“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.

 

 

 

 

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25 thoughts on “The First Amendment V. The First Commandment

  1. First of all I want to say that I am not a Christian and that could a topic for a different explanation of why. But what I see in the environment around me are people who often loudly proclaim the are Christian yet their behavior is not very Christian-like. How can we tell one from another? By their actions. Not only in America do we have many religions, but also many different sects of the same religion that have different laws to follow. Many that allow themselves to be self righteous in saying they will or will not accept something as being okay to do – such as bake a cake for a gay couple or for gays to adopt, because it against their religion yet do they do anything to help those that need a family? Same as the issue of abortion. If every possible pregnancy became a baby – to people who don’t want them or care for them and they end up in the fostercare system – and then most likely juvenile detention then prison ( 70% of prison inmates come from foster care ), why are these same people who want babies to be born, not doing anything to help those who have been born?

    I have asked many who have been very vocal about being anti-abortion what they have done to help the babies who were born and unloved, and they are silent – because to actually do anything is more involvement than they wanted. All talk. And few help those babies as they grow up, and because they had no caring upbringing, many of them line our streets as homeless/drug addicts/alcoholics with no family who cares because they never had one to begin with. This is not an absolute, but a hefty percentage. Christians who say they are true Christians display hate and intolerance yet when it comes to abiding by certain biblical passages themselves they don’t apply it as strictly to their own lives the same way they want it strictly applied to others lives in the way they think they should live their lives. That is hypocrisy.

    The Christian religion has changed drastically over the centuries in accordance with how to control the masses through politics. The government has learned to use it to manipulate. 500 years ago people were taught to fear God. Today it is all about his love. Did God change or did the interpretation change because it got the result that was needed. I sincerely doubt our politicians are indeed following the Christian faith but it is adamant that they “show” they are, and go to church where they can be seen, but what they do is quite another matter. So many people do not do unto others as they want others to do unto them, and “You reap what you sow” is not thought about when they choose how they behave toward others who do not believe as they do.

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and read. Unfortunately you are right on so many levels. However, my prayer is that enough Christians push back against hair, bigotry, and narrow mindedness to show that mercy, compassion, social justice and love, are the defining attributes of Jesus that must be front and center in our society.

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  4. Good job on a touchy topic. I appreciate your view on this very much. As an evangelical myself, I admit that we must find the balance between standing on biblical principle and applying them properly. Regarding this topic, I take the overall view that a child is far better off with a loving gay couple then to be in awful conditions as you have described.

    Regarding the “religious health” of the child, God can bring an individual to Christ regardless of his or her situation. I know many believers who have come from all sorts of backgrounds, none of them even approaching Christian. I’m one of them.

    Again, thanks for the excellent post and the clear thinking!

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  5. Hi David, could you clarify your question for me? Perhaps if you were to restate it in a different way.

    “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”?”

    The question that you seem to be asking: Is it our Christian prerogative to refuse adoptive organizations from placing children into families that do not measure up to our moral standards.

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  6. Reblogged this on BlueFunkFaith.com and commented:
    I love this essay. I believe that we should live our neighbor as we love ourselves. I am a Christian with a daughter who is gay. I love her and she should have every right to love a child and be a wonderful mother. She is an American with every right of every American. Finally, a Christian point of view that is truly “Christian “

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    1. Thank you so very much for reading and taking the time to comment. It means the world to me that you connected with my work. Jesus loves your daughter as much as you do. Christians who think differently than those with the loudest voices in our community must stick together and continue to get our message out there. God bless you.

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  7. The Bible teaches that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. A same sex couple might be able to meet a child’s physical needs but parents are commanded to teach their children how to live godly lives. How can a couple that is living a lifestyle that God has forbidden do this? Jesus said that it won’t profit someone to gain the whole world and lose his soul; it won’t profit a child to be adopted by someone who will meet his physical needs but will lead him astray spiritually.

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    1. Hi Clyde. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. It means a lot to me. Adoption, at least as is conceived in the United States, has been established to serve the exact function you mention. Can any agency be sure that when they place a child in the home of a heterosexual couple that the child will be lead to live a “godly life”? I think its fair to say that nobody can ever be sure. In the same way how can we be sure that a child, placed in the home of a gay couple, will not eventually be lead to Christ and his saving grace? Social welfare policies are adopted to alleviate immediate needs. I believe anything that gets in the way of those needs is a barrier to individual growth, faith, and autonomy.
      Again, thank you so very much for reading and taking the time to comment Clyde.

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  8. Thanks for your thoughts. As one of those Conservative, Evangelical Christians with more “right wing” political beliefs, I would suggest we change the example of adoption slightly just to make a point. Were I a social worker and I discovered a potential adoptive family to be actively committing immoral acts (doing drugs, robbing banks, hosting a prostitution ring from the home, etc…) I would deny placement and no one would get upset. From a conservative Christian perspective, the homosexual lifestyle is just as immoral, so why are people getting upset? A private institution with clear bylaws and guidelines should be allowed to function within those guidelines and allow the free market to regulate their activities (in other words, were I a parent looking to put a child up for adoption, I would never hand a child over to an institution that had neo-nazi leanings). Hopefully that makes sense.

    The sad testimony is that all the while evangelical Christians are working to block adoptions by homosexual parents, they are not stepping up to the plate and adopting kids themselves. Thus, the real ones that suffer are the children.

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    1. Thanks for taking time to comment and read. I appreciate your position, however, committing homosexual acts has none of the real world effects of sins like “Prostitution, drugs, or robbing banks.”Those “sins” inherently put a child in harms way.

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