Kirsten Powers argues in USA Today that Kansas’ recent effort to protect religious freedom is akin to enacting Jim Crow laws. She writes:
What’s the matter with Kansas? A bill protecting the religious freedom of businesses and individuals to refuse services to same-sex couples passed the state House of Representatives last week. It was blessedly killed in the state Senate on Tuesday…
Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.
She goes on to argue that Christian business owners have an obligation to serve people they disagree with because that’s what Jesus taught us to do. She invokes Pastor Andy Stanley for support on this point:
Evangelical pastor Andy Stanley leads North Point Ministries, the second largest church in the U.S. He told me he finds it “offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the Kansas law.” He said, “Serving people we don’t see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn’t see eye to eye. If a bakery doesn’t want to sell its products to a gay couple, it’s their business. Literally. But leave Jesus out of it.”
Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can’t they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?
Some claim it’s because marriage is so sacred. But double standards abound. Christian bakers don’t interrogate wedding clients to make sure their behavior comports with the Bible. If they did, they’d be out of business. Stanley said, “Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it’s adultery. So if (Christians) don’t have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians.”
I have no interest in defending the legislation that recently failed in Kansas. I think that good people can disagree on whether that particular law would have been a good idea. Nevertheless, Powers’ argument is disappointing no matter how you feel about the Kansas proposal.
First, Powers promotes the canard that somehow Christian business owners do not “want to sell its products to a gay couple.” That is bearing false witness. None of the Christian business owners cited in recent reports are refusing to do business with gay couples. They are happy to serve gay people, and they have served gay people. In fact, I think one of the business owners even had a gay employee. Doing business with gay people is not the issue. They simply do not want to be forced into participating in a gay wedding. That’s the issue, but that is totally lost in Powers’ article. And it totally undermines the analogy to Jim Crow.
Second, Powers invokes the “what would Jesus do” standard, and she offers her self-evident conclusion that Jesus would have contributed his part to a gay wedding (“he’d bake the cake”). But for many Christians, this conclusion is a far cry from the Jesus that is revealed in the Bible. Yes, Jesus often ate with “tax-gatherers and sinners” (Luke 15:1). No, Jesus never did anything that was promoting or participating in their sin! Jesus was a carpenter. What if he were still around today to offer his services? Indeed, what would he do if a gay couple asked him to design a platform upon which to conduct their gay wedding ceremony? Powers would have us believe that Jesus would employ himself as the set designer for sinful unions. I am guessing I’m not the only one who finds this portrait of Jesus to be inconsistent with scripture (e.g., Matt. 5:13-19; Rom. 1:32).
Third, she claims that Christian business owners are involved in a double standard since they don’t refuse to serve other kinds of sinners. Here again, this is a false analogy. These Christian business owners are willing to serve all kinds of sinners including gay people. They just don’t want to be coerced into participating in the sinful celebration. Yes, Christians will serve murderers, but they should not be required by law to sell the murderer his gun. If a Christian photographer were asked to photograph a heterosexual wedding ceremony involving nudists, conscientious Christians would decline that invitation as well. This is no double standard.
Fourth, Powers advances an argument that compares conscientious Christians to supporters of Jim Crow. In doing so, she is furthering a destructive narrative that is currently being used with great effect against Christians in America today. That narrative says that Christians are motivated by bigotry and animus when they oppose gay marriage. That narrative neglects the truth of the matter. We don’t hate gay people. We love them. We simply disagree with them about the morality of homosexuality.
Whenever folks want to label Christians as bigots for opposing gay marriage, they now have this item from Powers to support their case. And that is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Powers’ article.