The law that Gov. Brewer vetoed in Arizona may have been too broad (I haven’t read the bill), but two things I heard give me cause for concern. Last night on the evening news a congressman who had voted for the bill but was now arguing for its veto said his reasoning was that “the perception of the bill is worse than its reality, but the perception matters more.” I took him to mean the bill was not discriminatory but that the protest made it seem that way.
This interpretation is supported by today’s article in USA Today, which says “the bill would have offered a legal defense for individuals and businesses that face discrimination lawsuits if they could prove they acted upon a ‘sincerely-held religious belief.’” If individuals and businesses can no longer act on their sincere religious beliefs, then it’s probably just a matter of time before Christian schools will be unable to dismiss faculty who come out as practicing homosexuals.
This is a complex subject, as the comments from yesterday’s post show, so to help move the conversation along I’ve attempted to narrow down the possible options. I think these are the only positions one can hold on the topic of Christians serving gay weddings, but I’m open to correction (I just came up with them in the last hour). I use the phrase “actively serve” to distinguish direct participation from passively supplying a service. It’s one thing to actively bake a three-tiered cake or spend half a day decorating a church auditorium, and another for the happy couple to pick up a cake or bouquet from your display window on the way to the ceremony. We can quibble about the degrees of participation, but it seems that any of us can only hold one of the following four positions.
1. Christians must not actively serve a gay wedding (they are materially supporting the violation of a foundational creation norm).
2. Christians must actively serve a gay wedding if they are available and their service is required (it is unjust and unloving discrimination to refuse on religious or moral grounds).
3. Christians may or may not actively serve a gay wedding, depending on their religious and/or moral convictions. But those who decline should suffer the legal consequences for their refusal.
4. Christians may or may not actively serve a gay wedding, depending on their religious and/or moral convictions. And those who decline should have the legal right not to violate their conscience.
Feel free to comment on any of this, but please begin by selecting a position. It helps to have our cards on table. I’ll start. I am inclined to #1, but the complexity of the situation, such as degrees of participation, lead me to think that #4 is the best option. I respect the right of my Christian brothers and sisters to provide services for the marriage ceremony of a gay couple, though I strongly encourage them to evaluate what their actions say about their vocation and the institution of marriage. It will be difficult to keep our heads straight about marriage when we are serving those that really aren’t.