“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.”
1 Corinthians 10:23
On Monday my Social Media was abuzz with opinions regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cake Shop Vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. I would say that the opinions of my friends, much like that of the country was a clean partisan split. Interestingly I found that those friends who I can label as self proscribed “Christians” were the most outwardly happy with the Courts ruling. This is not all that surprising, however, it does raise an issue that I think Christians should think about in greater depth.
Some quick background on the case: A Christian baker in Colorado was asked by a gay couple to make a wedding cake for their upcoming ceremony. The baker declined and explained to the couple that he believes making the cake would violate his Christian values. The Civil Rights Commission of Colorado (A government entity) found the baker in violation of the couples civil rights and levied fines. The Supreme Court (I will leave it here just to give a quick cursory telling of the story) found that the Civil Rights Commission violated the rights of the baker.
Now, as an exercise in political thinking I found the Courts decision very interesting. What really sparked my interest, however, was an article in the New York Times documenting more cases like this that will test boundaries of “religious freedom and civil rights”. One such issue the Times discussed was a Bill recently passed in Oklahoma (SB 1140). This bill essentially allows private adoption agencies the legal right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples when placing children. This Bill, which before reading the Times I was unaware of, will most likely push the “Christian Rights vs. Gay Rights” debate to the forefront of the Supreme Court in the coming years.
I don’t know all that much about adoption/ child welfare issues. I did work, for a very short period of time, as a Social Worker who would visit with newly adopted children and families to help offer services as they transition into their new lives together. For the most part I came across very loving parents and very excited children. They were always so happy to have a new place to call home and new people to call Mom and Dad. What I did learn during my time in the field, is that those children waiting to be adopted face the constant fear of instability, sexual assault, educational neglect, and emotional abuse. Children waiting to be adopted too often experience fear when living every day in group-homes, foster care facilities, and in some foster homes.
While I was not responsible for finding foster kids adoptive homes, I did hear stories from other Social Workers who had this job, and these stories still shake me. I was told of a thirteen year old child that was given one meal a day by his foster family, beaten for minor infractions like spilling milk, and forced to eat his own vomit after getting sick. Luckily, in this story the authorities learned of the crimes that occurred while the child was in foster care and they were able to find a nice adoptive family to take him in. Authorities also were able to persecute the foster parents who committed the gruesome crimes. In this instance the child was lucky. I often pray that this is not the reality being experienced by any of the over “107,918” children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted by a loving family.
After learning about SB 1140 I did a quick Google search just to learn a little more about the law. I came across many “Christian” organizations making the argument that this law is necessary because it will allow religious organization the ability to “provide social welfare services congruent with Christian values.” I found a few op-eds from Christian writers who saw this as a victory for “Christian liberty”, “Godly values”, and “traditional families”. I did not see, from any Christians at least, statements on how this will positively impact (according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services) over 9,000 kids in Oklahoma in need of adoption.
I understand that for some Christians there is a belief that sexual politics is an arena where there can be no compromise. While I don’t share this view I would never ask someone to act in a manner that violates his or her deeply held spiritual convictions. However, since the people speaking in these op-eds and in the media are proclaiming to be fellow “Christians” I feel as though I can engage in a little debate and push back on these feelings.
In the beginning of the blog I quote 1 Corinthians 10:23. Here we see the Church struggling with issues of ethical Christian living. The Church in Corinth is asking what it should do about issues regarding a proper diet, morals, etc. The answer given in the Scriptures is one that speaks to our current times. Essentially we are told that since Christ came to renew our minds and hearts there no longer should be worries about trivial matters like diet. We are told that everything is now permitted, however, we must realize that we can’t go “overboard.”
We learn in the scriptures that Christians should feel free to eat anything they want, however, as good brothers and sisters of Christ they should realize that this freedom may have to be put aside for the greater good of others. Many Pastors will use this scripture when teaching about things like alcohol consumption. They usually will say things like “sure, you can drink alcohol as a Christian just don’t be a drunk and act in ways that would embarrass Christ. You should be careful though and realize that there may be a Christian Brother or sister that is struggling with alcohol abuse. It may not be wise to drink around them. So in essence, yes, as a Christian feel free to drink in moderation, just recognize that this freedom comes with a responsibility.”
I think this teaching serves as a great parallel to something like SB 1140. In America we are granted freedom of religion and freedom to engage in faith and moral traditions that proscribe certain standards of behavior. However, we are Christians first and Americans second. We are often looked at as examples of “good behavior” even if we don’t mean to be. Yes, maybe some Christians feel that gay couples should not be allowed to adopt because it violates Church teaching. I argue this does not outweigh the duty we have as Christ centered individuals to continually work to be the salt of the earth.
As Christians we must ask ourselves this question: does allowing private organizations the ability to refuse children in our care an adoptive home simply because we find an individuals lifestyle to be “sinful”? It may be legal but does it edify the spirit of Jesus and the witness of Christ’s saving grace?
I would ask Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin, who at an event organized by Franklin Graham stated “I’m not scared to walk my faith because my faith plays a role in the decisions I make” to stop and consider those children who may be victims. I would ask all those Christians who publicly stand against the L.G.B.T community to ponder if its “sin” they are against or if it’s the feeling of being outwardly “righteous” that makes them stand in condemnation of our Gay brothers and sisters?
As Christians we have always lead movements for peace, justice, and love. From abolishing slavery, to establishing Unions and marching for civil rights, Christians have a heritage we can be proud of. I pray we don’t tarnish that heritage because it’s politically expedient.