Yesterday, news broke from Denver of a Christian woman, Lorie Smith, who has filed a federal lawsuit challenging provisions of anti-discrimination laws in Colorado. Smith owns and operates a graphic design business, and her claim is that the state laws hinder her ability to promote Christian views of marriage, and may force her to promote views to the contrary.
This story has my attention for a few reasons. First, it’s Denver. I live about 100 miles from Denver. Being a lifelong Wyoming resident, Denver has always stood for everything urban life is about. It is our region’s hub for commerce, industry, and culture. At one point, I aspired to live there. It’s one thing to hear stories like this from New York, Seattle, or Los Angeles. It’s another to hear it in my own backyard. Second, because of the geographic proximity, it was showing up quite a bit in my social media feeds. That, in itself, isn’t that surprising. And I am no stranger to the world of social media and its quirks. And how sometimes, it can turn ugly.
In 2016 America, tolerance is often heralded as our society’s highest virtue. But it is not tolerance as it has always been. Much ink has been spilled by many people more intelligent than I about the “old” tolerance (basically, we can agree to disagree and be civilized about it, or if you prefer, a dictionary definition) vs. the “new” tolerance (you will agree with and celebrate the cause de jour or you will be anathematized and branded as a bigot). The “new” tolerance is winning out in culture. Those who demonstrate any kind of opposition to the new cultural norms will be branded as a bigot, and attempts will be made to silence and discredit them.
Before I continue my analysis, I want to make some things clear. I believe, as a Christian, that God created all things, including mankind. God had a particular design and purpose for man, and this is revealed in the Bible. This includes what is revealed about sexuality. God designed sex as a good gift to be enjoyed between one man and one woman within the covenant of marriage. After man was created, man fell into sin (Genesis 3). Because of this, all things have been corrupted from their original state, including human sexuality. All humans are born in sin, and sin constantly, and sexual conduct outside of God’s design is sin. That does not mean I hate LGBT individuals. I’ve had friends, bosses, and coworkers within that group, and I have treated them well and been treated well by them. I do, however, believe that they are living outside of God’s good design for their lives, and are instead living in a lifestyle that is destructive to them. I care about the lives and souls of people, enough to tell them the truth, even when it is difficult. Furthermore, I do not say this as some perfect, holier-than-thou individual looking down upon the unrighteous. I sin. I sin a lot. If you asked me to list out all of my sin, my lies, lusts, and laziness just from today, I probably wouldn’t be able to remember all the instances. And I hate my sin. I don’t want to be this way. But I know that sin is a reality this side of heaven. I also know that the grace of God revealed in Christ is sufficient to cover my sin, and the sin of anyone else whom God draws to repentance. I also know that the power of God revealed in the Holy Spirit is sanctifying me and gradually drawing me away from sin, and can do likewise for anyone else in any other kind of sin. If that makes me a bigot, I guess I’ll own it (though I’d suggest that one check yet another dictionary definition before jumping to such a conclusion).
I don’t personally know Lorie Smith. I don’t know her heart or her motivations. But, my guess based on limited information is that she is nothing more than a Christian trying to live consistently within her worldview. Like me, which is basically the whole reason that I started this blog. If anyone reading this post thinks I am just another right-wing-evangelical schill rushing to defend someone for the furthering of my own agenda, then I would suggest that they go back and read this, this, and this. I want to be fair and consistent in my analysis, even when doing so is unpopular. And it is a lack of fairness and consistency from those on the other side of this debate that has compelled me to write about it.
Once I became aware of this story, I decided to peruse Facebook to see how people were responding. It didn’t take me long to stumble upon a fake Facebook page for 303 Creative, Lorie Smith’s business. I know it’s fake because buried deep within it you find this disclaimer.
Advocacy typically requires making a positive case for your position. Does this page live up to that standard? Let’s see.
Contrast this with the actual statement on the 303 Creative web site:
“As a Christian who believes that God gave me the creative gifts that are expressed through this business, I have always strived to honor Him in how I operate it. My primary objective is to design and create expressive content—script, graphics, websites, and other creative content—to convey the most compelling and effective message I can to promote my client’s purposes, goals, services, products, events, causes, or values. Because of my faith, however, I am selective about the messages that I create or promote – while I will serve anyone I am always careful to avoid communicating ideas or messages, or promoting events, products, services, or organizations, that are inconsistent with my religious beliefs”
Is it discriminatory and prejudicial to want to live out one’s Christian faith? To want to use God-given talent for God’s glory? Better question, is it not discriminatory and prejudicial to demand that one NOT do so? Do LGBT rights trump religious rights? If so, why? Do the people who demand this realize that such thought is a novelty of the last two decades or so, whereas religious freedom has always been protected for the entire history of this country?
