted comparisons to cakes with swatiskas or burning crosses doesn’t hold.
            Then, should Nazis or Klans men be able to buy a birthday cake from a baker, when will then be used to celebrate the birthday of one of the Klan/Nazi leaders? Yes! When you enter the marketplace, you can’t ask all of your customers what (you consider) immoral actions will come from the use of said product. The world doesn’t work that way.

            If it did, my God what about people who sell guns!!!!???

          • Who didn’t ask for a gay wedding cake? You have a single example? The truth is that Colorado is forcing a gay wedding cake, and Indiana is giving the right to refuse to produce one based on conscience. The argument as it stands is based on religious belief vs the right of one group to force the the holders of said belief to violate their religious belief in the marketplace. That includes making a “gay” wedding cake, whether you like it or not. I believe you may be thinking of a single example, and attempting to apply that single example to the end results of this debate. There are implications to these laws and actions. So my example does work. In fact, the case for the religious objection is constitutionally stronger than the case for the Nazis and Klansmen. If a person selling guns knows that someone is going to commit a crime with that gun then he has the obligation to prevent the sale insomuch as he is able. This has precedent in another aspect of life – the serving of alcohol to someone who is already inebriated. The bartender can be held responsible for continuing to serve alcohol to someoen who is dangerously drunk, especially if that person were to drive drunk and cause an accident. You are saying that a black man or a Jewish man must be forced by law to make a cake with KKK or Nazi insignia and symbolism. At least you are consistent in your suppression of individual liberty.

          • Andrew Dowling

            No, see James’s point. You have to sell your products that you regularly make to anyone who can legally purchase them regardless of your view of their morality. The wedding cakes in question did not have “gay insignia” on them . . they were wedding cakes, plain and simple. Cakes are not gay or straight.

            Apparently you have no problem with someone refusing a wedding cake to an interracial couple due to their religious beliefs . . .

          • I’m not aware of any religion opposed to interracial marriage, but I would probably not oppose it. If it were my wedding I would prefer to know that in advance so that I could search elsewhere. I respect other people’s right to hate me and tell me to pound salt, and I try not to hold anyone else to a higher standard.

        • No one is obliged to make x-rated cakes. But if one makes them, one ought to be required to sell them to everyone, regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation.

          • If he already makes themed cakes what justification would he have for refusing the porn theme?

          • You are not obliged to offer all possible tattoos because you are a tattoo parlor. You are not obligated to make every kind of floral arrangement just because you are a florist. You are not obliged to offer wedding catering just because you are a caterer. The issue is whether you should be able to discriminate and refuse to offer services to some that you normally provide to others.

            Is this really so difficult for you to understand?

          • If you’re going to simplify it to that extent hen you are not obligated to make a homosexual wedding cake regardless of the other types of cakes you offer. You dodge the question because it is not difficult to understand.

          • Cakes, to my knowledge, do not have a sexual orientation. Cakes are not attracted to other cakes, are they?

          • Another dodge. You want to have your cake and eat it, too.

          • I want all people to have their cake, without discrimination.

          • I want all people to be able to live with their conscience and their person unmolested by the state, unless extreme circumstances warrant intervention. Such circumstances have not been an issue in this matter. Everyone is still able to buy cakes of all type, but adherents to a religion are faced with state sponsored violence.

          • I think all people should have the right to their beliefs, even bigoted ones. I do not believe that, in a society that maximizes freedom for all, the law should side with the one who discriminates over the one discriminated against. A democracy does not make everyone infinitely free. If I were infinitely free to take what I want and harm whomever I want, others would be less free. And so democracy is a balancing act.

            I am sorry to hear that you live in a context that has state-sponsored violence against religion. In the United States we have things so easy by comparison. Where do you live, if you don’t mind me asking?

        • jjuulie

          In the American legal system, discrimination and refusal of service are allowed, except for certain protected groups such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and in only some states LGBT. Nazis are not iin a protected class. Neither is the KKK. Neither is “decorative genitalia”. So those refusals are legal and if the customer sued, he’d lose.

          • Decorative genitalia falls under sexual preference, and the KKK can be replaced with Christian Identity. The truth is that this is being presented based on legal precedent in racial matters, equating sexual behavior and identity to race. Nobody is refusing service to persons based on who they are or any of the aforementioned identities, racial or otherwise, but they are refusing based on what is being ordered. It’s also an argument against religious beliefs which are not in any way harmful, and despite certain decisions, religious beliefs and practices maintain a high degree of relevance in these matters. You have an uphill battle with that argument as the law is concerned, even with a couple of lower court rulings and even if you can attract substantial popular support at this time.

      • Nick Bell

        Um…If I were black, being black would not be a “belief” of mine to be shared or not shared. Your reply makes even less sense.

        • Same-sex attraction isn’t a “belief” either, any more than attraction to the opposite sex is.

