Lawsuits continue to be filed, and legislation pushed, to force those who disapprove of gay marriage to offer services to same-sex couples. This is a complex subject, and in my opinion the question comes down to whether those services are essential (i.e. involving life and health) or nonessential (weddings photos and the like).
But for the moment, I’d like to concentrate on specific religious rituals, such as weddings and baptisms.
I absolutely disagree with the clamor, from some “progressive” quarters, for religious people who disapprove of same-sex love to be legally forced to perform gay marriages, baptisms for the children of same-sex couples, etc.
A rapidly-growing number of churches and denominations are perfectly willing to treat same-sex couples as equal to heterosexual couples. We simply don’t need to force anybody to do anything. Even more and more conservative Christian congregations are willing to do this. Why are some pushing for all to be forced to do so?
I don’t believe that the “progressives” trying to force the issue are even Christians at all. Not because they’re wrongheaded in this matter, but because they (A) fail to understand that not all Christians see homosexuality the same way – something they would certainly know if they themselves were Christians – and (B) because they simply lack any respect for religious convictions. And I mean, for anybody’s.
When a minister marries a gay couple, it means something important if he or she does so willingly. When forced to do so against his or her will, the gesture is robbed of its significance. I applaud those whose hearts have been opened to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. They deserve to be recognized as willing participants in the Holy Spirit’s work toward our full inclusion in the Church. When we don’t know for certain who’s willing and who isn’t, we’ve lost that sense of appreciation.
It is important that we appreciate our allies in the Church. We can’t always appreciate them if we don’t recognize them. And we can’t always recognize them if they can no longer stand up and be counted. Legally forcing them to marry us robs them of the chance to stand up and be counted.
What’s more, the view that churches must be forced to honor us is based on a notion that is ignorant at best, and at worst an insidious lie. It’s based on the notion that ALL Christians must be automatically opposed to same-sex love. That hasn’t been true for at least thirty or forty years, and it is less true now than ever before.
Forcing anti-gay Christians to serve same-sex couples also makes martyrs out of them. They have quite enough of a persecution complex already. They would probably love nothing better than to be forced into complying with a law that violated their convictions about same-sex love. They thoroughly enjoy feeling they’ve been driven back into the catacombs.
Anti-gay Christians used to stand astride the whole, wide world. All they’ve got left, now, is an island that gets tinier day by day. More and more pieces of that island are crashing into the sea, and they must huddle closer and closer together, bawling ever more loudly, like walruses on a melting glacier, about how victimized and oppressed they are.
On the Last Day, the Bible tells us, the sheep will be separated from the goats. Those who willingly served Christ, recognizing Him in their fellow human beings (including, Jesus says, “the least of these”) will be led, like the faithful sheep they are, into their eternal reward. Those who rejected their fellow human beings will be led away to everlasting shame. Like stubborn, balky goats. Or bawling walruses.
And yes, I know I’ve posted a picture not of a sheep, but of a goat. I just thought he was cute. This one will surely escape perdition. No angel could resist a smile like that!