A Letter to my Christian Friends who are Anxious about your Religious Liberty

Dear Christian Friends,

As I listen to your dismay over our nation’s rapid cultural shifts, I know this must be bringing up all sorts of fears. I’m hearing some of the discomfort and disorientation even articulated as anger; I get that. But what I truly don’t understand is why some Christians are claiming their religious liberties are at risk. I too am a Christian, a minister who has thought long and hard about this matter and so I offer what I hope will be a helpful perspective for those of you who are anxious about your religious liberty.

This nation has historically given us Christians remarkable privilege and extraordinary freedoms; that has not changed with recent court rulings.

People claiming their “deeply held religious beliefs” are already able to opt out of attending public schools, opt out of certain medical procedures, opt out of assisting with abortions, opt out of military service, opt out of reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag.

Some religious non-profit organizations (churches and some charities) have long been able to opt out of hiring people of whom they disapprove. Now even for-profit corporations have been allowed to opt out of providing contraception for their employees.

The Courts across America have bent over backwards to make exception for religious liberties.

This opt out option is one way our society seeks to walk a fine line in our effort to provide “liberty and justice for all.” LibertyAndJusticeForAllThe issues of religious freedom in a nation founded on a commitment to separation of church and state are complex, but I am happy to grant some of my fellow citizens the right to conscientiously object to participating in activities that offend their deeply held religious beliefs.

The problem then is not that Christians are losing religious liberty but rather that some Christians – in the name of religious freedom – are attempting to limit the civil liberties of their fellow Americans.

Just because other people have civil rights doesn’t mean your religious rights are being compromised.

Douglas Laylock has provided a thoughtful and helpful analysis of this current debate in an article he published last year: Religious Liberty and the Culture Wars. He explains his purpose in the introduction:

The Article argues that we can and should protect the liberty of both sides in the culture wars; that conservative churches would do well to concede the liberty of the other side, including on same-sex marriage, and concentrate on defending their own liberty as conscientious objectors; and similarly, that supporters of rights to abortion, contraception, gay rights, and same-sex marriage would do well to concentrate on securing their own rights and to concede that conscientious objectors should rarely be required to support or facilitate practices they view as evil.

I agree. If some people object to abortion, contraception or same-sex marriage then, by all means, they should opt out. And by all means, the rest of us should support their freedom to do so. If some people believe these particular social behaviors are “evil” or damaging then, by all means, they should pray for our nation and preach their conscience. And by all means, the rest of us should support their freedom to do so.

Conscientiously objecting and opting out is a religious liberty that has been protected again and again by our Courts. However, the practice of discriminating against other people has been struck down repeatedly by those same Courts.

A recent poll provided by the Public Religion Research Institute suggests that even religious people who object to certain social practices also overwhelmingly object to discrimination. A Religion News Service article notes: “PRRI found that 69 percent of people overall — including a strong majority of all major religious groups — would support nondiscrimination laws.” Even many socially conservative African-American Christians do not agree that business owners operating in the public sphere should be able to refuse service. “Nonwhite Christians…nearly 2 in 3 (63 percent) oppose exemptions to nondiscrimination laws. [A PRRI analyst] said the idea of legal loopholes for refusing service may bring up ‘memories of past experience with segregated lunch counters and businesses refusing to serve them.’”

In a nation such as ours that purports to value both religious liberty and equal civil rights for all its citizens, surely we can find a way to actually enact those values within our public policy. Surely we are smart enough and good enough to find our middle way in this complex dilemma.

But aside from any legal or social argument, as a Christian pastor I have to ask my fellow Christians: why would you be more concerned about your own religious freedoms than about your fellow human beings?

Our entire Christian faith is grounded upon the One who “emptied himself,” sacrificing his own good for the good of all. Our Christian ethic is shaped by the One who taught us: “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Those of us who call ourselves “Christian” must never be guilty of putting our preferences, our opinions and even our own rights ahead of any other human being. No matter what they’ve done. No matter who they are. No matter how we feel.

Rachel Held Evans’ wrote an excellent blog that also speaks to fellow Christians who feel they are being persecuted; who believe their rights are being compromised because of the recent changes in our society. She too quotes Jesus’ words, spoken to a religious people who actually did live with governmental oppression; whose liberties truly were severely limited. According to the words of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew, here is how a Christian should act when they find themselves at odds with their society:DSC_0090

If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you… Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven….

I must say to my fellow Christians that lots of people are tired of hearing us whine and blame and squabble and demand our own way. People will be much more inclined to listen to us when they can actually see us:

partnering across divides to feed the hungry;

advocating for a hopeful future for all children;

demanding justice for the oppressed;

challenging the abuse of our planet;

working to include the marginalized;

and maybe even baking cakes for our neighbors’ weddings. canstockphoto9505469Maybe even “bake for them two.”

