RFRA and the Responsible Christian

Lately, there has been a lot in the news about the laws passed, contested and ratified dealing with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Daily news articles have been appearing about the subject. For weeks we have heard of people, bands and organizations who have been protesting what they believe is legalized discrimination. The fall out from these laws has been polarizing and the effects seem to be reaching farther than intended.

These laws which allow people and companies to decline business services to customers based on religious belief is loved and hated. In one set of circumstances most normal people would herald and support a Black business owner withholding services to the Klan or a Jewish business owner from consulting with a client who holds Neo-Nazi tenets.  Yes, we want to be able to support the owners of these businesses in their to right to decline service to these kinds of distasteful, ruinous and prejudice views. Not to mention, we would probably help them bounce these bastards out the front down and down the block!

But, when it comes to minorities further feeling the effects of what looks and feelings like discrimination we are not so keen on these laws. When a Klan member-owned business does not serve Hispanics or Blacks we are quick to cry “hatred,” “intolerance,” and “racism.” When a Christian owned pizzeria or bakery refuses to accept the business of those who identity as homosexual, we lose our collective minds crying “bigotry,” “oppression” and “inequality.”

This is the rub with these new laws. We like them in one situation, but hate them in other.

But alas, I am not here to comment on the law.  I am not politically minded and I have not read the law in its totality. Nor do I want to take this space to outline my thoughts on homosexuality (and lets be honest, homosexuality is the issue driving both sides).  Nor am I here to offer a perspective on the rights of business owners or argue about religious freedoms. None of these are my concern, right now.

My concern is with the collision of the responsible Christian and these RFRA laws.  I am more interested in pushing the church forward into Christ-likeness than I am pushing legislation into the same.  My background and knowledge is more suited to challenging the Church than to protests, sign making or signature gathering. And this I do, squarely in the text of the Christian Church and none other.

So, here is my question to the Church, “What tenet of Christianity would be violated by a person of faith offering business services to someone who does not share their Judeo-Chritian worldview/values/faith/convictions?” Lets take this to the absurd by asking, “When baking a pizza or wedding cake for a gay couple’s wedding, what teaching of Jesus is neglected?” Be specific. Chapter and verse, please. At what point does doing business with those of a different faith or no faith constitute sin and rebellion against our Creator? When does consent to do business with people outside the Christian faith serve to condone their moral or spiritual choices? Reading news articles on the is topic I have to wonder when is it become more Christ-like to reject a sinner than love them to the point of deep personal or institutional sacrifice?

Those who have to stand behind a RFRA law as a way of protecting their Christian beleifs miss the central point of their Christian beliefs. Needing to barricade one’s Christian faith behind an RFRA law forsakes the incarnation of Jesus at its most central point.  In my last post I wrote about a “Christ against culture” mentality that seeks to keeps its hands clean and not be infected by the sin of others. But its our own sin that dirtied the perfect, spotless Lamb of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)! It was our rebellion Christ came to forgive. It was our morally abhorrent values, decisions and thoughts that Jesus took upon himself at the cross and yet we are not willing to do the same for those in the condition we once were! Where do we get off thinking like this? How arrogant and self-righteous have we become? Are we more pious and holy than the Christ we serve?

“Just think of the condition of humanity
if Jesus took this ‘against culture’ posture.

Their would be no incarnation.
There would be no substitutionary atonement.
There would no death and resurrection.
There would be no forgiveness of sins.
There would be no salvation!”

But Jesus did come from the throne room of God to being us salvation:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world,
but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17

Clearly those who need a RFRA law to persevere their faith maintain a separatist, against culture mentality.  They believe doing business with those outside the Christian faith compromises their faith and contaminates their purity. But the truth is this only applies to those who are gay. The inconsistency of a business owner or businesses not making a wedding cake or a pizza for a gay couple is staggering, espeically when the same business will make a cake or pizza for:

  • Muslims, secular humanists, mainline liberals
  • Adulterers
  • Drunks
  • Drug users (can you say “munchies?”)
  • Liars
  • Thieves…

…and I could go on and on.

Are those who need a RFRA law to maintain their Christian purity checking moral resumes at the entrances of their establishments? If so, the truth is I would be rejected too. And consequently, lest they forget, they themselves would be denied their own services for the same reasons they deny those outside the faith!

“For all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23).

In the end, I can see no religious reasons for businesses, business owners or members of their staff to deny typical business services to anyone on the grounds of religious freedom. I see no biblical justification to think that doing busy with the unregenerate leads to the destruction of ones personal faith. I would argue just the opposite! Paul as a tent maker had to do business with pagans. Jesus spent more time with sinners and those marginalized by culture than anyone. Not to mention his strongest words of condemnation came for the separatist, self-righteous religious elite of his day (Matthew 23).

I believe is it more Christ-like to show love for all people regardless moral or salvific condition, than to claim a higher moral/religious ground and reject people. I think it is more mature for Christians to see past the myth that loving others excuses them or justifies their sin. I think it is more responsible (and dare I say righteous) for Christians to be less concerned with their own right and privileges for the sake of the cross then to demand legal protection (Philippians 2:5-8).

My hope is Christians will spend more time thinking of how to embrace people like Jesus rather than exclude them because of Jesus. I hope they see that faith pushes them to express truth and grace and not just truth (John 1:14). That they would advocate for the care and love of all humanity, rather than legislate ways to deprive it from some. I hope the church will grow past the need to defend its rights while being willing to lay its very life and existence at the foot of Christ cross in service to him and not itself.

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2 thoughts on “RFRA and the Responsible Christian

  1. I agree with you that the central issue is deciding between inclusion or exclusivity. It bothers me, as a Christian, that some of the backers and business cases appear unaware that Jesus himself not only did not consider commerce an exercise of religious conscience, but got upset enough about those doing it (near the Temple) to display violent anger. It’s in all four Gospels. Kind of hard to miss.

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