    • JoeNCA

      How important was wedding day? How big was it? Did it mean something to you? It does to these people. Many of them have waited decades for the legal right to marry. It’s important, something you’ve never had to fight so hard for.

      And for that special day, in every single case, they picked people who they knew, who they had worked with before, with whom they TRUSTED to cater their big day they’d waited and worked so hard for.

      In every. Single. Case.

      Your demonization of gay people is exactly the problem. You don’t assume they’re people just like everyone else. You assume they are evil, inhuman.

      They are no different than you or I. They just want to walk into a place, order what everyone else asks for and get it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

      That’s not bullying. That’s just basic humanity.

      • counselorhd1

        I do assume that they are people, and assume that there are numerous cake makers out there in the world, so why would the one cake maker become a big deal? Because they needed an excuse to create a big hoopla. If someone denied my service, or if I didn’t like their cake, I would find another bakery; not sue them so a national issue could be created. Suits like this are part of a plan to “move forward,” case by case. This has been how progress has been made, challenge after challenge, court case after court case, demonstration after demonstration. Fact is, people do not embrace freedom unless freedom looks like the freedom they believe in. Question, and this is really the heart of the matter, does gay rights equate to racial rights? Are they on the same standard?

    • Andrew Dowling

      Same arguments were made for Jim Crow. Your personal beliefs in the marketplace give way to others’ liberties. Sorry the 1960s happened . . .

  • Hiram

    Your logic: Since I can’t fix everything, I won’t do anything. If one has the capacity to fight against a wrong (and same-sex “marriage” is not in God’s design for marriage, so supporting it is a wrong), then one should.
    You should also acquaint yourself with the provisions of the law, which in no way allows a policy of refusal to serve a given category of people.

    • No, that was not my point. My point was that our everyday lives are entangled in things that more clearly deserve to be called evil than gay weddings do. And we could do more to disentangle ourselves than we do. Instead, some people choose easier things to do in order to persuade themselves that they are taking a stand for what is right. And so I think the focus on this issue is a feeding of self-righteousness more than anything else.

  • Hiram

    You equate loving someone with saying that anything they want is acceptable. That is the logic of a five-year-old.

    • Not at all. Being persuaded that same-sex relations are not sinful does not mean that one thinks nothing is. Indeed, I mention some serious evils in the post. Did you read it?

    • Andrew Dowling

      If American business relied upon only selling to people the owners deemed “acceptable” our economy would crash tomorrow . . .

  • AJ Scudiere

    The quote about suddenly becoming complicit in evil by making a wedding cake . . . is WONDERFUL! Thank you for that! I’m going to share it. 🙂

  • JoeNCA

    I swear, has Mike Pence read the Gospels? Luke 6, Sermon on the Mount, Christ commands us, “Give to everyone who asks of you. Do not judge. Do not condemn. Do unto others as you wish to have done unto you.”

    Does this sound like Christ supports discrimination?

  • Jazz Hands

    True love looks past ones “sin”.

  • John MacDonald

    I wonder if Jesus would have thought homosexuals should be allowed to marry each other? Probably not.

    • R Vogel

      Pretty safe bet since he lived in 1st century Palestine…

    • Andrew Dowling

      Place you in 1st century Palestine and you “probably wouldn’t” either.

      • John MacDonald

        As long as we all agree that Jesus was probably a homophobe. lol

  • Heidi Mead

    “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Matthew 11:30

    • Glad the allusion was clear even though I didn’t insert a reference!

  • Skye Jethani offers an argument for Evangelicals to make cakes for gay weddings:

  • Bert Beukema

    I’m happy I don’t live in the USA, but in a true secular country. This nonsense wouldn’t ever even be seriously though of, let alone the ridicule a senator would get. And yes, even from the religious politicians over here would ridicule it. But hey, the USA is already almost a theocracy. Where else in the world will you find separation of state and church, but all official state meetings start with a goddamn prayer. When you start on the path of religionizing law, state and public life, you are on the road to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

  • Daniel O

    Fantastic post James!!!! Excellent stuff….

  • It’s been a long time since the ideology known as “American Christianity” had any resemblance whatsoever to the words of Jesus. It goes against them in so many ways, from megachurches and ostentatiously public prayer before football games, to “prosperity gospel” doctrine – blessed are the rich, accursed are the poor.

  • Nick Bell

    Your point – judging by the title – is interesting. I just don’t think you made it. How does Jesus burden our Religious Freedom? You say he burdens it, you say he calls us to give it up…but you have no example, no quotes…what are you saying?

  • jdog777

    probably the dumbest and most misguided political cartoon ever. To encourage and endorse a sin… is sinning in itself.

    • Even if one were to grant that love between two people of the same gender is a sin, you seem not to be getting the point of the cartoon. If the disciple in the cartoon had instead said “I can’t do that, I’d be endorsing sin!” would you think it is a valid objection to Jesus’ teaching?