(Offering outrageous, amazing grace to others is never against our religion; it is the core of our religion.)

Dear Christian friends, as I listen to your dismay over our nation’s disorienting cultural shift, I know you must feel anxious. But we Christians know (at least in our heads) that fear and anxiety are contradictory to our faith in the One who is Grace and Peace. Today is a good day to open our hearts to that grace and peace as well.

Max Lucado, a wise conservative Christian pastor, wrote these words the day after the Supreme Court ruling on marriage:

Let’s replace our anxious thoughts with prayerful ones. “…in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known…” Now is the time for prayer and faith.

Something good will come out of this. Maybe now we can have this discussion where we need to have it. Face-to-face. In neighborhoods. Over dinner tables. Perhaps the hate-filled words will subside …

I agree. Something good can come out of this. So let’s meet around our dinner tables and within our communities, engaging one another in peace. Let’s do a better job of having civil conversations across cyberspace. Let’s learn to know and respect each other across our divides.

And let’s create a space where religious and humanist and right and left and right and wrong and red and blue and dark and light and gay and straight and male and female and rich and poor and young and old can all be grateful, gracious people together.

Surely this table is big enough.

Surely this is the way of the One whose name we wear.

Surely it is time.

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She frequentlyIntersections logo shares her thoughts with Coffee Party USA as a regular volunteer.

Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

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Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national president for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page. Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

62 thoughts on “A Letter to my Christian Friends who are Anxious about your Religious Liberty”

  1. I think I have read all of the posts today and I have to say I can see both sides. The BIBLE says that perfect love casts out fear. So whenever we fear something or someone we don’t have that perfect love. I also think that as long as we cannot talk with each other in a civil way we will get no where.
    There has always been persecution all through out history and it will go on until the world ends.
    Christ taught love and accepted people as they are/were. But I also know that he told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more. He did not condemn here and he did not condone what she did but told her to go and sin no more. What does that mean? Simply that if she was serious about wanting to change then the next step is to stop the bad habit that she had. Just like an addict or alcoholic if they want to get clean of that sort of thing they have to give those things up. It is to the benefit of the alcoholic and drug addict to give up those things. But that does not mean it is easy.
    I am a Christian but I don’t claim to know everything or have all the answers. I will share my faith but just because I share my faith does not mean I am trying to get you to believe the way I do. I am on a writing site and I posted something that had one line that talked about GOD. One person got mad and said I was full of it. He is an Atheist and was very rude and had no right to get mad. The title was very explanatory and he knew what it would be about. So as I said he had no right to get mad. It ticks me off when so many Atheists act like they have a right to attack all Christians and lump them all together in a heap. Yes there is a lot of crap going on in the so called Christian churches. and I myself have been the target of a lot of so called Christians and I don’t want to be like them. I fight that a lot and a lot of other things as well.
    You can say what the hell you want about this but just remember what goes around comes around. It can also be called karma.

    1. Yes, Marie! “Seeing both sides.” This is SO very important. We can believe how we believe and hold fast to our commitment AND also at the same time – SEE other perspectives. Some atheists, some liberals, some conservatives may never understand that. But I have had numerous atheists affirm my words because I try to speak from a place of universal love and peace. Glad to know you and I are on the journey together. Peace.

  2. Finally made time to read this, and I must say that you never disappoint, Charlotte. Your sincere desire to communicate your own conclusions on the issues you discuss never ridicules the beliefs of others or their rights to believe as they choose. That alone can give encouragement to those who feel all are against them. Acceptance of each other’s rights to choose their beliefs is key, I feel, to a peaceful, productive society. That is clearly not what we are experiencing in this country at this time. I, too, feel that it is imperative that we encourage, by our laws, inclusion in all in our public business dealings.
    I wish you were my next door neighbor so that we could sit around the table together and discuss. I guess this will have to do. Thank you for taking the time to share.

  3. Tried to subscribe to your blog but not able to. Appreciate your article. Especially the idea to “bake two cakes.” I wish all Christians could read this. Thanks. The Rev. Dr. Jim Gooch, PCUSA

    1. Thanks Jim. I appreciate the affirmation. I’ll figure out what’s up with the subscribe feature.

      (btw – the “bake for them two” idea comes from another blogger. You would also enjoy what she wrote. There is a link within my piece.)

