I know my bible pretty well. I
used to read it for personal devotions from Genesis to Revelation at least once
a year for twenty-two years. In addition there’s all the additional study I did
as a preacher. So when I read of Christian individuals and organisations
refusing service to LGBT because of their Christian 'beliefs', I feel like I
need to give them a lesson in Bible 101.
There was a time when LGBT people
were forced to live restricted lives as they could lose jobs, housing, and promotions
if their orientation was discovered. This fear of loss kept many in the closet,
afraid of the consequences of being honest about who they were. But
anti-discrimination laws changed in western countries to include sexual
orientation along with gender and race.
This has not stopped Christian
organisations and individuals from treating LGBT people differently based on
their Christian beliefs and then claiming that religious freedom gives them the
right to discriminate, "I can't//won't serve you". Let me give some examples.
In Australia a Christian Brethren
owned camp site refuse to take a booking
for 'Way Out', a Rural Victorian Youth and Sexual Diversity Project, who'd
planned to run a camp for young people experiencing bullying and homophobia.
The manager of the camp site said, "Our Christian faith, does not
support or include the promotion of homosexuality".
In the UK, gay couples have been refused accommodation by
Christian B & B owners who said, "We are not prepared to have
that sort of activity under our roof".
Prayer" a Christian paediatrician in Michigan refused to treat a lesbian
couple's newborn baby.
Where marriage equality has been
recognised it has caused even more drama. Gay and lesbian couples planning for
that special day are finding that some people won't hire them venues, cater, bake their cakes take photos, print their invitations or
sell them flowers. And who is
refusing these services? 'Bible believing' Christians in the name of
Two weeks ago the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration
Act, was signed into law by Governor Mike Pence. This would make it
legal for businesses and business owners to choose whom they provide services
to based on their religious convictions. There is only one problem with
this; it's not religious freedom, it's anti-Christian.
Jesus told a story (Luke 10:25-37)
Actually, he told many. They were
called parables and intended to teach a simple but valuable lesson to his followers.
Enter the parable of the Good Samaritan. A story that people who went to Sunday
school or Christians who read their Bibles are very familiar with.
We'll pick up the story here
25 Just then a
religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I
need to do to get eternal life?”
answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
27 He said,
“That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle
and intelligence—and that you love your neighbour as well as you do yourself.”
answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
29 Looking for
a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbour’?”
answered by telling a story.
The story is of a man travelling
from Jerusalem to Jericho, which was notoriously dangerous. So much so, that it
was known as the "Way of Blood". Like many others, he was attacked,
robbed and beaten by thieves and left wounded by the roadside. A priest passes
by, sees him, and then crosses to the other side of the road. Then a Levite
religious man showed up; he also avoids the injured man making a conscious
decision not to help.
The third person to appear is a
Samaritan. Yes, that meant they were from a geographical place, Samaria, but it
also meant so much more. It's hard for us to comprehend exactly what this meant
unless we understand the background and tells us why Jesus chose the Samaritan
in this parable. It was not like Sydney versus Melbourne or East Coast versus
West Coast rivalry, the word Samaritan was loaded with many centuries of intense
religious, tribal, political and ethnic hatred, hostility and bitterness.
Samaritans were hated by the Jews even more than their Roman oppressors. A
modern day equivalent would be the Catholic/Protestant conflict in
Ireland or the constant conflict between Sunnie and Shiite Muslims. So intense was the
Jews hatred of the Samaritans that they would add miles and miles to their
journeys in order to completely avoid going through the area and having any
contact with them. The Jews referred to Samaritans as “dogs” and “half-breeds”.
The first two men who passed by
were just like Jesus' audience and also like the religious scholar who stood up
with a question to test Him. It was the despised Samaritan man who took the
beaten man, tendered to his wounds, found him lodging to recuperate and covered
ongoing expenses. The parable must have made it decidedly uncomfortable for the
self-righteous Jewish leaders.
Jesus then asks 36 “What do you think? Which of the three
became a neighbour to the man attacked by robbers?” 37 “The one
who treated him kindly,” the religious scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
The message is clear. The first
two religious passer-by's had the opportunity to demonstrate "love your
neighbour as well as you do yourself” but chose to reject the opportunity.
The radical "Christian love" that Jesus talked about in this story
means treating others with kindness and respect and helping them when they needed
it. Baking a cake for their wedding is not a huge ask.
