Free­dom from re­li­gion: Part 1

Kim Rig­gins lives in Smyrna with her two in­cred­i­bly spoiled dogs and an un­healthy ob­ses­sion with Star Wars.

GA Voice - - Outspoken - By Kim Rig­gins

Not long ago, a baker in Ore­gon re­fused to bake a wed­ding cake for a les­bian cou­ple. Fol­low­ing on the heels of this, a pizze­ria in In­di­ana stated it would refuse to cater a same-sex wed­ding. As much as I love pizza, I’ve never had a pizza so good that it made me think, “Man, I should have this pizza at my wed­ding,” ex­cept maybe the Philoso­pher’s Pie from Mel­low Mushroom. That is an amaz­ing pizza. But I di­gress. Both busi­ness own­ers claimed that their “deeply held religious be­liefs” prompted the re­fusal. Well, for the baker that is. The pizza owner would refuse ser­vice if a gay per­son in In­di­ana just hap­pened to walk through the door and de­mand a five-tier wed­ding pizza. I’m not even sure what that would look like, but as a pizza lover I would guess it looks awe­some. Now, with Ge­or­gia poised to re­visit its own ver­sion of a “Religious Free­dom Restora­tion Act” bill, the de­bate over re­li­gion vs. dis­crim­i­na­tion has resur­faced.

A friend of mine, also a Chris­tian, said to me, “Je­sus loves ev­ery­one, but he wouldn’t bake a wed­ding cake for a gay cou­ple. He would bake a reg­u­lar cake for them, but not a wed­ding cake.”

“Why not?” I replied, af­ter fil­ing her com­ment un­der “Some of the Most Ridicu­lous Things I’ve Ever Heard.”

“Be­cause Je­sus wouldn’t con­done their sin.” This seems to be the wall at which we of­ten stop. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to ex­plain trans­la­tion er­rors to some­one with “deeply held religious be­liefs,” but this is the point where peo­ple stop con­sid­er­ing what you have to say. Once you cross into the realm of ques­tion­ing those be­liefs, even if they are mis­guided, you be­come the en­emy for try­ing to lure them off the straight and nar­row. Re­gard­less, the prob­lem with this con­ver­sa­tion that I hear many peo­ple hav­ing is that it misses the point en­tirely.

The prob­lem isn’t whether or not Je­sus would bake a cake for a gay cou­ple. The prob­lem is the mo­ti­va­tion. “Deeply held religious be­liefs.” The list of things Je­sus wasn’t su­per keen on is short, but among those things we can most as­suredly find re­li­gion.

Je­sus of­ten broke Mo­saic law to make his point. He touched lep­ers. He broke bread with sin­ners. He healed on the Sab­bath. He did not make his dis­ci­ples wash their hands be­fore eat­ing. And my per­sonal fa­vorite, he claimed equal­ity with God. So, as­sum­ing that Leviti­cus is trans­lated cor­rectly (and I’ve seen plenty of ev­i­dence to the con­trary), why wouldn’t Je­sus flout a law de­signed to marginal­ize peo­ple as he had done so many times be­fore? When con­fronted, his replies, with­out fail, point to the per­son as the pri­or­ity, not the law.

There is an im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion here be­tween re­li­gion and faith. Re­li­gion is con­cerned with rules. Faith is con­cerned with God. Iron­i­cally, faith is what frees us from re­li­gion. If we watch Je­sus pri­or­i­tize peo­ple over religious law and we fail to do the same, we have re­moved him from the equa­tion. Once we have re­moved him, all we have left are our “deeply held religious be­liefs.”

Jan­uary 22, 2016

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