  4. This ignores the very real lawsuits Christian business, teachers, student groups, military chaplains are facing for following their beliefs. I cannot back down when it is my right to read, pray, and state in sermon or otherwise what the text of our Bible, Quran, etc. say about cultural, economic, and political matters. Sometimes it lands in your favor; other times it does not. It is not for me to change the standards of our Living God. Many are attacking people of faith Jew, Christian, and Muslim because they don’t want public display of any religion. On this I must fight. Our government shall make NO LAW Establishing a religion or PREVENDING free exercise thereof. The fight is when your free rights and my free rights start and end. I have to defend my right of worship and belief. They also have the right to defend their belief. We disagree deeply. This will take time to sort out. It is part of being an American.

    1. To quote: This ignores the very real lawsuits Christian business, teachers, student groups, military chaplains are facing for following their beliefs.

      And you are ignoring that 99% of those lawsuits, dennis, are because those Christians deigned to violate the rights of others. Like for example..you say Christian businesses are being sued?

      Oh you mean like that bakery in Colorado? Yeah would you like to explain why it should be illegal for a business to refuse to serve a Christian while a business owned by a Christian should be allowed to refuse to serve others? Explain how that isn’t a violation of the 14th amendment’s equal protection of the law clause.

      As for chaplains..oh you mean those chaplains that were forcing their fellow soldiers to listen to them preach?

      As for teachers..oh you mean those teachers that were forcing their students to pray in violation of the law and over a dozen Supreme Court decisions? School officials, referring to public schools, can not compel students to pray. The students are free to choose to pray on their own as long as they’re not disrupting class or compelling others to participate.

      What problem do you have with that?

      All those claims you make there..you probably should actually bother to research those examples to see if they are what you claim they are.

      1. Since you asked “What problem do you have with that?” I shall provide you with a few.

        It is not an exclusive “Christian” belief that homosexual and lesbian behavior is an abomination in the sight of God. The billions of Jewish, Christian, Muslim as well as lesser know religious doctrine hold this same belief. The Colorado and similar suits have focused on known Christian businesses, not on the desire to have a service performed. The plaintiffs could have and some did go to other businesses for those services, while others targeted other known Christian businesses. People lost jobs, owners lost business and in some cases their homes to facilitate the new found muscle of the judicial system. Those that continued in business stopped making wedding cakes, stopped having weddings on their scenic property, stopped taking photographs at weddings, and stopped furnishing flowers to weddings. None of this was necessary as the services were available from other sources. It was just targeting of one group against Christians. I noticed the absence of any mention of the shooting in the gay bar in Florida or the beheadings in the middle east, but they we Muslim not Christian. Your wrath should not be focused on Christians who built this country but on those who threaten it.

        As for military chaplains, you have misstated the facts and missed their concerns. No military person is required to attend any sectarian service. What is true is that there are no Atheists on a battlefield. But to your contention, military chaplains object to recent religion guidelines that require chaplains to use nonsectarian language when speaking at public events that are not religious in nature. I wonder if journalists would say their free speech is denied if they could only speak news not opinions and only the news of the day? Or how about politicians limited to speaking politics only on days when elections are held, how nice would that be? How about a service provider, say a plumber could only talk plumbing when on the job or talking to other plumbers? No the issue is free speech. Did you know that based on the Johnson Amendment to the tax code, places of worship for the first time in our history have reason to fear the loss of tax-exempt status merely for espousing and practicing traditional religious beliefs that have been held across the world for thousands of years, and for almost four centuries in America. Again, a clear government restriction on free speech.

        You obviously know very little about praying. Unless under torture perhaps, no one can be forced to pray. In almost all cases where tradition included an opening prayer (like Congress) in school activities, a student has initiated the prayer rather than a teacher, coach or school board member. Though many prayers may be unconstitutional by the courts, free speech and the conviction of the individual student and those that participate don’t care. They will pray that they score well on a test, play a sport without being hurt, be thankful for their food at lunch, that the graduating class has success in their future. If you are worrying about separation of church and state, you should know that there is nothing in the constitution about it but the First Amendment does prohibit a national religion. It also prohibits the free exercise of religion or abridging free speech. Thus said, I would think you would be just as adamant that public schools are teaching Islam.

        The thread of morality that goes through every society around the globe has come from God, whatever the belief, You may scoff at the billions who believe in their individual faiths, but the morality of the human race comes from a spiritual belief. The more mankind departs from morality, history has proven the greater the conflict and persecution of certain groups by others. It has resulted in several states wanting to leave the union again. Other states want to divide because of the broad differences in the political patterns within the state. There are substantial claims that the recent Democratic primary election was filled with fraud, voter violation, voting software hacking and DNC rigging against Senator Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton. If so, how can any election results be considered fair

  5. Charlotte, thank you for a wonderful letter. I had begun to think all my learnings of Christianity were absolutely wrong based on all the talk of hate I hear from folks saying they’re Christian.

