That pretty much sums up the message of a recent article in The Daily Beast by Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt. The article was written in response to legislation passed in Arizona (which has since been vetoed) allowing businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples (and, presumably, polygamists, pedophiles, etc.) on the basis that providing such services would constitute a violation of conscience.
According to Powers and Merritt:
Many on the left and right can agree that nobody should be unnecessarily forced to violate their conscience. But in order to violate a Christian's conscience, the government would have to force them to affirm something in which they don't believe. This is why the first line of analysis here has to be whether society really believes that baking a wedding cake or arranging flowers or taking pictures (or providing any other service) is an affirmation. This case simply has not been made, nor can it be, because it defies logic. If you lined up 100 married couples and asked them if their florist "affirmed" their wedding, they would be baffled by the question.The authors are implying two things in their analysis. First, by saying "nobody should be unnecessarily forced to violate their conscience," they are suggesting there are times when it becomes necessary to force people to violate their conscience. Current laws and court cases do just that.
Second, since one's conscience can only be violated if one is forced to affirm something in which one doesn't believe, and since providing services to same-sex couples in no way affirms their lifestyle (or, if you prefer today's accepted terminology, "the way God made them"), then there is nothing about which one can complain. They seem to be saying, "You conservative Christians have already lost on this issue, so the sooner you get used to it, the better."
Strangely, conservative Christians seem to have little interest in this level of analysis and jump right to complaints about their legal and constitutional rights. It's not that these rights don't matter. Rather, they should be a secondary issue for Christians. Before considering legal rights, Christians wrestling with this issue must first resolve the primary issue of whether the Bible calls Christians to deny services to people who are engaging in behavior they believe violates the teachings of Christianity regarding marriage. The answer is, it does not.Well, a lot of Christians would argue that it does. Romans 1 comes to mind. After all, what is a gay "wedding" if not a celebration and endorsement of sin?
Veto aside, the legislation would have been completely useless in defending religious liberty. It had a built-in loophole that allowed government to "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" if it could be demonstrated that one's exercise of religion prohibited the "furtherance of a compelling governmental interest." What exactly is a "compelling governmental interest"? That's one of those vague terms lawmakers like to slip into pieces of legislation with the intention of having it clarified in future court cases, usually resulting in the growth of government power. Nevertheless, simply because a few conservative Christians viewed initial passage of this legislation as a win for their side, the gay rights supporters were upset.
Never mind the fact that there are plenty of other business owners who would step up to accommodate same-sex couples denied service by closed-minded Christian bigots. This is about tolerance, dang it, and we simply won't tolerate intolerance!
That anyone, especially professing Christians, would have a problem with defending private property rights is very telling. We are no longer a society seeking justice and equality; we are a society that seeks to remedy any perceived social "injustice" by granting one particular and very small group of people special rights and protections above everyone else.
It is clear that Powers and Merritt see themselves as the stronger sister and brother, and they are only trying to assure the rest of us, those of weaker faith, that it's OK to go against our conscience if our conscience is misinformed. They conclude:
Rather than protecting the conscience rights of Christians, this [legislation] looks a lot more like randomly applying religious belief in a way that discriminates against and marginalizes one group of people, while turning a blind eye to another group. It's hard to believe that Jesus was ever for that.No, what's hard to believe is that two Christians would ignore 1 Corinthians 8 and chastise their brothers and sisters in Christ. Their problem isn't with government forcing Christians to go against their principles; the problem is that Christians aren't going along with a clear conscience.