      • jdog777

        You are asking me a hypothetical that simply isn’t true. In that case… it’s a fallacy. Nobody on the pro-RFRA side of the debate is suggesting “loving thy neighbor” burdens their religious conscience. The anti-RFRA side of the debate is suggesting that full acceptance and endorsement of their sinful lifestyle is “loving thy neighbor”… A direct and woeful contradiction to scripture (NT and OT). “Loving thy neighbor” does not mean “endorse and participate in my sin”.

  • counselorhd1

    This article is more propaganda than sound theology. To assume that Jesus would have bake a cake in support of a same sex marriage is like saying he would give the woman caught in adultery a condom for her protection. Yes, Jesus ate and associated with sinners, of which we all are, but he also told them to “go and sin no more.” What people seem to be missing is that the same freedom that permits sins exists in those that DO NOT want to support those sins by complicity. Apprently what people want is a government compelling actions, baking cakes, and less personal discretion and freedom. Do what you want, but don’t ask, nay demand, that I assist you in it.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “is like saying he would give the woman caught in adultery a condom for her protection”

      I’m actually more shocked you don’t think Jesus would give prostitutes condoms to protect them from STDs . . . .

  • Tim

    It is simple really. If you’re exclusionary, you’re not a Christian. Quit claiming the label.

  • Donna Aufderheide

    I agree with everything you have written but fail to understand why you chose to title it as : Jesus Burdens Us.. In truth Jesus Frees Us and the ‘burden’ then is on us to follow His teaching. Love thy neighbor.

    • I did so because the terminology of burdening someone’s religious freedom is found in the law in question, and Jesus is recorded as having called disciples to take up their cross, while nonetheless saying that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

  • Jane Newsham

    I’m a Christian but not a baker (well, not professionally anyway).
    Neither am I a florist or a wedding photographer. But I wish I were all
    three. I would bake wedding cakes, make floral arrangements and take
    wedding photos for gay couples getting married – and do my job ‘as unto
    the Lord’ in order that my witness might make those gay couples I
    serve review their prejudices about Christians.

  • Jess3200 .

    Wouldn’t this all be much easier if businesses were simply required to legally state all those they refuse to serve? If you don’t wish to serve homosexuals, fair enough, but if you just announced that then I doubt any would wish to do business with you.

    You get to avoid engaging with those you wish to discriminate against and we get to know to avoid engaging you for business.

    Everyone wins, no?

    • Michael Wilson

      I used to live down the street from a bar with large confederate flag on the wall. It didn’t say blacks were not served, and I bet they would if they went in, but they certainly didn’t feel welcome. Presumably it would be legal for bakers and flotist to decorate their shops with bible verses from Leviticus and let people decide if this is what they want. I suspect though that the cases that have come up are show pieces, the bakers and others being targeted because they might not serve gays. But our society is full of under the table discrimination. Try applying to be a cocktail server at my hotel if you have a penis.

      • Jess3200 .

        Don’t knock penises; they’re awesome! 😀

  • Tim M

    Not much “love” going on when you force someone to do what they don’t want to do, Christian or not.

    • I’m not sure what you are referring to here. Do you mean when Jesus calls us to do things we may not want to do as Christians? Or when laws prevent people who want to discriminate against others from doing so without consequence?

      • Tim M

        Jesus indeed said to “Love Thy Neighbor.” He also said that loving God is the first and greatest commandment. Obedience to God is not a crime and people will often expect others to “love” them to justify THEIR own behavior. These same people will FORCE others to condone their behavior, which is NOT “loving thy neighbor.” Hypocrisy. “By the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Refusing to bake a cake for a particular group of people IS discrimination in the legal sense. On the other hand, refusing to bake a cake because of its message is the right of every bakery in America. Forcing others to do something against their conscience is not loving in itself. In addition, it goes against First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion AND freedom of speech. You do not have a right to not be offended. People on both sides of the issue have good reasons for believing the way that they do. True “tolerance” understands this and doesn’t FORCE others to conform to one rigid view.

        • As has been said over and over again, this is not about “tolerance” and it has never been the case that everyone has the right to unlimited freedom of speech or of action. Our model of democracy does not simply mean majority rule. It also includes safeguards that protect the rights of minorities from unfair and discriminatory domination by the majority.

          • Tim M

            And this is not about “discrimination” against gays. This is about marriage, which for thousands of years and across diverse cultures has been reserved solely for the unique biological relationship between men and women. Our “model of democracy” does not simply mean minority rule either. (We are a “republic,” by the way, not a strict democracy.) The First Amendment includes safeguards that protect the rights of EVERYBODY from intrusion by others AS WELL AS the government. It doesn’t surprise me that your first sentence states that “this is not about ‘tolerance.'” Tolerance has rarely been shown when it comes to gays understanding Christians who sincerely and faithfully believe in the sacredness of marriage. It is not unreasonable to simply walk away and go somewhere else. Not all bakers are devout Christians; other bakers will be glad to make that cake. Boycotts, lawsuits, and government coercion is not Christian, much less tolerant, behavior either.