    I’m not a refuge, gay, lesbian, or anything but an old straight white guy. I never knew that my religion taught hate(really fear) like I see other folks doing. My God made me in his image, like He made other folks who may be different from me. He made those folks in His image too! Including the ones the conservatives think are evil, they’re made in God’s image! They’re just as entitled to exercise their rights as any others.

  6. Thank-you, Charlotte, for speaking up for what Jesus really stood for. Mahatma Ghandi was well-read in the Bible, and a great admirer of Christ. He seriously considered becoming a Christian. Yet when he visited an English church in colonial India, he was turned away and told that he would be more comfortable in another church with people who were “more like him.” He was later quoted as saying, “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians. You Christians should be more like your Christ.”
    I wonder if people who would deny not only civil rights and the use of public accomodations, but even just plain common decency to those with whom they disagree have ever asked themselves the “WWJD” question: “What would Jesus do?”
    When asked what the most important law was, Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang (depend) all the law and the prophets.” The last sentence is important. I read that to mean that if there is conflict between these two great commandments and other “law and prophets” (read Old Testament), that the two great commandments take precedence. Jesus did not say to love thy neighbor who shares your “deeply held religious beliefs,” and who has the same lifestyle as you do. He just said to love thy neighbor, period. He also said that the second great commandment is “like unto” the first. It is of equal importance. You cannot love God and at the same time not love your neighbors–all of them. The two great commandments are a “package deal.” Jesus sat down and ate at the same table with those who were considered by the established religious authorities to be the worst sinners during his time on earth: tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers and others. We Christians would do well to follow His example.

    1. Jay,

      Interesting that you mentioned that about Gandhi liking Christ, but not Christians. I have found that after years of having hardcore Southern Christianity shoved down my throat and seeing how Christianity’s representatives (Huckabee, Santorum, Franklin Graham, etc.) act and the things they say, I am becoming less comfortable with Christianity.

      A great friend of mine, who is gay, noticing my support of gay rights, asked if I too were gay. I told her that I wish I were gay because telling my parents that I was gay would be far easier then telling them I’m becoming an atheist…

  7. This is a well-written piece, however, in my opinion it glosses over the true problem with all of the “religious liberty” arguments. Simply put, it’s hypocrisy. Let’s wind the clock back to the birth of the Moral Majority in the 70’s. Roe v. Wade was the law of the land and conservative Christians, for the most part, were silent on abortion. What woke up the religious right was the fact that Bob Jones University was being told that their continued discrimination against African American students could no longer be tolerated. In fact, the Moral Majority wouldn’t take up the fight against abortion until 1979, some six years after Roe, and then only at the urging of conservative activist Paul Weyrich to deny Carter a second term in the White House. Their reasoning was that abortion was more palatable than their continued fight against segregation.

    Fast forward to the Hobby Lobby case and we see more hypocrisy. Hobby Lobby, a for profit corporation, whose owners are without question deeply religious, argued that even paying for the insurance that provides any contraceptives to their employees was tantamount to condoning abortion. What the Court was not aware of was the fact that Hobby Lobby had actually invested millions into the very same companies that manufacture these contraceptives, seemingly without conflict, controversy or religious conscience. Moreover, Hobby Lobby does a great deal of business with companies in China, a country where abortions are mandated by the government and where abortion solely because of the sex of the fetus is the norm. Hobby Lobby doesn’t seem to have any moral conviction whatsoever.

    Lastly, we are brought front and center with the hypocrisy of Christian opposition to same-sex marriage. Now, to be fair, I don’t know of any case where a same-sex couple has tried to force any church or pastor in their place of worship to marry them against a person’s will. But the idea that a county clerk, can object to doing her job because she has a religious objection to it is beyond the pale. Christians today will cherry-pick their Bible, they run to the Old Testament and yell and scream about homosexuality as an abomination and that homosexuals should be killed. While the text does say that, it also says that adulterers are to meet the same fate, it says you aren’t supposed to have tattoos, eat shrimp or work on Saturday. And, to complicate matters further, in listing the seven abominations before God, homosexuality doesn’t even make the list. Moreover, Jesus said that he fulfilled the law (Old Testament), indicating that the era of Christ was apart from the Old Law.

    When reading the Bible, one can’t help but notice that there is not a lot in there about abortion or same sex couples, but there is a TON of stuff in there about loving your neighbor, turning the other cheek, feeding the poor, caring for the weak, ministering to lepers and whores and being a good person. If you’re going to be outraged over same-sex marriage because of what God said in the Old Testament, than also be as equally outraged about divorce, adultery and eating unclean food, then we can talk honestly about your deeply-held religious beliefs.

