What Would You Say?

Memphis’ City Council just approved an ordinance making sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes with respect to the city’s employees. Because we opposed the ordinance, as expected, we got a few emails and calls condemning us. So I thought I’d share one for a change.

You people have no right to insert your bigotry into Tennessee politics. America is a country of many religions. The first amendment protects our right to practice them, not shove them down other people’s throats. You (sic) organization does not promote Christianity, you promote hate, intolerance, and discrimination. If you were true Christians, you would follow the teachings of Jesus and do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and you would not try to do God’s job and pass judgment on others. It is not your place. I don’t think people like you even read the bible, because if you did, you would not be treating fellow human beings the way you are. For the record, I am a lesbian Tennessean, who is happily married and EMPLOYED. Does the fact that I am married, in any way, detract or lessen the value of your marriage?

I share this email because in it you can see so many of the arguments and assertions that are made today in response to those who advocate for a Biblical sexual ethic in the public square.  Not knowing how to evaluate these constitutional, moral, and theological arguments is what causes many to remain silent. So, before you read on, think how might you respond.

Space doesn’t allow me to respond to everything that was said. But here are some brief thoughts on some of the key assertions.

“You people have no right to insert your bigotry into Tennessee politics.”

Actually, everyone in America has the right to participate in the political process and contend for their ideas, even those we may think are bigots. In our form of government, we decide upon the merits of the various ideas by majority vote, not by the perceived personal qualities of those who advocate for them.

“The first amendment protects our right to practice [our religions], not shove them down other people’s throats.”

Having the right to practice one’s religion and the right to participate in the democratic process means that if my religion calls for me to advocate for certain values and policies publicly, then I have the right to do so. To deny that right is to deny the right of the person to practice his or her religion, which right is conceded. And, anyway, all ideas at their core are religious in nature so someone’s religious views are always going to be imposed (“shoved down the throat”) on someone.

“Your organization does not promote Christianity.… If you were true Christians, you would … do unto others as you would have them do unto you….”

Actually, the Christian’s job is not to “promote” Christianity, if by that it is meant the kind of “marketing” that keeps the pews full and the people happy by telling them what they want to hear.  The Christian’s job is glorify God by being obedient and faithful to all of His commands, even in and perhaps especially in the face of adversity. After all, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  2 Tim. 3:12. If only doing and saying things that make everyone else happy or pleased with you is the definition of “promoting” Christianity, then Jesus would be judged a failure; they got so mad at him they killed him. As to the “do unto others” thing, if someone thought we were doing something or promoting something that would undermine our flourishing as human beings or the flourishing of other people, I would hope they would speak up. Obviously we disagree about whether homosexual relationships are God’s best, but if she means what she says about doing “unto others as you would have them do unto you,” then if she wants to be free to share her views, which I concede she should be able to do, then she should want us to be free to share our views, too.

“You would not try to do God’s job and pass judgment on others.  It is not your place.”

Laying aside the question of whether the Bible teaches that no person should judge either another’s behavior or a matter of public policy, it sounds like this person is struggling with following her own standard when it comes to us. The fact is that we all make judgments every day about a whole host of things. Jesus even recognized that we make judgments, which is why he exhorted us to make “righteous judgments.” John 7:24. Essentially, her argument here is the same as at the beginning — if you don’t agree with my judgment on a matter of public policy you need to keep your judgment on the matter to yourself.

Clearly this person is offended that we do not share her views on human sexuality and on whether the law should be used to promote, commend, or protect her view of sex. I understand that. And I truly do regret that she is offended by our views. But I won’t deny her right to advocate for her ideas. And that’s how I’d like to be treated, too.