Would Jesus Deliver Pizza To A Gay Wedding?
I was listening to a story on the news the other day about the owners of a small pizzeria who found themselves at the center of the ongoing debate about civil rights for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. A local TV news reporter, who knew that the owners were overtly Christian, essentially set them up by asking one of the family members on camera if they would cater a gay wedding.
Predictably, they said that they wouldn't, and then went on to explain that the reason why they wouldn't is because they are Christians, and believed that catering a gay wedding would mean that they supported gay marriage, which they didn't.
There was a national backlash against these folks by people who support gay rights. The owners of the pizzeria were threatened, harassed and eventually had to shut down their business for a time. All of which prompted a national backlash by conservative talk show hosts, pundits and pastors who helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help keep them in business.
The recent "freedom of religion" laws that have been enacted in Arkansas and Indiana--and which are now being debated in other states--were initiated because of fears that businesses (like that pizzeria) would be sued for discrimination if the owners refused to provide services because of their religious convictions.
The opponents of these laws see the laws themselves as a license for religious business owners to discriminate against others under the guise of religious freedom
And so it goes.
All of this basically accomplishes two things: 1) A lot of people who aren't Christians solidify their reasons why they aren't Christian. 2) And a lot of Christians solidify their belief that they are being persecuted for "taking a stand."
As a Christian pastor, I am often called upon to explain the actions of people who call themselves Christians. Honestly, it gets tiring trying to figure it out.
To begin with, let me be clear. Most Christians in America know very little about what it means to be persecuted for being a Christian.
Dealing with nasty Facebook posts or the occasional frivolous lawsuit is a hell of a lot different than facing a firing squad of radical Muslims who execute you if you aren't Muslim. The 147 Kenyans who died last week for simply being Christians are evidence of this.
I didn't read a lot of Jurgen Moltmann when I was in seminary. I should have. Moltmann was a German theologian and professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Tubingen. He came to Christ as a German POW held by the Allies in a detention camp in Belgium. The hallmark of Moltmann's theology was his understanding that God suffers with humanity in our moments of darkness, but ultimately offers us incredible hope through the resurrection.
Moltmann was haunted by what his nation had done during WWII in places like Auschwitz and Buchenwald--concentration camps where millions of Jews were exterminated. As a result he developed a robust sense of the responsibilities followers of Christ had toward others--even others who were not like them.
Christianity understands itself as witness to the triune God who liberates human beings from inward and outward inhumanity, who allows them to live in his covenant, and who leads them to the glory of his kingdom. Christians therefore stand up for the dignity of human beings out of which emerges their rights and duties. For the sake of God they will stand up with all means at their disposal, acting as well as suffering, for the dignity of human beings and their rights as the image of God. For their service to the humanity of persons they need the right to religious freedom, the right to form a community, and the right to public speech and action. (On Human Dignity, 35)What Moltmann says here is that the reason our rights to religious freedom exist is so that those of us who call ourselves Christians can exercise those rights to stand with those who are suffering, marginalized, outcast, outside, etc.
This means that for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, there comes a time to put the debates aside, and stop throwing emotional hand grenades at people who disagree with us. And to realize that our right to religious freedom is a gift to be shared not a shield to keep us at arms length from everyone.
Perhaps your convictions, your interpretation of the Bible or your traditions keep you from affirming marriage equality for all people. Maybe you believe strongly that homosexuality is a sin--a behavior that can be modified or suppressed. Or maybe you don't know what you believe--you want to love everyone as Jesus commanded, but you can't shake the things you've been taught from your faith tradition.
I get it.
These are important and weighty issues that should not be taken lightly.
But in the end we have to ask ourselves a serious question. "With whom do you think Jesus would be standing in this debate?" Would he be standing with the religious "elite"--the ones who have all the answers, and Scripture to back up those answers? Or would he be standing with those who are like "sheep without a shepherd?"
Jesus always went to the margins. He ate with sinners. Jesus took up the cause of those who were outcast, and left out.
They needed him more.
And if you are sitting there preparing your answer to this blog post by saying something like, "Yeah, but Jesus called out sinners and told them to stop sinning..." Perhaps, but he called out religious people who went around flaunting their religion a lot more.
Christians need to learn an important lesson. Acceptance does not equal Endorsement. So maybe your convictions keep you from endorsing someone's lifestyle, behavior, gender, sexual identity, beliefs, choices, etc.
But if you want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, your convictions should not keep you from accepting all people as human beings created in the image of God--whether you agree with them or not.
Delivering pizza to a gay wedding doesn't mean you endorse gay marriage.
And who knows? Maybe if you did, it might open the door for more dialogue, for grace, for the Holy Spirit to work through you to show the love of Christ to people who probably don't feel like Christ is all that loving... at least based on the way his followers sometimes act.
Maybe it's time to start proving them wrong.