    1. Dennis, yes there is plenty of hypocrisy on all fronts. Jesus was tough on the religious leaders who used religion as a cloak to cover their own self-centeredness and as a burden to oppress those they were supposed to care for. When I write my monthly letters to Senator Cruz pondering the appropriate intersections between faith and politics, I hold him to a high standard because so many people follow him. But this letter is for Christians who struggle more with fear than with hypocrisy. Too many people of faith are not able to lean into their faith and trust; too many people believe they are responsible to save others, to fix others and if that doesn’t happen, to judge others. This letter is for them. We Christians need to keep challenging each other to authentic living. Thanks for reading and thanks for your thoughtful comments. Peace…

  8. Great thoughts. Charlotte, I think the take you present is both accurate and fair. After reading the comments, I wonder those interested in critiquing your viewpoints are aware that their ideas are still originating from a place of anxiety.

    My take is the claimants that fear social change have misunderstood the meaning of belief, so read their own “belief” in Christ in modern terms as an intellectual fact, rather than embracing belief as an act of faith – like Jesus spoke to. Perhaps the many American Christians that are devout Neo-Platonists, need to refocus their perspective to that of a 1st century Judean shepherd or fish catcher.

    Great post. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for reading and joining in the conversation Todd. I appreciate your comments. Peace…

  9. I have enjoyed reading the letter and the follow-on comments. (Thank you!) Yes, homosexuality is NOT the “unforgivable sin,” a very important point to remember. As we learn from the prophet Ezekiel (16:49), the actual “sin” of Sodom was NOT homosexuality.

    It is something for all to consider that being given over to practices which, if we try to consider the will of the Most High, are “immoral,” is a TRAILING indicator — a symptom. It starts with pride, arrogance, and a failure to care for the poor among us. This should cause us to reflect and to humble ourselves.

    There are two other points I would like to make:

    1) I do not believe parents rejoice when receiving news that the child they have given birth to has what we have come to call a “defect.” Parents want and pray for healthy children. I do not believe parents rejoice when their son or daughter informs them they do not wish to join with someone from the opposite sex, but with another from their own. (We were born in the “image” of a Creator, and one of our fundamental purposes is to “re-create.”) But we parents DO have to learn to accept, love, and then rejoice — in all things.

    2) We would do well to reflect on the snares of pride and arrogance that come with trying to conflate or interpret our nation as a “religious community.” The secular nations of the world were what were offered to our Messiah as a means of temptation and were rejected. They properly belong to the one who offered them.

    That said, I thought you were right on the mark: TWO cakes should have been offered for the price of one.

    1. Thanks for reading and for responding Tom. My hope is for our society to better accept people in all their variety; then parents won’t need to worry whether their children will be welcomed and allowed to live their lives well. I would hope that broad acceptance might help even reluctant parents to affirm and support their own children. Peace…

  10. I do believe that there is a big difference in religion and being a Christian! We sometimes forget why Moses was sent to the top of the mountain! God was ashamed of how his followers were living so he sent down with Moses the Ten Commandments, by which his people should and still should live by! The bible is a story book written about the stories during the time Jesus walked among Gid people. There are many many stories but not one shows Jesus judging others, he walked among the sinners but he did not shun them. If we live our lives by Gods commandments all we have to do is love people and and everything else will take care of its self. Gods loves all people and if a homosexual persons knocks on his door my belief is he would invite them in and love them. He would not shun them! Jesus said as he hung on the cross”Father forgive them for they know not what they do” to use scripture to condem someone is not what a Christian would do. For some reason love thy neighbor as thy self sticks in my head when it comes to these kinds of conversations! It doesn’t say love thy neighbor ony if they are the opposite sex! I know homosexual people that are great people and are more than welcome to share a seat with me at church or my supper table as far as that goes! Believing in God and loving people have nothing to do with sexuality it f has to do with being a loving caring person that do know the commandment and lives their lives accordingly. Those that have never sinned have there own views I suppose but I really don’t think that is possible. The church I go to ask no questions about your life choices they just open their arms and invite you in! We discriminate against no one. There is one unforgivable sin and it isn’t homosexuality! Christians do not judge people they love them! Religious people have way to many rules to follow saying what you can and can not do; Christians love people with out any questions. What if someone comes in that particular bakery and orders a cake but does not nor do they have to, reveal there personal choices when it comes to marriage, would they still bake the cake, pretty sure they would! I agree those kinds of people should worry about more important things, perhaps their own souls!

  11. True believers know that it’s not about ‘religion’, it’s about ‘relationship’…relationship with our Heavenly Father and his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. For those believers that think you can convince a non-believer by winning some sort of debate…well, you have much to learn. You cannot change someone from the outside in, but only from the inside out…and the Holy Spirit is the only one who can do that.

