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Archive for February, 2014

When I first heard of Arizona’s bill against LGBTQ people, I didn’t pay much attention. Plenty of politicians announce bills that never get to the floor, but are introduced for publicity’s sake. Additionally, Arizona is a competitor with Florida for crazy governmental ideas.

The bill in question gives any business/business owner the right to deny service to any LGBTQ individual on the basis of their religious beliefs. This bill was not only introduced, but has passed and is being sent to the governor.

Before I go into the various ways that this is ethically wrong, can I just ask a practical question?

How are you even supposed to identify your customer as LGBTQ?

I mean, I don’t tend to discuss my sexual orientation while ordering dinner at Friendly’s or when I’m at a clothing store and the saleslady says, “Can I help you with that?” I don’t tend to respond with, “Sure, and by the way I’m _______”. Do two men in a store together now get stopped and questioned about whether they’re just friends? Contrary to the implicit notions in this bill, there isn’t some sort of caricature of an LGBT individual that is easy to spot…

But anyway, I digress.

Let’s start with the simple fact that I’m pretty sure that by any measure, this is unconstitutional. Legally, I really see no difference between this bill and Jim Crow laws in the South. It’s an eerie reminder of segregation and “whites only” restaurants.

Now, as a Christian… I’m a supporter of a level of religious flexibility within rules. I think it’s fine to have religious exemptions so that, for instance, a minister doesn’t have to marry a gay couple if he feels that it’s wrong. People should have the right to exercise those beliefs, however much, as I’ve stated previously on my blog, I disagree with them. However, this is entirely different. Businesses are for the purpose of serving whoever comes through the door and wants to buy your product, nowhere before have we recognized an inherent right to refuse service to someone who we happen to disagree with.

Further, the entire principle violates the Christian faith. Hospitality is a running theme throughout scripture. The Bible states, again and again, that Jesus allowed anyone to eat with him and to learn from him. He ate with prostitutes and lepers and all the people that the rest of society condemned as being unclean or sinful. As Christians, we are called to love everyone and to practice compassion for them, even when we don’t agree with their beliefs or their choices. It’s a cornerstone of our faith, that there is not a litmus test for those whom we treat with kindness and courtesy. There is nothing Christian in this bill. This bill does not defend faith, but bigotry, and most of us who consider ourselves religious see those as antithetical to one another.

For those living in Arizona, write your congressmen and congresswomen. If you are religious, don’t let the politicians legalize discrimination in your name. Open the doors of your businesses to any and all. It’s the Christian thing to do.

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As I’ve talked about in many posts, the outside view of devout Christians has become increasingly one-dimensional, with misconceptions that the loudest members of our very large community are somehow representative of the whole.  In light of the recent debate on creationism by Bill Nye “the Science Guy” and Ken Ham, I thought it was time to make an attempt to discuss faith and science.

 

One of the common misconceptions that non-Christians, particularly atheists, have is that somehow, people who believe in God universally do not believe in evolution and do not accept modern science.  Further, there is often an assumption that Christian or just generally religious scientists will be prejudiced in their research.  Neither of these are, as a rule, true.

 

The debate is not between atheists who believe in the Big Bang and Christians who believe that six thousand years ago God created the earth in six days.  There is a very wide range of opinions within that spectrum.  At this point, a very large percentage of Christians, particularly liberal Christians, see no contradiction between current scientific theories and religious faith. 

 

Let me start with some vocab.  I’d like to separate between the terms “intelligent design” and “creationism”.  Intelligent design tends to refer to the idea that yes, there was a big bang and evolution but all of it was guided by an intelligent creator.  Creationism tends to refer to the fundamentalist opinion that the world was created exactly as described in the first chapter of the book of Genesis and that the Bible represents all of human history.  Frankly, I think that’s a misnomer, because creationism seems to be a word that could be open to a much wider interpretation, but this is how it’s usually used so I’ll follow convention.  Contrary to popular belief, these two are very different theories and are far from interchangeable.  It is inappropriate and inaccurate to lump these two approaches together.

 

First of all, while I firmly believe that God is the creator of our universe, I will admit that I do not buy into the six, twenty-four hour day theory.   Even ignoring scientific evidence, scripture says that God didn’t create the sun until the fourth day.  Given that our concept of a day is defined as a revolution around the sun, it seems clear to me that God was not referring to a day as we know it.  I do not know whether God thinks of time differently, He was using flowery language, this was an analogy (an interesting theory that posits the creation story is an analogy for how we should observe the Sabbath, something that I’m sure I’ll discuss in another blogpost), or whether something got lost in translation, but I do not believe in the six days theory.  However, I do believe that God designed the universe, that He put into place all of the patterns and natural laws that we see around us.  I do not think that science will ever prove or disprove God but for me, and for many other Christians, science is in fact an expression of God.  It is our ability to view His masterpiece and the perfect order that He created.  It’s a chance to see His beauty.  I’ve known people whose faith in God is nourished and encouraged by their scientific studies and research.  The two are not mutually exclusive, but in fact are compatible.  To study science is to study God’s creation. 

 

However, just because these are my beliefs, does not mean that I support teaching them in school.  We believe in the separation between Church and State and therefore, we do not teach one religious theory over another.  What we teach in school is what we can express via facts and evidence.  It is not the place of public schools to debate theology.  A caveat, I do not, however, think this gives teachers’ license to talk about the validity or invalidity of religion, that’s not their place either.  For Christians who don’t agree with evolutionary theories, you have a right to your opinion, but our faith is something that should be communicated and expressed at home, and no one is denying you that right.

 

When I attended a Christian school, my scienc teacher said something that I’ve taken to heart and thought back often on, she said “I don’t know for sure whether the world was created in six days or in millions of years.  All that matters to me is that I know God created it.”

 

This debate, frankly, is one that people use to highlight differences and to stir up arguments.  At the end of the day, it matters a lot less of how we got here than that we are here and we are living together.  Evolution is not trying to destroy religion, intelligent design is not trying to destroy science.  It’s time for both sides to stop treating the other as if they were.

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