April 3, 2015 by Alex Johannigman
The past week has been an exhausting one for someone who is so interested in both religion and politics, and especially in the ways that they interact with each other. I found myself reading lots of blogs, news articles, and Facebook comments about the passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana and saw a lot of good and bad points being made by Christians, Atheists, Republicans, Democrats, Moderates, and everything in between.
Now that we’ve reached the end of the week, I’ve come to two conclusions about trends that have become even more pronounced in the United States because of this past week.
The first, and much less profound truth of the two is that the word “journalism” does not mean what it used to mean. What is being called “journalism” and “news” today is essentially just people of one viewpoint skewing current events to fit the narrative that supports their worldview. Conservatives are guilty of it. Liberals are guilty of it. Despite being more of a moderate politically, I’m guilty of it. If you’re a writer, you probably are too. If you want to actually find the truth, you need to first look at what biases exist in the source. This is becoming increasingly hard to do, so I recommend that any time you see a news story, in addition to reading the story being told by a source you generally agree with, you should look for three versions of the story being told from a news source you tend to disagree with. If you read a piece of news at The Huffington Post, New York Times, Fox News, and The Blaze (throw in both the National Catholic Register and the National Catholic Reporter if it’s related to the Catholic faith) you’ll probably leave with a more complete view of what actually happened than if you stick to just your favorite. You can even consult this chart to get more ideas to balance out your “news portfolio.”
The second is that we have become a nation that is experiencing greater and greater levels of a particular emotion, and I don’t think that emotion is necessarily hate.
To explain what is going on I’m going to call the side in favor of Indiana’s RFRA, those who tend to be more religious and generally supporting conservative causes, “Team Red,” and those opposed to it, supporting secular and LGBT friendly causes, and generally leaning liberal, “Team Blue.” I’m doing this because there are plenty of awesome, devout Christians in Team Blue, as well as LGBT people who are opposed to redefining marriage and gay parenting in Team Red. There are some self described Republicans who have voiced their outrage at the law, and some Democrats and supporters of gay “marriage” who have supported it. It also reminds me a bit of a long running web series called Red vs Blue which made me smile a bit because it’s fun and has nothing to do with the current political climate.
I believe that both Team Red and Team Blue are justified in their fears. There are a lot of things happening in this country and around the world that are honestly pretty scary. But here is what is bothering each side, and I think most of us don’t totally understand how the other side feels.
Team Red feels like the world is persecuting Christians. They see Christians being beheaded, crucified, and worse in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS and worry about where else the anti-Christian violence will spread. They hear about persecution happening in their own country, although it looks different here, and worry about if they will be next. If they will be the next Brenden Eich forced to resign because of who they donate their money to, or the next photographer or baker or t-shirt maker who will face fines so extreme that they too will be forced out of their business and livelihood for being honest about their beliefs. They see what happened to the O’Connor family this week in Indiana, wonder if they too may have to go into hiding because of mobs banging at their front door, and hope that the people who tweeted things like “Who’s going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w me?” don’t come to burn down their homes or businesses at some point. They see how marriage has changed over the last 50 years to include no-fault divorce and contraception, how sexual morality has shifted, and how abortion somehow remains legal and feel that there is a culture war directed at their deeply held values and are increasingly afraid that they are losing.
But Team Red isn’t innocent either, as they too have fueled their own flames causing fear in the lives of Team Blue, particularly those members of Team Blue who identify as LGBT. As Nate Pyle pointed out in a brilliant post earlier this week, there is a growing fear of Christians as well. “The anger and frustration surrounding the passage of RFRA is really anger and frustration with us.” We have an absolutely lousy reputation for loving same-sex attracted individuals. As much as we try to remind them that we are “hating the sin and loving the sinner,” that’s not what they are hearing. Even though the types of Christians who actually do “hate the sinner,” such as the Westboro Baptist Church and those who think “the gays” are responsible for every disaster to hit US soil over the past two decades, make up the minority, members of the LGBT community aren’t experiencing enough love and acceptance from the rest of us to think that Christianity is a religion that is friendly towards them. The question now being asked of Christians by the LGBT community is the same question I saw being asked by all of the homeless whom I served last year: “Will you treat us as human beings?” Because of this, even though I don’t believe that a same-sex union will ever be the same as the sacrament of marriage, I would bake a cake for one if asked.
Solutions to this mutual fear will not be solved by shouting louder than the other side about the injustices that you experience. The solution is to fight the fear being felt by the other side.
If you’re on Team Blue, help Team Red realize that it is possible for us to co-exist, even though we have different lifestyles and worldviews. Stop coming out against every single person who doesn’t agree that same-sex unions are identical to marriages between a man and a woman, or who don’t agree with you on any other issues that you get passionate about, with metaphorical pitchforks and torches.
Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic wrote: “The owners of Memories Pizza are, I think, mistaken in what their Christian faith demands of them. And I believe their position on gay marriage to be wrongheaded. But I also believe that the position I’ll gladly serve any gay customers but I feel my faith compels me to refrain from catering a gay wedding is less hateful or intolerant than let’s go burn that family’s business to the ground.
And I believe that the subset of the gay-rights movement intent on destroying their business and livelihood has done more harm than good here—that they’ve shifted their focus from championing historic advances for justice to perpetrating small injustices against marginal folks on the other side of the culture war.”
For a group that proclaims “tolerance” as the greatest virtue, you’re doing a terrible job of actually being tolerant of people.
If you’re on Team Red, you need to work on loving people more. You can’t spread a religion based on loving your neighbor if you aren’t doing it yourself. Even if there is a culture war going on, you need to remember that Jesus instructed us all to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. If our country thinks that there is a “Christianity vs LGBT individuals” war going on, then you’re doing something wrong. Jesus told us that we should be against injustice and sin, not against people. If Christians are seen as being at war, that war should be “Christianity vs poverty,” “Christianity vs genocide,” “Christianity vs unjust wars,” and “Christianity vs abortion.” It should never be “Christianity vs a group of people.”
As Pyle stated: “Perhaps now is the time for Christians to focus more on our responsibilities than our rights. Our responsibility is to love others like Christ. Our responsibility is to lay down our lives for another. Our responsibility is to give grace with same reckless abandon that put Christ on the cross. Our responsibility is to comfort the hurting, mend the brokenhearted, and stand up for the oppressed – even if we disagree with their theology, lifestyle, and choices.
In this case, our responsibility is to listen.”
Nearly 2000 years ago today, on Good Friday, humanity crucified a good man because we feared him, were made uncomfortable by his demanding teachings, and were unsure whether the changes he was trying to make would be good or bad for us. Let’s not metaphorically crucify each other out of fear today when there are so many other more loving options available to all of us.