    To my non-believer and “can’t we all just get along” friends, you need to understand that many Christians feel you are as insincere as you feel the bulk of Christians are…you seem to demand tolerance, but only your definition of tolerance…if anyone disagrees with you they are automatically labeled as intolerant, racist, etc. I’m not accusing you of doing so, I’m simply pointing out that many feel that way.

    1. Thanks for not “accusing” James; “pointing out” what we see as real – in ourselves and in others – must be done with great humility and deep respect. I appreciate your respectful manner.

      Yes, relationship is key. Loving God is the great commandment and Jesus said the second commandment is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. This is the piece I fear is getting lost in the push for personal religious rights – the Christian’s relationship to and service on behalf of the neighbor.

      People of integrity can see the world (and our role in it) with very different eyes and it is important to honor that variety of perspectives. Of course change comes from the inside and yes transformation is Spirit’s work in us and among us. But sometimes when someone on a journey of faith is able to hear someone else’s viewpoint, sometimes that new way of seeing can a seed, a nudge, a doorway. I will continue to speak truth as I see it while making my best effort to respect how other people see things differently. I hope you will as well. Peace…

  12. There is a problem though, e.g. in the case of abortion or contraception in that people who object to either or both wish to extend their objection to the payment of insurance contributions for health insurance which includes coverage for these.
    An analogy exists in the jurisprudence of several countries where pacifists have held that their sincerely held beliefs should allow them to withhold a part of their taxes in proportion to the defence budget when related to the total budget. In nearly all instances courts have denied these claims and held that in these cases the public interest should prevail over private belief. Similarly, most states with universal health coverage enforce mandated payment of taxes or contributions to the total amount, including medical provisions that some people may object to.
    The justification for this is that selective contribution to the common weal as if it were a menu in a restaurant is not only unfeasible, but also makes a nonsense of the essence of nationhood: the sharing of a common fate by people freely electing to do so. At some level, sooner than many people including yourself, Charlotte, seem to think likely or desirable, being a citizen becomes a package deal.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful response Frank. Your point is important: understanding citizenship as a “package deal.” I daresay I am as unhappy that my tax dollars pay for capital punishment as some of my other Christian friends are unhappy to have their taxes pay for contraception. I am distressed that my state of Texas persists in killing other human beings in my name. I truly believe our society’s passion for vengeance is detrimental to our common soul. And yet so far my personal beliefs have not been able to sway my legislators and change the law. I must live with the dilemma. As those who are morally against abortion, contraception and gay marriage must learn to live with the dilemma. Peace…

  13. I have heard these arguments many times, and they are not without value. Yet I don’t read in here where you actually understand the arguments of the Christians who disagree with you. I know that you believe you do, but I don’t recognize it from what you have said. You seem to be batting against the minor-league pitchers, and are just a touch patiently explaining to stupid people like me that we just don’t quite understand what the real Jesus issues are here. You have diagnosed that they feel fear and anxiety about cultural change. Poor dears.

    I don’t think you have successfully put yourself into the shoes of people who think that these things are really wrong. If you swapped in something you thought was really wrong yourself you might start to understand. When the Romans tell you to stone one woman taken in adultery, do you lovingly respond by stoning two? Will you be officiating at the wedding of a man marrying his 13 y/o niece? Or nephew? When you dismissively refer to participating in a wedding as merely “baking cakes,” (where is the line? photographer? Organist? Reader? Best man? Celebrant?) you reveal your underlying thought.

    As for people being more inclined to listen to us about Christ when we support the things they support, I haven’t seen that happen. I don’t see it anywhere in history either. The reasons people give for not following Christ are seldom the real reasons, as we all reluctantly admit after we are converted. Only gradually do we see what our real reasons were.

    FTR, I believe gay marriage should be allowed in a secular society, because a government needs to prove an overriding interest to interfere, and that does not exist. But I get why others are opposed, and I don’t think you do. If you really want to break bread with them, you might start by not assuming that they belong at the children’s table.

    1. Your “stoning two women” analogy doesn’t stack up, as no-one is telling you to do anything you think is wrong, only to accept that, in a secular society, other people will do things you think are wrong. There are many things that are legal that I strongly believe are wrong. I don’t, however, have a right to force my beliefs and values on others, and I don’t want to, for the most part, because I value people’s freedom of choice.

      I agree with you that there are many blurred lines regarding what would be classed as discrimination. I eagerly anticipate these being clarified. However, I do not think that is an argument for continuing to deny the civil rights of consenting adults.

    2. I feel sad that you read condescension in my letter; there is absolutely no intention to be dismissive or disrespectful. Yes I do understand the arguments. I was raised Fundamentalist Christian and I know the thought processes. I continue to have close family and friends who are Conservative and I know their good and generous hearts. It is clear that my arguments do not “work” for you but I pray there are others out there who will consider a new perspective that may help them make sense in the current confusion. I will continue to proclaim that the heart of the Christian life is not to stand on our rights but rather to serve one another and let God do the judging.

