That didn’t take long. We seem to be on the cusp of the next big moral debate: Does a person who believes gay marriage is a moral evil have the moral and legal right and/or responsibility not to participate in that moral evil? Is a florist who respectfully declines to arrange flowers for a gay wedding courageously standing on her moral convictions or is she being unreasonable, hateful, and unchristian? Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. It’s extremely important that Christians love their neighbors and, as much as is in their power, refrain from saying or doing anything that might close doors to the gospel. But this issue is much larger than redemption. It is about a foundational norm of creation. Christians who say evangelical florists should serve a gay wedding because it might open the door for evangelism need to explain why it’s permissible to support the violation of a creation norm to do so.
2. They also need to answer this question, and in a way that would seem plausible to the florist: Why is it wrong for a pastor to participate in a gay wedding and for the florist in his church not to?
One answer might be that the pastor and florist are involved in different levels. The officiating pastor is giving his tacit approval to the union, while the florist is merely providing a service.
But this answer betrays a distressingly low view of vocation. It’s essential that Christian florists understand their job as a divine calling. They are not merely providing a neutral, generic service, but they are obeying Jesus (Col. 3:17, 23-24) and contributing to the net good in the world.
So how would an evangelical florist assess her day arranging flowers for a gay wedding? Assuming she agrees with Scripture and nature that gay marriage is a sin (Rom. 1:26-27), she would conclude that she materially participated in a moral evil. The only other option is to convince herself that the “marriage” wasn’t so evil, that it made people happy, it was a celebration of love, etc. For the sake of her conscience, this is the option she will likely take. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to continue to service gay weddings and not think they are better than the Bible says. Do evangelical pastors really think they simultaneously can encourage their parishioners to serve gay weddings and convince them it is an abomination against God and nature? The fact that they’re doing the former indicates they’re already giving up on the latter.
3. You can tell where my sympathies lie, but I think it’s important that Christians on both side respect the other and not sabotage them in the public square. Recent essays that criticize brothers and sisters who refused to violate their conscience supply evangelical cover for the other side. You may disagree with a fellow Christian’s position, but you must defend their right not to violate their conscience on such a weighty topic.
Conscientious objections can be tricky. We must not use them as trump cards to justify evil discrimination, but neither should we coerce others to violate them without sufficient cause. If they can prevent a florist from declining to participate, they can prevent you from saying it’s a sin. The next conscience they come for may be yours.