          • Marriage, for thousands of years and across diverse cultures, including those which are the background of the Bible, has been a patriarchal institution which allowed men to have as many wives and concubines as they wished and could afford, while women’s sexual behavior was restricted to ensure that heirs were legitimate. In the United States we have a very different view of and approach to marriage. And so you are free to say that we should have the historic form of marriage. But please do not pretend that modern marriage is that, and then reject something else that is a perfectly natural development in keeping with the ethos of modern marriage as though that and that alone were a sudden departure from what marriage meant historically.

          • Tim M

            Polygamous marriages were not ordained by God. They appeared in middle eastern culture, without God’s approval, after God’s original design for one man and one woman in the earliest chapters of Genesis. Despite this, polygamous marriages STILL involved both sexes. You want to see discrimination? Same-sex marriage discriminates against the opposite sex.

          • How interesting – and how incredibly convenient for you – that what the Bible throughout its pages assumes as normative because of the cultural context in which it was shaped, turns out to not have been ordained by God, and instead you manage to find your own culture’s definition of marriage as the definitive and divinely-ordained model.

          • Tim M

            “My own culture’s”?

            “Haven’t you read,” [Jesus] replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

            — Matthew 19:4-6

          • Michael Wilson

            But why does God, or any righteous prophet from the bible not reptinand Abraham, Jacob, David, Moses etc for bigamy? When that line was written in Genesis, it was perfectly fine to have multiple wives. Monogamous marriage is a peculiar development of Roman world.

          • Exactly. When Jesus is depicted in the Gospels as appealing to the Adam and Eve story, it is as an argument against divorce, not polygamy. The irony is that many people cite the passage as though its meaning were obvious, unaware of what they are reading into it.

          • Tim M

            This issue is not about polygamy or bigamy, unless you are admitting that same-sex marriage will open up other types of marriage as well. Just because the Bible reports that polygamous marriages happened does not mean that God approved of it, as Jesus mentioned above. Before Abraham most Bible characters had but one wife. Abraham himself only had one wife, Sarah (Genesis 12). Hagar was not his wife but rather Sarah’s servant. Since Sarah was barren, she thought it would be good to let Hagar bear Abraham a child. This type of surrogate motherhood was common in cultures of that time. However, as reported in the Bible, God was not happy with this arrangement as he had told Abraham that SARAH would bear his child, so Sarah’s decision to use Hagar showed a lack of faith in God’s promise. (Genesis 16-17) You didn’t mention Isaac, who had only one wife — Rebekah. Jacob was TRICKED into marrying Rachel’s sister before marrying Rachel. (Genesis 29) David initially married one wife but as his power grew as king, he took two more wives. Bathsheba, his third wife, became his wife after he committed adultery with her and had her husband murdered — for which God condemned David. (2 Samuel 12) His son Solomon also initially took one wife (I Kings 3) but as his power and prestige grew, he took many more wives and concubines and Solomon was warned by God about taking multiple, especially foreign, wives. (I Kings 11) To my knowledge, Moses had only one wife. (Exodus 2:21)
            More often than not, men in the Old Testament had only one wife. Adam had one wife. Noah had one wife. Lot had one wife. Joseph had one wife. And so on, all the way to the prophets. Just because God allowed polygamy does not mean he approved of it. In fact, the New Testament again reinforces the concept of one man/one woman marriage. Elizabeth was the only wife of Zechariah. Mary was the only wife of Joseph. Peter was married to one woman. There is no mention of polygamous marriage in the New Testament. In addition to Jesus’ comments in Matthew 19, Paul reaffirms the teaching in I Corinthians 6 and 7 as well as in Ephesians 5 and I Timothy 3. Plus, Jesus talks about the evils of self-centeredness in Mark 7:21-23, echoed by Paul in Ephesians 5:1-7 and elsewhere. Monogamous marriage existed in most, if not all, cultures long before the Roman Empire. Jesus spoke of monogamous marriage not as a nod to Rome, but as a reminder of God’s original intent in making TWO sexes, male and female. That’s clear in the context, if you’ll take the time to read Matthew 19.

          • It is always possible to explain away counterevidence after the fact. This is no different in essence from the arguments that were used to explain why slavery seemed to be allowed in the Bible, once conservative Christians decided to stop defending it. You seem not to even have noticed that Matthew 19 is about divorce and says nothing about polygamy.

