Tuesday, April 07, 2015

P.S. On Conscience and Respect

Just a few more thoughts--

While the "cake for a gay wedding" example is the #1 example that comes up (usually immediately, and with strong feelings), in the conscience/service question, I avoided addressing it specifically because I think this issue is bound to bite all of us in a lot of ways we haven't begun to think of.

I wanted us to think a little more creatively.  None of us want our state or nation to make laws based on a single narrative.

Also, Christian people differ widely in how they'd handle the cake situation, from "don't make a cake" to "make it and bless them" to "make it for free so I'm not profiting financially" to "make two cakes like going the 2nd mile."

But a lot of the frustration that religious people feel is directed at the cake question because it's such a graphic example of what could happen to any of us: a situation where we have two options--go against our principles or lose our business.

And we think surely, surely, we as a society could come up with other solutions.

Also--and somehow religious people of every sort just GET this and so many non-religious people do not--we can't just instantly change what we believe and solve everything that way.  Like this: "Oh DUH, your Facebook comment is so convincing--of COURSE discriminating of any kind is worse than supplying a brewery! How could I be so stupid?"

On the surface, as someone pointed out to me--discrimination is discrimination.  We discriminated against Rogue Ale.  We need to take the consequences if it happens again.

True enough.

So the only thing that will save us from another barley-processing situation is GRACE, the kind of grace that Rogue demonstrated, the grace that comes if the person ordering the barley (or the cake) chooses to be kind and understanding and accommodating instead of insistent and confrontational.

You can't legislate grace.  It has to be given voluntarily.

And as a religious business owner, you can't demand it, either.  You can only appeal and hope.

You can't legislate that attitude, either.

And how do you legislate, "You can turn a customer away for religious reasons but only if it's a true conviction in your heart and you're not just being nasty."?

Because the fear is that anyone can be turned away, for any reason, and we're back to white-only lunch counters.

So while it would be nice to have a legal safeguard for a business like ours, the thing we really need is a social movement where people are willing to understand, give, sacrifice, respect, and cooperate.

And where wishes and impulses and feelings and convenience are mature enough to give grace and respect and honor to deep religious conviction and tradition.

Or, in short, where religious beliefs are allowed to trump hurt feelings, and we can all tell the difference.

Like I said, you can't legislate that.

While a law to protect us would be really nice, what we can do now is begin in our own hearts and in our own churches, to respect those of a different opinion, and to refrain from eating meat if it damages the non-meat-eating brother's conscience.


  1. I would certainly be nice if potential customers allowed business owners to operate by way of their own conscience, it will never happen completely. A great deal of the interactions between people/groups is about power and those who have been, or at least felt themselves, powerless in the past are extremely sensitive to slights and are happy to bring the wrath of their idea of justice down on the head of the business owners.

    You can, and should, appeal to reason when turning down custom. I rather imagine that Paul was careful, concerned and polite when he spoke to the people from Rogue Ale. Perhaps the people at the bakery were shocked at the request and seriously offended the lesbian couple. Who knows?

    We're all frail, sensitive humans and don't want to feel we are being abused. I don't have an answer for this problem, other than business owners attempting tact when they can. Large corporate policies are, of course, a whole other matter, and are a magnet for battle lines being drawn.

  2. Thank you so much for your thoughtful writing on a very difficult topic. I respect both a religious person's right to practice his/her religion as they understand it and the customer's right to receive services without regard to their sexual orientation. If all parties could treat each other with the kindness and respect that you suggest, the problem wouldn't exist. If we could all treat each other with kindness and respect we probably would need far fewer laws in general.

  3. Dorcas, I appreciate your courage in bringing your thoughts and perspective out into the intense scrutiny of social media. Social media can be a tricky place to have these extremely important discussions. I hope we are all encouraged to engage in these emotionally charged conversations in face-to-face situations as well. It can feel intimidating to me to have these discussions in person, without the benefit of careful editing, but these kinds of conversations are so valuable and create a different kind of opportunity to learn and grow.
    Listening to the Holy Spirit as we work out our faith in the marketplace is an interesting and challenging journey, but one that I am so encouraged to see believers engaging in with passion and humility. I hope that as many discussions as we are having with each other we are having many more with our God, the Author of love and of truth and the only One with perfect understanding and perfect balance.

  4. So, after reading this blog post a while ago, I have finally decided to comment. This has really been weighing heavy on my heart... this idea, that because of your faith, you can reserve the right to discriminate against others. Most importantly, I want to point out what I feel is the biggest hypocrisy of Mrs. Smucker's argument... Her position of not wanting to process barley for the beer company because it violated her beliefs on 'imbibing'. While I don't believe that I have read in the Bible that drinking alcohol is forbidden(not to mention that no one asked her or her husband to "imbibe")... I believe (having been raised Mennonite) the getting drunk (I might point out that you can have a cocktail/beer and not be drunk) and 'causing a brother to stumble' arguments are the basis for the Mennonite's dogma that forbids it in their congregations. So... Let me ask you this question... do you think, that by standing firm on this issue, Christians look like 'the shining light on the hill' or do you think that they are driving people away from Christianity (causing a brother to stumble)? What is your mission? To stand on principle? Or bring others to the saving knowledge of JC? (yes, I know the lingo) Please read the Bible and honestly tell me that if Jesus were the one behind the counter, would he turn them away or bake them the best cake ever??

  5. Anonymous, I addressed your questions in the comments on the previous post.