Well, let’s ask one of the loving, tolerant reviewers of the pseudo-Facebook page:
(Note: I will be censoring both the identity of those making the posts, as well as the profanity. I think the issues are well addressed without both)
I found this quote particularly fascinating: “Religious freedom is a privilege not a right lady (sic)”. Not a right? How in America do we know what our rights are? Wouldn’t it be great if someone posted a document listing rights that would be protected? Oh, wait, someone did–the BILL OF RIGHTS. And what does the very first line of the very first amendment to said bill of rights say?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
Not only is religious freedom a guaranteed right, it is the very first right that the Founders felt the need to include. Before we get to speech, expression, assembly (so oft-cited by the tolerance movement)–religious freedom is there. I know that few of my fellow millennials have been taught about American history and government, and even fewer care, but denying that the First Amendment says what it says will not make it say anything other. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are the highest law of the land. And, if you don’t like what the Bill of Rights says, you have the rights guaranteed within to petition your representatives to amend it. That’s how this works.
Let’s see what else these advocates for justice and equality came up with:
This gentleman (if there has ever been such a loose usage of the term) located and took screenshots of Ms. Smith’s personal Facebook page and encouraged others on the page to send her messages. Online bullying and harassment. So loving. So tolerant.
Shaming. Again, loving and tolerant.
The liberal Christians showed up as well. This is where God has been reduced to only one of His attributes: Love. No justice, no wrath, no holiness, just love. Here’s the problem: The biblical example of the message Christians are to proclaim isn’t all love and acceptance. Peter preached in Acts 2 to the crowd that had killed Jesus, and he had no problem telling them so (and thousands came to Christ!). Jesus often didn’t pull punches either. Have you read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)? Have you ever read the Gospel of John and all of Jesus’ repeated interactions with the Pharisees. Did Jesus love people? Sure. But he also told them the truth, even when it was confrontational and unpopular. I think we ought to make a rule: If you haven’t read through at least one of the Gospels in the last year, you don’t get to make any claims about what Jesus says/does/thinks.
I would particularly ask how the authors of these posts would deal with Jesus’ clear affirmation of heterosexual marriage in Matthew 19:4-5:
“He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5 ESV)
But we don’t want to talk about that Jesus. He doesn’t fit the agenda.
Last and least, this comment:
First off, this comment is particularly vile. I wouldn’t wish homelessness or death upon my worst enemies, much less someone I don’t even know. Second, the irony is crushing. “We stand on the forefront equality…” immediately followed by “Please consider moving…”. You can’t live here because of what you believe. This person is talking (or typing) out of both sides of his mouth.
So what to make of all of this?
First, I would challenge those who are rallying for “tolerance” and “equality” to be honest. Equality isn’t what you want. If it was what you wanted, then you would not be belittling, harassing, and wishing ill upon someone just because they are not like you. What you really want is preferential treatment for those who think and believe like you and to silence and marginalize the opposition. It is a blatant double standard to the intellectually honest person. The proof is in the pudding (or the posting). So, stop trying to sell us your bill of goods and own up to your real agenda. Stop redefining words like “tolerance” and “love” to mean something they never have.
Second, there are some of you who find yourself on of the LGBT-affirming side of this debate who would say “these posts don’t represent me!”. OK, fine. Then I don’t ever want to see you quote Fred Phelps or Steven Anderson (true, hateful bigots) and say that represents all Christians. If you don’t want to be measured by what the worst in your camp do, don’t measure us by the worst of ours.
Finally, to the Christian, realize that this is the culture and environment in which we live. The same sort of people who are attacking Lorie Smith are probably going to attack me for writing this. And they will probably attack you if you take a stand on these issues. But God does not want our cowardly silence. He wants our obedience, even if it is costly, and in 2016 America, the cost of defending biblical truth is rising daily. Remember Jesus’ words:
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25)
Lorie Smith may very well lose her business over the stand she has taken. Even if she wins her legal case, the tolerant, loving culture of Denver seems to be set at odds with her desire to live within Christian beliefs. Tomorrow, it could be any of us. We need to be ready to count the cost. ♦