          • Tim M

            Jesus’ cultural experience was one man/one woman marriage AND He refers in that passage to God’s original intent for one man and one woman in the marriage relationship for obvious reasons. Polygamy was not the norm in First Century Judaism. YOU conveniently forget to consider context. “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’ He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.'” (John 4:13-18)

            Slavery is a completely different issue than same-sex marriage. The comparison of the two is like saying that those who use the Bible to justify judicious use of the death penalty are like those who once used Scripture to justify slavery. The two issues are unrelated. Slavery is about one human being OWNING another human being to FORCE them to do their bidding. (Sound familiar?) What’s worse is this was often based on a person’s race or skin color. Sexual orientation/behavior is not always inherently based, and even if it was, that wouldn’t qualify it for marriage. (Can you imagine if scientists discover that there is a genetic or hormonal predisposition for pedophilia or bestiality?) The progressives are not always the ones on the right side of an issue. (BTW, there were many conservatives, particularly in the North, who were against slavery. It is a deception to believe and teach that only liberals were against slavery. The first President to free his slaves was George Washington, a conservative. Liberal Thomas Jefferson also freed many of his slaves upon his death but some of his slaves were sold to pay off his debts.)

            “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. It is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23) Notice that while race is NOT mentioned, hate (malice) is. Malice, greed, and (covetousness) would have covered the idea that one person can own another person by force. People who believed that owning another person by force was justified by teachings in the Bible were wrong. But not everyone who read the Bible interpreted it that way. In fact, many of the most outspoken critics of slavery were Christians and believed that the Bible taught the value of ALL humanity, not of only those with fair skin. Sexual behavior is also explicitly mentioned (sexual immorality, lewdness) and knowing that Christ was well-versed in Scripture, he would have known that homosexuality was part of the sexual immorality listed in the Leviticus Holiness Code (Leviticus 18-19)
            While you certainly have the right to disagree, you cannot deny Christians the right to live according to their consciences. If a business owner won’t give you the product you want, go to another business — Christian or otherwise — that will. Marriage has been reserved for opposite-sex relationships for thousands of years and people have the right and good reasons to believe it should not be tinkered with. Just because polygamy was practiced long, long ago does not automatically mean that the 20-year-old “same-sex marriage” idea is a justifiable or good idea.

          • The fact that the Samaritan woman had been widowed so many times has no relevance to this discussion that I can see.

            Slavery is a wilful act, unlike same-sex attraction, and yet Jesus doesn’t say anything explicit about either. I don’t think one should argue anything from that silence, but it does leave us needing to figure things out for ourselves even one thinks that a clear word from Jesus settles things.

            And so what Biblical principles pertain to a matter like same-sex relations? For me, two things seem paramount: people exist who experience same-sex attraction which is rooted in their biology and those people are made in the image of God; and Genesis says that it is not good for human beings to be alone. Do you consider that, despite the latter principle, it is good for people who are attracted to members of their own gender to be alone?

          • Tim M

            No, it is not good for people to be alone. That’s why people socialize. That’s why people have friends. And God made a WOMAN for Adam, not another male. I am single. Technically, I have been alone for my whole life. But I do okay. Not everyone is meant to be married. (Matthew 19:1-11) Just because it is “not good for man to be alone” doesn’t justify homosexuality any more than it justifies polygamy, polyandry, bigamy, pedophilia, bestiality, adultery, sex outside of marriage, or forced marriage.

            As for the Samaritan woman, you missed the point completely. Jesus called her out on her relationship. She said she had no husband and He told her she had had five husbands and the man she was with now was not her husband. She was an outcast in her own society because of this but Jesus restores her and calls her to a better life. The Bible doesn’t say she was widowed. It says she had had five husbands. The implication was that she was a divorced, or at least spurned, woman. I can’t imagine the woman being an outcast because she was widowed five times. At any rate, in this passage he reiterates the one-man/one-woman prescription for marriage.

            As a first-century Jew who said NOTHING changing Jewish thought on sexual immorality and NOTHING even remotely approving same-sex sexual relationships, Jesus DOES explicitly reiterate God’s expectations of holiness in the Law. Christ’s sacrifice redeems us from the penalty of sin but the expectations of God’s righteousness remain the same, particularly when it comes to morality. (Mark 7:20-23; Matthew 5:17-20; 21-48; verses 29-30 in particular show how seriously we are to treat sin. Rather than embracing it, we are to cut it out of our lives.) There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in Jesus’ teachings that exhibits an approval of any other marriage arrangement other than opposite-sex marriage. Whether or not same-sex attraction is biological, we all have to live with predispositions that are not healthy. Some people struggle with inherent alcoholism or depression. Some even struggle with inherent schizophrenia or homicidal violence. This does not mean that these predispositions should be embraced and encouraged. One can live a good life if they learn to handle these things but if they don’t they will struggle their whole life and be a danger to themselves and possibly others. And if pedophilia or bestiality is found to be biological or hormonal, do you really think Jesus would change Jewish teaching on that, too? Of course not. We are all born with a sinful predisposition to sin but we are called by Christ to resist evil, not embrace it.

          • So now Genesis 2 is about socializing?!

