A sea change has taken place in the last 96 hours. After Indiana passed the religious freedom bill and known conservative organizations such as Wal-Mart and NASCAR objected, it is clear that a sea change has taken place. It is clear that gay marriage will soon be approved by the Supreme Court. But, the public reaction also shows that those who oppose individuals being forced to provide services in certain circumstances will not receive any public support whatsoever. This is another of those difficult times in the history of our nations. It is not the first, and it will not be the last.
Not only gay marriage, but acceptance of LGBTQ individuals is an almost done deal. Now, let me define this carefully. By acceptance, I do not merely mean acceptance into USA society. Rather, I mean acceptance to the point that the stigmatization of those who object to gay marriage is essentially a reality. Why have I worded this so carefully? Well, because Christians have been saying for a while that we object to the sin but not to the sinners. What this means is the we should have had loving relationships with LGBTQ individuals all along! I have friends with husbands who are gay (I do not have any female friends with wives that I know of) and I had them for a while. The election of Pope Francis and the comments he has made since his election have been very helpful in helping me to feel comfortable in my approach.
But, the reality of hating the sin but loving the sinner has not really meant that in the USA. LGBTQ people are correct when they say that the USA attitude in practice has been to hate both the sinner and the sin. The world shock when Pope Francis took the stage and began to actually love the sinner is a clear proof that the statement about loving the sinner was false. If we are honest, hating the sin (in the USA) almost (and exclusively) only meant hating the sinner as well as the sin.
But, the current climate is one of extremism. On the right, the Tea Party, and its affiliates, hold sway to the point that no Republican candidate has dared to have a moderate approach for a while. In reaction to that the Left has also adopted a taken-no-prisoners approach. Where there might previously have been a reasonable compromise worked out, the current approach is strictly someone wins and someone loses. Sadly, conservative Christians are about to lose, even if they are socially progressive.
Just yesterday, I read an article in which a northwestern Catholic college had decided to refuse federal aid in order to not have to comply with the anti-discrimination statues. The majority of comment responses to that story indicated that the majority of people felt that the university had no right to not have a LGBTQ organization on campus, and did not have a right to have non-Catholic professors, etc., etc. That is, religious freedom should have to submit to current social policy. Now, I know that courts will not allow that. And, you should too. The USA judicial record makes that clear and you are engaging in bad reasoning if you try to argue that the courts will support such a violation of religious freedom. Nevertheless, the social climate is about to become very difficult.
In an earlier post I have documented fundamentalist attitudes that have made this conundrum a possibility. Opposition to women’s rights, African-American rights, ethnic rights, and any of several other subjects have made Christians seem as though they are always in opposition to what is right and proper. Because fundamentalist voices are the loudest voices, I will say that there is a measure of truth in what non-fundamentalists say. But, because non-fundamentalist Christians have not clearly, openly, and loudly opposed fundamentalists, they have helped set up a climate whereby it seems as though all Christians think the same. Look at the current Muslim crisis. Do we not jump on moderate Muslims for not condemning the radicals? In the same way, moderate Christians have had the same attitude toward fundamentalist Christians as moderate Muslims have had toward fundamentalist Muslims. And it is an attitude of not criticizing a fellow believer.
Now we are about to pay for not speaking out against fundamentalist Christians. Their approach is (and has been) wrong. But, all our explanations and apologies will not easily be accepted. After all, we did not have the moral courage to oppose them. We did not have the courage to say that their approach on various subjects was wrong. So, the piper is about to be paid.
Hopefully, the courts will support us in the future. And, yes, these are the very same courts that extreme conservatives disdained. They are our last hope. But, not our last hope that we will be able to continue to keep up a bad attitude, but our last hope that we will be able to keep up a correct attitude. We really do need to love the sinner while objecting to the sin. If we do not learn to do that correctly, then we will face a much worse alternative that may include a type of persecution.