Get Over it, Christian Pastors: You are NOT Being Persecuted

By 1st United States Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By 1st United States Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads this way: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We commonly refer to this amendment  as “separation of church and state” or “separation of church from state.” Either way, the intent is clear: the US shall not have a required church where all citizens must maintain membership. We are astoundingly free to practice our religion the way we want.

Which is why I don’t understand the conservative church outrage over the June 26, 2015 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. That decision granted to all adults the right for two people to marry, to commit themselves to one another in the challenges and privileges that come with marriage. This is the correct next step in the radical experiment of democracy in which we live.

Nonetheless, a huge outcry insisting that  God is abandoning our country rose from countless pulpits and blogs last weekend.

Hogwash.

Although some of the shapers of our government were adherents of Christianity, from the beginning we’ve been a nation of pluralities, of multiple religions, and of the unique freedom not to be religious but still have all rights of citizenship. Well, people had the rights unless one happened to be a native American, female, or owned by another as a slave and thus classified as less than fully human.

Slowly, we have expanded our definition of humanity to include the formerly excluded.

It’s been a messy process. Every time one more group demanded to be recognized, vicious opposition voices worked to shout those interlopers down. As a rule, opponents cited the Bible as their authority to support their places of privilege while denying rights to others.

But, thanks be to God, there really is separation of church and state here. Our elected representatives and our judicatory are not representatives or servants of some restricted religious body. They are under no obligation to follow religious restrictions. They are, however, under the obligation to follow the dictates of the laws that govern this country.

Which is exactly what happened.

I was out of town celebrating my birthday when the decision was announced. When I later checked news and messages, the amount of hate and entitlement spewing from certain religious voices stunned me.

After arriving home, I watched recorded messages from prominent pastors and read multiple articles and blog posts.

One preacher, probably representative of many on the conservative end, insisted that America is some grand idea, a new order founded by God. He also stated that the SCOTUS decision represented greater treachery to this country than either Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Others called the wrath of God down upon those who call for a more open, more just society. I saw much conflation of church and state. America is to be worshiped alongside God who no longer transcends political and national boundaries.

Some gleefully predicted God’s wrath to soon fall and cause quick decline of the US. Their fear of persecution permeated the messages with the surety they are going to be forced to join in marriage those whom they find repugnant or unacceptable. Some call for a massive uprising of civil disobedience, citing Martin Luther King as their model against such injustice.

Again, hogwash.

Preachers have the freedom to say those things precisely because they won’t be persecuted.

They can be as loving or as hateful, as inclusive or exclusive, as they wish.

They can interpret the Bible to say that God hates certain people and chooses just a select few for eternal bliss or that God loves the creation in its entirely and suffers with us in our joint and individual agonies, pains and betrayals.

They can be the most holy and humble of servants or the most lavishly paid of the prosperity gospel money machines.

They can condemn others with abandon or preach universal salvation even for the worst among us.

No matter what, no government official can come after them for the free expression of their religious beliefs.

They are not employees of the state. They can perform marriages or they can decline to perform marriages. They can open their doors to certain people, or they can slam the doors in the faces of those they don’t want in their oh-so-pure enclaves.

They are unbelievably privileged.

That’s what it means to live in a free society.

If preachers want to dictate the religious views of the country, I would suggest they spend some time in an ISIS dominated society. After all, the leaders of ISIS declare that their religion dictates their murders and rapes.

This weekend we celebrate the unique freedoms we enjoy because of the separation of church and state. Go to church–or don’t go to church. Let others in or keep others out. You get to decide. That’s the power of the US experiment.

But I will say this about myself: If my credentialing as a United Methodist clergywomen had allowed it and if I had been in town, I, too, would have been on the courthouse steps offering my services with great joy to any who might want a wedding by a Christian pastor.

That’s my freedom. I’m grateful for it.

[Note: a version of this blog post is scheduled to run in the Friday, July 3, 2015 edition of the Denton Record Chronicle.]

16 thoughts on “Get Over it, Christian Pastors: You are NOT Being Persecuted

  1. If my credentialing as a United Methodist clergywomen had allowed it —- wow, you seem to be one of the few, holding your views, that are honoring their ordination vows. Thank you.

    I have no problem with a civil service. I also do not agree with the county clerk that refused to issue licenses. She is an elected official and is to abide by the laws. I do not believe in a business refusing service. Open to the public, then you do not get to pick and choose. (Yes, understand every rule has exceptions and could play the “what if” game so please let’s not go there.). Bake the cake. Make the pizza.

    But, within the walls of the church when officiated by an ordained minister, I still believe a marriage is between a man and a woman.

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  2. God gives us freedom to follow Him or not follow Him that is our choice. I don’t believe that governments that make ungodly decisions will be swept away by tsunamis, earthquakes or volcanoes. I do believe, however, that every single person, whether male or female, royalty or commoner, worker or entrepreneur, government leader or voter all will be judged by what they did with the Truth that is Jesus Christ. Did they believe that He is the only way to the Father? Do you?

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  3. Bravo Christy – admire your honest and thoughtful opinion. I agree there is no reason to believe that this is an erosion of this country’s original founding. In the broadest sense, this was an establishment clause issue, not a religious one. The law should be color blind to one’s religion (or lack of it). A civil union of 2 consenting adults should be as lawful (law in this world) as any union that was blessed by a religious ceremony.

    The only disturbing aspect is that defining civil marriage (or union, whatever) should have been left to the States. But that is now moot, and regardless, gay marriage is now the law of the land and should be.

    As a Christian, my wife and I were blessed by God in Holy Matrimony. That is a blessing from which no earthly law can add or detract.

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  4. I believe that any two adults should be able to share their lives together without interference from the government. I believe they should be able to pass on their assets and have access to each other’s medical records. That is their freedom. I do not believe it should be called marriage. Marriage is a contract between two people of opposite sex that want to have children and raise a family. That is not biologically possible between gay and lesbian couples.

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    1. OK, should we then make fertility a requirement for marriage? And how would hetero couples prove their abilities to reproduce before marriage? What about older couples who desire to marry but who are no longer biologically capable of reproducing? What about those who have suffered from childhood cancers whose treatments have rendered them infertile? If a couple announces before marriage that they do not wish to ever have children, should we then deny them the right to marry? These are all real-world scenarios and need to be addressed.

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      1. Let me repeat – any two adults should be able to share their lives together without interference or sanction from the government. That means infertile couples, old couples, cancer patients – ANY TWO CONSENTING ADULTS! I just don’t think it should be called marriage.

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  5. I don’t think the state (the government) should have anything to do with weddings. Marriage should be a private contract between two people – a contract of a consensual relationship). If marriage were not in the hand of governments, then there would be no problem. Bigoted pastors could still marry only those who they want.

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  6. The folks who are so against gay marriage always cite biblical quotes about marriage being between one man and one woman. The Bible also proscribes stoning adulterers. If we start holding steadfast to that idea I predict we will thin out many of our churches and legislative bodies.

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