            Your misogynistic interpretation of John 4 ignores the fact that the law did not allow women to divorce their husbands. And they did not practice polyandry.

            If you accept that Paul was wrong, since Jesus did not mention circumcision, and thus as a Jew assumed its eternal validity, I will at least give you points for consistency.

          • Michael Wilson

            If God disapproved you think he would mention it. We say its sin, not the Bible. Polygamy was accepted throughout Africa, China, northern Europe, the middle east and China. Greeks and Latins not so much. The point is contemporary marriage is not some hoary institution stretching back through the ages. We have not allowed gay marriage before, but we accepted a lot of ideas about marriage traditionally that we dont any more.

          • Tim M

            Marriage has ALWAYS been women to men, for obvious physiological reasons. The opposite-sex sexual relationship is unique and this what marriage has always been about. Polygamy was about man and woman. “Same-sex marriage” is discrimination in marriage against the opposite sex.

          • Michael Wilson

            True, but the reason the discussion of polygamy is relevant is it shows we can change our opinion of what marriage can be and not be. Their is an obvious physiological reason in this, but we still let the elderly marry and people known to be infertile. Why? Because their is another reason, romantic love. There is certainty a high correlation between it and the physiological potential for childbirth, but as it turns out, not a perfect one. That is why we let old people and the barren wed, because they to can feel this way despite the lack of procreative purpose. We know that sometimes individuals will also feel this toward persons of the same sex and because of this I think it is right to acknowledge the specialness of committed romantic love for them as we do straights.

          • Tim M

            So as long as a person feels “romantic love” marriage should be an option? I disagree. Romantic love is nice it has never been the primary reason for marriage. A requirement for “romantic love” has never been a legal requirement or criteria for marriage. Sexual complementarity, on the other hand, HAS always been the primary requirement. Even age, race, familial relationship and child-bearing capability have been secondary to sexual complementarity. If “romantic love” becomes the primary reason for marriage, then a person should be able to marry as many people as they are “in love” with or a child they are “in love” with. One does not have to forsake being “in love” to stay unmarried. If you don’t meet the criteria for marriage, which recognizes the unique potential of opposite-sex relationships, you’re in good company. Many people stay unmarried and do just fine. Elderly people and those who cannot bear children still have to meet the opposite-sex criteria, because the relationship between the sexes is a unique one. Same-sex relationships discriminate against one gender or the other.

          • Tim M

            “The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again.’ He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.” — Deuteronomy 17:16-17

            One-woman/one-man marriage is presented as the ideal throughout the Bible — from Genesis to Revelation. Why does not God outright condemn polygamy? We are given a clue in Matthew 19:3-8: “Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives BECAUSE YOUR HEARTS WERE HARD. But it was not this way from the beginning.'”

          • Michael Wilson

            Good point James, as with slavery the bible doesn’t wring its hands much about polygamy. While Adam and Eve are a couple, no one is ever condemned for taking a second wife. To many, yeah, and sure the marriages are rocky but nobody says it’s a sin. The bible is not morally infallible.

    • Guy Norred

      The people assumed to be Christians in this situation are the people being forced, correct? It is the Christians who are assumed to be following Jesus’ command to love. This does not come with a caveat that we are not to love those who do not act in a loving manner to us. On the contrary, Jesus says we are to do more than asked.

      • Tim M

        Yet Jesus sometimes resisted evil. He did not succumb to the temptations in the wilderness but stood his ground. He also stood up to the Pharisees. He commanded the rich young ruler to sell everything he had; when he didn’t, Jesus did not relent and say he was accepted anyway. In addition, he DID commend the rich young ruler for keeping the commandments. “Loving” someone does not mean that one should encourage someone else in their sin. In fact, He said, “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.” (Luke 17:1-3)

        “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:16-19)
        The Christian is indeed called to love others but he or she is never expected to condone sin, either through speech or through action. There is a time for non-resistance and there is also a time, even for the Christian, to stand firm for what one believes in. If I choose to carry a load an extra mile, I am doing a loving act and representing Christ. But that is because Christ’s love has compelled me to “go the extra mile” — It is NOT because someone forced or bullied me to go the extra mile. Implicit in this Scripture is that the person forcing you to carry the load the first mile is doing wrong by FORCING you to carry the load in the first place. And it is hypocritical for non-believers to instruct believers in their faith. Loving others does not mean we have to be complicit in the sins of others. When it comes to baking a cake or taking a photograph, the “loving” thing to do is to not FORCE someone to do something they don’t want to do. It is neither loving nor freedom if we FORCE someone to do something that goes against their conscience AND their First Amendment rights. Those angrily demanding that Christians bake their cakes have more in common, through their unbending demands, with the men of Sodom than Christ.