    3. Dear Assistant Village Idiot,

      I don’t think you have successfully put on shoes appropriate to the terrain of the issue at hand.

      “When the Romans tell you to stone one woman who was taken in adultery, do you lovingly respond by stoning two?”

      Aside from the fact that such stonings were instigated by the local religious establishment, I suppose our Lord’s answer would be, only if you are without sin.

      “Will you be officiating at the wedding of a man marrying his 13 y/o niece? Or nephew?”

      Given that this is illegal and is not likely to ever be legal…and more important, given that the First Amendment provides a religious exception to the performance of religious ceremonies, this is a fundamentally dishonest analogy.

      “When you dismissively refer to participating in a wedding as merely ‘baking cakes,’. . . you reveal your underlying thought” “(where is the line? photographer? Organist? Reader? Best man? Celebrant?)” [Forgive me for moving your parenthetical question to the end of your sentence for clarification purposes.]

      Photographer? He or she is basically a wedding vendor — same as a wedding cake baker and NOT a PARTICIPANT in the MARRIAGE. To the extent that he/she offers his services to the public at large, he/she should not be enabled to discriminate.

      Organist? A little dicey. If a church employee, he/she should permitted go with his/her church’s position on gay marriage. If offering his/her services quietly among her friends and fellow church-goers, I think he/she should also be permitted to decline an business offer. If he/she is out there promoting her services as a wedding organist, she shouldn’t discriminate.

      Reader? I assume that’s a bona fide participant in a MARRIAGE ceremony, and if he wants to refuse so power to him or her. I can only assume that the bride and/or groom were a little clueless to ask in the first place.

      Best Man? See above.

      Celebrant? Really you’re asking that? No one can compel you to come celebrate your MARRIAGE.

      I’m sorry, but the notion that a wedding vendor can in any way be characterized as a “participant” in a MARRIAGE is fundamentally dishonest. How many wedding cake vendors ask their customers if they’ve been married before (impermissible in some religions) or whether their “sacred” wedding cake will be consumed along with humungous quantities of booze at the reception?

  14. Wow! This blog is so flawed where to begin? Let’s start with the premise that our government has “given” us anything. Read your history, we are the government, “of, by, and for the people.” The government has no power to give, rights “given” to me by my Creator. In fact, just the opposite, the government must not infringe upon my rights.

    No one should not have to “opt” out of anything, military service should be open to all conservative people as well. Why should my kids have to “opt” out of public education because I don’t want them to be exposed abhorrent sexual practices that are completely unnatural? They shouldn’t and have every right to be there.

    I served as a US Navy chaplain. We used to have a motto, “Cooperation Without Compromise,” until people took it literally and actually cooperated with the left fringe, who really wanted compromise their way. Suddenly, the motto changed. I’ve seen first hand how your “just opt out” works. When some of our chaplains who insisted on praying, “In Jesus’ Name,” declined to pray a humanist prayer, they were opted right out of opportunity to promotion, good assignments, to serve the people on active duty who believe like they do.

    As a Christian minister, I take issue saying that we cannot appeal to our rights. The Apostle Paul did, all the way to Rome for an unjust/illegal flogging he took. That was under Caesar, as stated earlier, “of, by, and for the people,” have every right and obligation to uphold God’s law, Jesus did “empty Himself, taking on the form of a servant,” but He didn’t empty Himself of his deity. Conservative Christians said up for the authoritative Word of God that will not be compromised.

    We will not roll over, nor allow you to claim civil rights BS, how offensive to the African Americans who did face discrimination for their color, etc… Homosexuals weren’t dragged here in chains, sold by other homosexuals or bought by rich white people. Homosexuals didn’t build this country by the sweat of their brow forced to work in cotton fields, they were never bought and sold or beaten for back talk, for crying out loud, no one even knew their orientation unless they revealed.

    1. Your rights are not being violated. You are not being forced to do anything. However, you do not have a right to demand other people live according to your worldview. You do not have a right to discriminate against people who think or behave differently to you, when you live in a secular society.

      I’m also a little confused about what you think happens in public schools. How are your kids “exposed” to sexual practices, natural or otherwise?

      By the way, a percentage of homosexuals did build this country. They just weren’t able to let anyone know who they really were.

    2. You sir are wrong about homosexuals not suffering. Many have been murdered, unjustly incarerated, denied employment, housing, and protection by public safety officials, not because they said they were gay, but because someone decided they were gay. This could happen to you, to anyone. Gay rights is about safety, security, the full rights of citizenship. If you want to make it a religious issue, go for it. Have a great time in your denial and hatred, but please, please don’t use the name of Jesus Christ to justify the delegation of gay men and lesbian women, transsexual and bi sexual persons to second class status just because they are different from you.

