The first is the whole NFL vs. Trump debacle and the other is the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a Christian baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.
Let’s begin with the NFL. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles were scheduled to visit the White House, as has long been the custom of pro sports champions. What happened next is kind of fuzzy. The Eagles say they wanted to reschedule and had only a handful of players who could (or would) make the trip, even though it was scheduled well in advance.
President Donald Trump, feeling a snub, refused to reschedule, uninvited the champions, and instead threw his own little party. Not to be outdone, the teams playing for the NBA championship said they would not accept a White House invitation, to which Trump replied they weren’t going to be invited anyway.
All of this sounds like a bunch of 8-year-olds in a playground argument over a birthday invitation. The whole thing would be laughable as childish nonsense except we’re talking about the President of the United States and a bunch of elite athletes that many in this country regard as heroes and role models. Seriously folks, this is the best you can do?
At the heart of the squabble is the issue of mostly black athletes taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem before games. It began with Colin Kaepernick, who did it to protest treatment of blacks in this country, especially by police. His point is valid but his message is lost in the method. His chosen means of protest became a demonstration against everything dear to Americans from our flag to our veterans and the freedoms we so deeply value. That may not have been his intention but it was most certainly the result.
If you watch most any athletic event in our country today, whenever the National Anthem is played, many athletes – mostly blacks and other minorities – will, if forced to stand, refuse to hold their hand over their heart and/or will bow their head. Those are equally disgraceful and irresponsible gestures. If you want to have a public dialog about respect and dignity, you don’t start it by stepping on toes and spitting in the faces of those who gave everything for our country. There are other ways of drawing attention to your cause. This isn’t it.
Switching gears, let’s talk about the landmark Supreme Court case where the justices ruled 7-2 in favor of Christian baker Jack Phillips of Lakewood, Colo.
Charlie Craig and David Mullins came into his Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012 and Phillips declined to make a cake for a ceremony that he believes is in contradiction to his faith. The spurned couple cried discrimination and their case crawled through the courts, making its end with the high court’s recent ruling.
This case is unique in that it deals with conflicting freedoms and rights. Phillips maintained his right to free association and his freedoms of religion and expression allow him to decide with whom he will conduct business. Craig and Mullins contend that as a businessman in the public sector that Phillips violated their civil rights by discriminating against them.
The case is indicative of the social war that has been waging between Christians and the Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community for decades. From the Christian perspective, all sexual activity outside the bonds of heterosexual marriage is a sin. The Bible very specifically singles out same-sex relationships.
As the LGBT community fought for and won rights – specifically the right to marry – Christians were the ones to stand for our beliefs and to defend traditional marriage. The more the LGBT community pushed for equality the more we Christians felt our freedom of religion and our rights were being trampled.
As same-sex marriage became the law of the land, the gay community further pushed its agenda onto sacred ground. Through lawsuits and other means, they have been forcing bakers, florists, photographers, wedding planners, and even some churches to violate their deep-held religious beliefs or face harsh, legal consequences.
To me it’s wrong for the U.S. government to tell anyone of any religion they have to violate core tenants of their faith in order to do business in this country. That’s tantamount to religious persecution. That’s why our pilgrim forefathers left England to settle here. Freedom of religion is at the very heart of the U.S. Constitution.
Under no circumstances should the government be forcing Christians to provide services to the gay community. Christians should be voluntarily doing it of their own free will.
Anyone professing to be a Christian who refuses to serve homosexuals is clearly violating the commands of Jesus and is making a mockery of our faith. I know that statement may seem contradictory, but it’s true. I’ve been re-reading the four gospels of the New Testament and have come to the realization that I , and many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, have been misinterpreting the scriptures. We cling to the verses that tell us to be set apart from sin and the things of this world. We are in – not of – this world.
As I read the words of Jesus and see his example, I’m reminded that he did not sit in the temples preaching the Good News and calling sinners to him. He met the sinners where they were. He stayed at the homes of tax collectors, befriended prostitutes, and aided oppressive Roman soldiers.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” Jesus said in Luke 5: 31-32.
In his teachings, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and love others. (Mark 12:29-31) You can’t love someone you’re pushing away.
The really convicting scripture is in Luke 6:27-31, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Jesus essentially says the same thing in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story, a man is beaten and robbed by thieves and left for dead on a road. A priest and a Levite (religious leaders) pass by the man, ignoring him. Then a Samaritan (sworn enemy of the Israelites) comes by and not only helps the man, but takes him to an inn and pays the innkeeper to take care of him. (Luke 10:30-37)
I think when Christians refuse service to LGBT people we are behaving more like the priest and Levite and in opposition to the Samaritan. This is wrong. We can be compassionate and fair and demonstrate the love of God without passing judgment or condoning the sin.
Baking a cake for a gay couple does not make you gay or in any way make you complicit in their relationship or lifestyle. It does open the door for you to reach out to them with the truth of the scriptures. That’s an opportunity that’s lost if you don’t help them.
By refusing to bake a cake, take photographs or arrange flowers, Christians not only alienate themselves from the people they should be reaching, but they further enhance the public perception of Christians being judgmental hypocrites.
I could go on, but I will leave this here. To me, both of these issues are matters of decency and integrity and are worthy of a deeper discussion. We need more professionalism and decorum both in the White House and in the ranks of professional athletes. We need Christians to stop being so defensive and to start being more kind and loving. If we can move forward on both of these fronts we can make great strides in making America a better place to live.