  • rudminda

    “And the notion that American Christians, living on land stolen from others, buying cheap goods made by underpaid workers, buying gas which is connected to our support for the oppressive regime in Saudi Arabia, suddenly become complicit in evil when they bake cakes for a wedding that is not in line with their beliefs, is reprehensible nonsense.” Now if that’s true (But it isn’t!), then so are my 4 obviously false memes below.

  • rudminda

    …and another identical (and false) argument.

  • rudminda

    Here’s another phony correlate of the position you’re advocating.

  • rudminda

    Couldn’t agree more….NOT! (Come on, you well-thinking people: Conscience counts!)

  • rudminda

    …and another phony correlative meme, just for good measure.

  • rudminda

    …and another.

  • rudminda

    Here’s another:

  • rudminda

    Couldn’t agree more….

  • Terry Swift

    As for the cake baker comment by the author – he is full of it. Masterpiece HAD SERVED gays many times in the past. He would have baked them a cake, yet I am sure he and other Christian business people don’t typically carry “gay” items like the couple wanted on their cake. Truly knowing the full story would hep Mr. McGrath very much. As a business person I did not carry A LOT of items my customers may have wanted and I probably did not have a resource for purchasing those items as well. Masterpiece served all it’s customers equally, yet they could not fulfill the couples request as presented. They gave the couple several recommendations of bakes nearby that could probably do what the couple wanted; but NO – THEY HAD an agenda. Mr. McGrath needs to learn that part before spouting off half cocked. Christians in business have every right to provide only what they want to sell and Jesus would have no issue with that. I sold items to gays, atheists, and so on as long as it was things I had in stock and was not critical to Christianity. I DO HAVE that right and I am sure Jesus would not be offended by it. I did not ask anyone their gender identity, race, or religion when serving them – as that was not my business and they never usually offered it. Mr. McGrath needs to get off his high horse and come back down to Earth like the rest of us. Not all of us are on his “high” spiritual level it seems!

    • Instead of merely insulting me and making assertions, perhaps you could provide some links to places where you’re deriving this information from?

  • Our country was not stolen from others. That is revisionist history by people who hate our country.

    • How did you determine that that was revisionist history and that your own view is not?

      • I would need to learn from you:
        1. Who the country was stolen from.
        2. What right or title that group had to the country.
        3. Who did that group obtain the country from.

        • It sounds like to start with I have to ask whether you are aware that there were human beings living in North America who were driven off their land and corralled on reservations in the process of European colonization and eventually the creation and expansion of the United States?

          • Again, I ask you who made the claim “stolen.”
            1. From whom was it stolen. What group claimed ownership and over what land?
            2. When did the theft take place. What year and by who under what authority.
            Sounds to me you are spouting Lerftist ideas like Ilhan Omar, “Some people did some things.”

          • You mean I quoted the claim that the land was stolen. So you are saying that the people living here had no right to not be driven off of it and corralled into limited spaces not of their choosing?

            Here’s a brief introduction that you might find helpful to start with, since it is clear that some of the basic facts of American history are unfamiliar to you:,%20Congress%20passed%20the,leave%20the%20reservations%20without%20permission.

          • American histrory is not to be revised because a Leftist decised to be upset by what he considers injustice.
            Don’t refer to materials written by others. Either you know the answers I ask for or you do not.
            You can’t answer the questions the way I asked them because it doesn’t follow youir false narrative.
            Saying that I am unfamiliar with American history becuae I hold a different opinion is a very typical and childish Leftist tactic that is meaningless.

          • No one is proposing revision to what happened. Most historians do indeed think we should tell stories about the past differently than we did in bygone centuries, because we have learned more, because we are seeking to be more honest.

            Suggesting that one should not cite sources when discussing history makes me think you don’t even know how history works. All you know is how to wander around the internet labeling any information you dislike as “Leftist” and pretending that your sticking a label on something has some bearing on facts and evidence. It’s incredibly sad to see something like this. And so very disheartening.

          • Yes that s exactly what you are trying to do.
            When you say “most historians” you have already lost the debate. Just like most bible scholars believe the bible is fundamentally flawed and most scientists believe in global warming that is a false claim. It is used when people don’t have the facts or don’t know the facts so they cite the great universe of “everyone is on my side.”
            What have we recently learned that has changed history? Nothing
            What do “we” need to be more honest about? White Supremacy. Another fraud, hoax and a liberal construct.
            Who suggested we should not cite sources? Not me. I said if you know the facts state them. If you don’t then you should not be lecturing us on them.
            Again, I ask you who made the claim “stolen.”
            1. From whom was it stolen. What group claimed ownership and over what land? Were the Indians claiming to own the North American continent or just the parts that we now possess?
            2. When did the theft take place. What year and by who under what authority?
            Finally, you know little about me and your comment shows how thin you skin is. You are disheartened because you hate your country and want to punish it but you don’t know how. Do what John Kennedy suggested and you will lift your spirits instead of dragging everyone down into the Liberal pits of hell!

