So just yesterday, Chick-fil-A made a statement that “going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.” This, just a month after their chain was the center of one of the biggest culture wars recently, when the owner revealed that his restaurant supported ‘the biblical definition of the family unit,’ and regularly donated to organizations like Focus on the Family, which does not support marriage equality.
In the week following that announcement, all hell broke loose on Facebook. I saw posts from some of my Christian friends expressing anger at the owner of Chick-fil-A for making such a broad statement about Christianity. These friends cited that Christianity should be based on love, and not hatred and bigotry, and how can this one man define their belief system for them? Then I read other posts by Christians who stated that the government shouldn’t enforce its views on their moral beliefs, and that the definition of bigotry is relative, and that this guy was just practicing freedom of speech. I appreciate these different views, and I think that anyone who knows me would know that I agree with the former view of Christianity, but to that end, I find debates about what the Bible says to be fruitless. Everyone has their own definitions of Christianity, and there are some who look at the Bible as a book that emphasizes love and compassion, and others who take it in a more fundamentalist way. And that’s that – we can’t enforce our religious interpretations on other people, and I wouldn’t want to try.
So what I would like to do in this post is make the argument that the issue at hand is not entirely a religious one, it is a civic one. I want to address the supposed conflict with gay rights and Christianity, and I’m going to do so by digging up any knowledge I have left of Christianity from the eight years of Catholic school I attended. 😉 I also want to make it clear that I am framing this argument within a Christian framework, even though I personally do not consider homosexuality a sin. So please, bear with me. 🙂
I recently read on someone’s wall that the bible considers both theft and homosexuality to be sins, and why should he support something that is punishable by law because it is a sin? So I thought it was important to make a distinction here. While both theft and homosexuality are defined as a sin by the Bible, the issue at hand is not entirely a religious one. It is also a civic matter, and history has shown that some things that are explicitly applauded by the Bible and based in Biblical principles (for example, the practice of slavery), are not always the best principles for civic life.
If a man steals from you, he has committed a sin, and trespassed upon one of your civic freedoms (the right to own property). When that man is arrested and taken to prison, this does not happen because we live in a Christian country, but because we live in a country where the right to own property is upheld as a basic human freedom (which is not always the case in every part of the world).
Basically, there is a difference, legally and civilly speaking, between a sin and a crime. We as a nation punish and/or prohibit crime, but we do not always punish and/or prohibit ‘sin,’ as defined by many Christians.
I mean seriously, thank God (literally-oh dat’s cold!) for that, because if we treat sin and crime as the same thing, then wouldn’t we all be placed in jail, because … didn’t God say that everyone has sinned?
Let’s say that a Christian believes that the forgiveness of Christ is the only remedy for sin. And let’s say that a Christian thinks that homosexuality is a sin (again, not representin’ here, just trying to make an argument within this framework). Well if Christians believe that evil or lustful thoughts, or jealousy, or stubbornness can all be considered sins, can the ‘sin’ of homosexuality honestly be one that can be cured by the government? It is not like murder or theft, which deprive others of their rights to life and property.
I think that it is dangerous to deny anyone their civil rights based on a sin that, according to some religious fundamentalists, is largely of the mind.
I think that our Christian culture has become so enamored with the idea that a “Christian” law can somehow remove a sin from our country that it has lost all perspective. It seems to me that Christians have come to believe that they can somehow control sin through culture, if simply pressed down hard enough. And then, people won’t actually need the redemption of God to save them. If the laws of our land perfectly match the Bible, then we need only be “good Americans” rather than actual followers of Christ. Then the flag can replace our Bibles and the pledge of allegiance can replace the Lord’s Prayer, because they’ll be one and the same, right?
And, if you really believe in the power of God’s forgiveness, then doesn’t that reveal an insecurity with your faith if you have to rely on the government to eliminate what is considered internal sin? Isn’t that God’s role? Doesn’t She (oh no I didn’t!) do that for you individually?
Does it really line up with Christianity to force others to die to themselves so Christians can feel more comfortable and more righteous?
Ultimately, whether you consider homosexuality a sin or not, in my opinion our laws do not support the merging of religious and civic life, and legislating morality. You may believe that being gay and stealing is the same sin in the bible, but in civic life, it doesn’t really work that way. Stealing deprives others of their property and even their life, being gay does not. I have no problem with people having private religious beliefs that are kept in their homes and churches, but see a larger problem when these personal religious beliefs affect civic life-like denying a certain group their rights to life, liberty and happiness.
I’ll end with this. Courage of convictions is laudable, awesome, and necessary, but can and is historically capable of being applied incorrectly, in spite of the beliefs and faith of those holding those convictions at the time. People need to be cautious of confusing sin with crime and vice versa, and of mixing civil and religious motives. As the recent statement released by Chick-fil-A reveals, having faith doesn’t mean never changing your mind.
4 responses to “Chick-fil-A and marriage equality-a civic, not religious, issue”
Very thought-provoking and interesting. Today I listened online to a bishop speaking to a group, vehemently imploring them to flee the Democratic party due to its platform supporting same-sex marriage. At the end of his impassioned speech, oddly, he closed with the words “…with liberty, and justice for all.” Huh? ALL? Does anyone else catch those ironies?
Seee….I really have a problem with that! Using rights that were granted to all of us by the government and merging that with religion. Do you have the link to that video?
And the thing is, I really don’t think most Americans care. Actually, polls show that a majority of Americans support marriage equality. It’s always the few radical voices that are the loudest that get the most attention!
And thank you for commenting!! 🙂
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7_FrySY8oYM I spotted this link/comment posted on Mike Huckabee’s Facebook page under yet another entry Mr. Huckabee posted using the Chick-fil-A brouhaha to rally voters. That particular post was dated Sept.6 or 9th I think. I don’t have my beliefs cemented thoroughly on this issue yet, but I have been doing lots of thinking, reading, scratching my head, processing for some time now. And by the way, another irony is that Mr. Huckabee uses the words “Life. Liberty. Pursuit of Happiness. ” on his cover or wall across the top of his page.
Thank you so much for this! Well my post allows for some ambiguity I think…even though I disagree with a certain Biblical interpretation that condemns people in the GLBTQ community, I’m ok with people having different interpretations. My issue is that many Christians have gotten it into their head that the laws this country was founded on was based on Christian beliefs, and that is not true for the most part. We need to have more complex discussions on this matter.
By the way, check out this blog I found tonight called “Whatsoever Christian We Bring,” by a Reverend and professor who is an advocate for gay rights. He has a lot of thoughtful posts and links and attempts to navigate through the supposed contradictions of Christianity with being gay.
I also liked his quote at the top, “Never let other people define your reality or put you into bondage to their ways of thinking.”
Thanks for this discussion! 🙂