    3. Randy, what you fail to understand is that everything you said in your comment about “the word od God” is nothing more than *your belief*. We live in a secular society. *Every* person In America is free to practice whatever religion they believe in, and if they do not believe in any religion at all, they are not reqiured to. To ensure this freedom for EVERY American, we have separation of church and state. I don’t understand how Christians like you cannot just don’t get this concept. If you don’t believe in freedom of religion, the main tenant upon which this country was founded, then you’re out of luck. Sorry. But that doesn’t give you the right to expect the people of this secular nation to adhere to your paricular beliefs, and your god’s set of rules.

      Charlotte, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. It’s very refreshing. It sure doesn’t make any sense that people who claim to be follwers of Christ to be fighting tooth and nail for the “right” to refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. I think Jesus would be appalled at this kind of behavior from someone who follows him. Besides, why is the “sin” of homosexuality any different from any other sin?

    4. Wow! Randy! Where do I begin to respond to your response? Clearly you and I see American history differently. We understand the role of the US Constitution and the Courts differently. We describe faithful Christian living differently. I would be willing to engage these several issues with you if you are willing to open yourself to honest, respectful give-and-take discussion. Let me know. Peace…

      p.s. Jesus “didn’t empty Himself of his deity” ?!?! Clearly we see Christology differently too.

    5. Randy, and I say this as a christian…your rights are not being violated because gays can marry.

      As for the while slavery comparison..yeah more than a few people on your side of this particular topic have said gays should be killed.

      If no one is discriminated against unless they were brought here in chaind…then you right wing Christians are never discriminated against.

      And there are quite a few incidents of Christian chaplains in the military getting it in their heads that they should get to compel their fellow soldiers to listen to them preach.

  15. Jesus wasn’t religious. Society has created “religion” with rules that turn people away from Jesus. Maybe that’s one of the Devils schemes !! All you can do is pray. Also, don’t just pick certain verses out of the bible to justify what God is clearly against. However, do love all people regardless of their choices and beliefs. If unbelievers choose to seek and truly find Jesus, then it is His job to transform them and He will 😀

    1. Jesus was most certainly religious, He kept the letter of the Jewish Law…indeed fulfilled it and stated that He did not come to “abolish” the Law, but “fulfill” it.

  16. Let’s ask Hobby Lobby how easy it is to “opt out”
    If we throw out the foundation on which we judge right and wrong I suggest we throw out “thou shalt not steal” I would be happier if I was allowed to take your money.

    1. Funny..how come you conservatives had no problem with contraception mandates when republicans were proposing them?

  17. Thank you for eloquence in the face of arrogant ignorance. Your bravery is rare and appreciated. I notice no ‘Christians’ have replied, just us atheists. Thank you again.
    Matthew 25:31-46

    1. I’ve seen some Christian conversation going on but entrenched beliefs are difficult to change. I just keep adding my two cents to the discussion because one never knows when it’s time for someone’s light to come on. Thanks for reading. Peace…

      1. Thank you for your carefully reasoned and presented thoughts on this subject. As a Christian, I am proud when someone stands for Jesus’ teaching: Love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your spirit, and love your neighbor as yourself. I cannot fathom a Christian thinking it is right to deny Civil Rights to anyone. I can’t see how one can say “I believe in Jesus Christ,” and in the next sentence defend rejecting their neighbor. Jesus said “what you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” I don’t care how scared some Christian is, that does not justify disobeying the core value of Christianity as handed to us by Jesus himself. We obey “love your neighbor” and we obey Jesus. We choose to exclude even one of our neighbors, and we exclude Jesus.

  18. I am an atheist and will be sharing your words with all. It is pleasant to see that the hypocrisies that helped to bring me to my beliefs, out lack thereof, are not shared by all. The world needs more people concerned with the rights for all and not forcing beliefs onto others. Thank you kindly.

  19. I have been an atheist for a very long time. Reading this makes glad to see that there are people who actually want to walk in the footsteps of ‘JESUS’ and not twist the words to fit how they want to live. I was raised Catholic and I have seen this way too much, and when I questioned it, I was treated as if I was a trouble maker. You have my respect Charlotte. May we one day break bread together and and show some of these people that respect and love is how we are to live our lives, not in hate or spite.

    1. I would love to break bread together with you Michael! We could have some stimulating conversation. Peace…

  20. I left church a long time ago and it’s also been a long time since I identified as Christian. Messages such as yours remind me that there are those among the Christian community more concerned with modeling themselves after Jesus than in judging others. Thanks.

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