          • Sorry to hear that you reject the consensus of experts in many areas.

            Is your point that people with a nomadic lifestyle do not have property ownership in the modern sense, parceled up and with paperwork to go along with it, and therefore new arrivals who do have such concepts should feel free to take it?

          • If you have the names of “experts in many areas” that you can share please do so.

          • Of course I can, although it is obviously extremely disturbing and worrying that you cannot find them for yourself. What subject area would you like me to focus in first?

          • I would like three names of “experts” who believe we stole America from the Indians. Your choice – pick carefully.

          • Yes. I’ll examine the top three as I said I would. Here is the first one: Stuart Banner – How the Indians Lost Their Land.
            Banner is a Legal historian who has written quite a few books. Funny number one choice as he doesn not supprt your comment; rather mine saying the land was legally transferred.
            From London Review of Books by Eric Foner. Vol. 28 No. 3 · 9 February 2006
            pages 17-18 | 2176 words.

            “Stuart Banner, a law professor, does not deny that between the early 17th century and the end of the 19th, nearly the entire land area of the United States was transferred from Indian to non-Indian ownership. But in How the Indians Lost Their Land, he offers an avowedly revisionist account of the way this happened. Previous scholars, he claims, have overemphasised the direct seizure of Indian land, failing to recognise that the process of acquisition proceeded mainly through legal forms: namely, purchase by individuals, groups or governments, and the signing of treaties between Indians and the United States. Banner criticises traditional accounts for denying that Indians had their own concept of private property and were tricked into selling land, and for maintaining that whites believed the native inhabitants had no real claim to land ownership. Actually, Banner insists, there were strong reasons to purchase the land and not simply to seize it. The early settlers lacked the power to dispossess the Indian population, and throughout the colonial era, with the French competing with the English for Indian loyalty, wholesale expropriation would have been politically counterproductive.”

            Next up no.2.

          • I thought that one might be useful precisely because it offers a take akin to your own, and yet without denying that there was deceit, appropriation, and forced displacement. I had hoped that this might enable you to grasp the point, that I am not claiming that every piece of land without exception was stolen in either a figurative or literal sense. But there was certainly, as Banner acknowledges, a complex unfolding that obviously did not involve simply driving current inhabitants out at first when there wasn’t the power of population or weaponry to accomplish that, but which did move in that direction once that situation changed.

            Perhaps some clarification is needed. Do you deny that there is any sense in which parts of the United States can be considered “stolen” land in a variety of senses, ranging from highly metaphorical to completely literal? Or was your objection to the suggestion that that is the whole story?

          • As I said previously, I will evaluate the first three references you supplied.
            You made the unconditional comment that “American Christians, living on land stolen from others” in your blog. I told you that I disagreed and that it was revisionist history by people who hate our country. You said it wasn’t. Now after the first “expert” is reviewed we are at “Do you deny that there is any sense in which parts of the United States can be considered ‘stolen.'”

            Let’s see where we are after the next two “experts” weigh in before I take the deed to my property out to the Gila River Indian Community here in Arizona and sign it over to the tribe as long overdue reparations for land theft.

          • As I have repeatedly pointed out, you keep treating my quotation of what someone else wrote as though it were my own statement. And so I am not surprised that even now you seem uninterested in discussing this in a nuanced manner.

          • When I searched I found that Rev. Young made that comment on Facebook.
            There is absolutely no indication that I see in this blog that the statement was not from you.
            And you have not repeatedly pointed that out. Nonetheless it appears that you agree with it.

          • Actually, I owe you an apology (although now I am intrigued by the question of who this Rev. Young is). You commented on a post from 4 years ago, and reading it cursorily I saw a block quote, and that you were fixating on a particular phrase while missing the point of the post entirely. I responded too quickly. I should have reread the post more thoroughly before replying.

            If I had worded my statement more precisely, and instead of referring to stolen land spoke of a nation that at times committed atrocities as it expanded into territories occupied by others, would you still have objected?

          • No. I would not have.

          • Then I apologize again.

          • Not necessary. Thank you.

          • John MacDonald

            I’m curious. If we concede for the sake of argument that the settlers stole the land from the natives, do you think there is an unwarranted “recentness metaphysics” being assumed by the reparations camp? For instance, should we dust off the history books and start requesting that every group in history that has been conquered should demand their land back?

          • John MacDonald
  • Jennifer A. Nolan


  • Nimblewill

    I agree with you but I do wish you would answer one question. What would happen to those underpaid workers if Americans stopped buying those goods and how would we get to our jobs without gasoline to buy any goods that supported any workers?

  • Nimblewill

    “Jesus burdens us. He calls us to give up our freedom. And yet those who embrace this challenging path of love find that his burden is lighter than that of hatred which we once carried.”

    I agree wholeheartedly but it can never, never, ever be forced upon us. The love of God constrains us.

  • Ken Cheshire

    More bullish*t.