I'm not sure how any Christian
can read this well-known parable and then cry “I want "religious
freedom" so I can walk away. Because of my beliefs I can't hire you a
venue, cater for your wedding, bake your cake, take photos, print your
invitations or do your flowers”.
Jesus also said some other things
against this interpretation of "religious freedom". Rather, he said
that true religious freedom is being an exceptional human being that does the
"If anyone hits you on
one cheek, let him hit the other one too; if someone takes your coat, let
him have your shirt as well".
"Give to everyone who
asks you for something, and when someone takes what is yours, do not
ask for it back. Do for others just what you want them to do for you".
One last thing.
In Galatians 5:22-23 Christian's
are encouraged to be filled with God's Spirit and then their lives will
demonstrate the character of God. "But the fruit
of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, humility, and
self-control. There is no law against such things as these".
Love, kindness, goodness and humility
NOT rejection, nastiness, self-righteousness, arrogance.
If marriage equality has created
anything, it has created another opportunity for Christians to actually BE
Christians and embody the true meaning of the Christian message. When beliefs trump simply loving others then the essence of
true Christianity has been lost.
Some additional thoughts
Are gay people being too precious?
"What's the fuss" some
say. "Surely you'd just go to another baker. If you know some business
will discriminate against you why would you go there."
The problem with this is that in
all these cases the gay couple had no idea of the vendors beliefs, just the
service they provided. Had they known, they may or may not have used their
services. I think we need to put ourselves in the gay couples shoes for a
moment. Unless you've experienced being rejected like this you may not have an
understanding of what it's really like.
You're planning a very special
day. You're in love. You're excited. You go to the service provider to discuss
your plans. Then they dropped the bombshell. "Sorry I can't provide those
services because I'm a Christian and therefore I can't bake your cake is that
would mean I am approving of your lifestyle". .....or words to that effect.
How does it make you feel to have
someone say that to you? This may also have been said so that others around
Do the gay couple smile politely
and say thanks for letting us know then leave?
At that moment you feel many
things. Humiliated. Embarrassed. Crushed. Shamed. Mortified. Rejected. Angry.
Lots of emotions. And what some people forget is that experiences like this can
trigger past hurt and trauma for LGBT people. Most gay and lesbian people have
experienced the pain of rejection in their lives. Some many times. Some of us
have been rejected by our churches, Christian friends and family. It's painful.
Subjecting gay and lesbian people
to further experiences of rejection and trauma is cruel. Legislation to make it
legal is not in the spirit of the law which is designed to protect not harm
Will you serve me I'm gay?
If religious freedom laws are introduced
then it gives people the right to discriminate. I don’t believe that gay and lesbian
people should have to go around asking businesses and business owners the ridiculous
question "Will you serve me/can I
purchase your goods/services I'm gay?'
Maybe the solution would be for
Christian businesses and business owners to have large signs in their premises
saying "We are Christians. Because
of our Christian beliefs we don't serve members of the LGBT community". Signs
like these used to be in shops like
"No coloured served here". Of course this is also ridiculous. I
also doubt they'd be willing to do it as it that would mean that family and
friends of LGBT people would also walk out and therefore they'd lose more
This religious freedom thing is hypocritical.
Let's take the example of the
cake baker. Do they question every person who wants them to bake a cake for
their wedding and ask them questions like. "Are
you both virgins? Have you been living together before you get married?".
No they don't. Why? Because it's rude and actually none of their business. But
yet it IS against their Christian beliefs that say no sex outside of
marriage. They bake the cake without so
much of blink of the eye or a twinge of conscience. This is hypocritical to
target just one group of people who don't fit into your belief system and
conveniently ignore the rest. It is most likely more about a homophobic
attitude than a Christian belief.
© Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is one of Australia's foremost commentators on faith and sexuality. His autobiography '"A Life of Unlearnin - a preacher's struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith", detailing his journey from married, high profile
preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as
an openly gay man, has impacted 1,000';s globally. Anthony was the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest
network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian
backgrounds. He is also an educator
and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing
the ‘ex-gay’ myth.
Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders
International whose mission is to end the unnecessary suffering
caused by ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation by empowering
LGBT community members, building bridges with the Church, providing resources
and media/social networking activities.
Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential
Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was a finalist for the 2011
ACON Community Hero Award.
Labels: bible and homosexuality, gay rights