I’m motivated to write on this topic after the crap-storm of a controversy was created by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that was recently signed into law in Indiana. Now that the static has begun to die down from that fiasco, I feel that there are some important observations that can be drawn from it. These observations aren’t necessarily new to the observant viewer, but they nevertheless reinforced the conclusions that I and many others have drawn. Those who vehemently oppose the supporters of RFRA laws claim to do so because they’re “tolerant” (doublespeak intended) and seek to rectify all injustices against the homosexual community perpetrated by Christians.
I want to present a disclaimer before moving forward with this article. I’m not a legislator, attorney, law professor, or an authority on any legal matter. I’m not writing this article with the intention on sounding authoritative in my analysis of the RFRA law of Indiana or any of the twenty states that have RFRA laws. While I’ve carefully read Indiana’s RFRA law and the Federal RFRA signed into law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, I’m not an expert in legal matters. I write this merely as an interested layman. My academic background is in business and Christian theology, which is a far cry from legal matters of this magnitude that necessarily require a vast breadth of legal knowledge to thoroughly and credibly critique the Constitutionality of this RFRA.
With that being said, doesn’t the wording of this type of law sound peculiar? Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The title presupposes that religious freedom is in need of restoring. Why would it need restoring? I thought we had a little thing called a Constitution, and if I’m not mistaken, the First Amendment addresses this issue unambiguously. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” It seems odd why any RFRA would need to be written, given the First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution is still in force.
Regardless, I remain supportive of all efforts to reinforce and protect religious liberty. My preference would be to uncompromisingly cling to the First Amendment rather than draft other legislation that could potentially compromise what the First Amendment was intended for. In Judge Andrew Napolitano’s assessment of the legal efficacy of the new RFRA law in Indiana, “If it was just trying to boast that it was defending the same religious liberties the Constitution already requires it to defend, its efforts were clumsy, unnecessary and wasteful.” In principle, I support the RFRA bill but I sympathize with the fact that maybe the RFRA bill wasn’t legislatively executed properly. However, my critiques of the bill are legislative in nature rather than directed towards the principle of the bill itself, which is where we begin to see the how “tolerant” some people really are in their natural and unfiltered reaction to it.
I’ve listed three (of countless) cultural exhibits in the media below that specifically relate to homosexuality and their “tolerance” of those who don’t celebrate and affirm homosexuality. I’ve noted two videos as having explicit language so that if you are sensitive to vulgar language, you may refrain from viewing the video.
Exhibit A – MSNBC host Ed Shultz
After viewing the video, do you feel like the well reasoned, intelligently spoken Ryan Anderson was treated with tolerance? Um, no. If Ed Shultz absolutely disagreed with Anderson’s position, which he clearly did, wouldn’t a tolerant open-minded host gladly permit his guest to explain their position and allow for a fruitful dialogue rather than “cut his mic” when he couldn’t tolerate his guest any longer? As you’ll see with all of these exhibits, they all have a irresponsible habit of creating a flimsy straw man (i.e. an informal fallacy based on a false representation of an opponent’s argument). Shultz was visibly angered by Anderson’s opinion and even went so far as to say that discrimination is “the position of the right wing”. If I were the CEO of MSNBC, I would be furious by Shultz’s behavior (even if I agreed with him) because of his deliberate actions to tyrannically silence his opposition and to intentionally misrepresent the “right wing.”
Exhibit B – Dan Savage (Language Warning)
This video of gay activist Dan Savage is vile and embarrassingly ignorant. Sadly, Savage appears to be in an environment where he’s speaking to young high school age students. Savage begun is unintelligible rant by noting that everyone should ignore what the Bible says about gays just like we ignore what the Bible says about “shellfish, slavery, dinner, farming, menstruation, virginity, masturbation”. He also continues on to describe how the Bible is a “radically pro-slavery document” and said that Civil War time slave owners waved bibles over the heads of their slaves because the Bible condones slavery. As Savage was grossly misrepresenting the Bible, those with Christian convictions chose to walk out during his misguided tirade. With as much class as he started with, Savage went on to call them “pansy asses.”
For someone who prides himself on combating intolerance, ignorance, and bigotry, he seems to be the epitome of it. The ironic thing about the video was that he’s accusing the Bible of being wrong while being absolutely wrong about the Bible. Even if his interpretation of the Bible were correct, which is isn’t, his atheistic worldview wouldn’t permit him to make any objective moral denouncements of any action as he did in this video (read here for an article I’ve written on this topic).
Below is an explicit example of his “tolerance” towards those on the Right. For those who wish not to view it because of the explicit language, he plainly says, “I wish they were all fu*&^%$ dead” when talking about the conservative politicians who disagree with his positions. Now imagine a conservative politician or activist making the same type of vile statement directed at homosexuals. The media backlash would be endless. However, when Dan Savage proudly makes these types of remarks about people of a conservative nature, and they are easily dismissed under the rug. Is this an ambassador for tolerance? Clearly not.
Exhibit C – Bill Maher (Language Warning)
Bill Maher implements a very similar tactic as Savage. It’s an argument advanced by extreme ignorance. Maher ignorantly said, “He [Indiana Governor Mike Pence] and other like minded conservative want it both ways, they hate discrimination but they love the Bible, a book that commands you to discriminate.” Maher then goes on to say that the God tells Christians to “kill them [homosexuals].” Maher proceeds to take samplings the craziest of crazy Christians as honest examples of what the Bible commands Christians to do in regards to our treatment of homosexuals, many of these examples he puts forward illustrate how these Christians’ desire to stone gays and how they believe that God is punishing America for legally permitting homosexuality in this country. Maher’s conclusion? These are loyal Christians who are living out what the Bible literally tells us to do, which he compares (at least in principle) to Muslims loyally performing an Islamic act of jihad.
Again, Maher is suffering just as badly from ignorance as Savage about how to properly understand the Old Testament laws. His ignorance is preventing him from seeing Christianity for what it truly is. Ignorance is preventing Maher from seeing that the radicals who identify themselves as Christian aren’t behaving according to what Christianity actually says while the jihadist Muslims are performing in perfect alignment to what the Quran says. Maher’s ignorance is influencing a vast widespread intolerance of Christians on the basis of faulty information. I agree with Maher, those examples he laid out in his video are dispecable, but they are “radical” and “on the fringe” despite what his faulty understanding of Christianity may have him believe.
Old Testament Laws
The last two exhibits were largely centered on a sad misunderstanding of the Old Testament laws and how they apply (or don’t apply) to us today. While much can be written on this (and has been extensively written), I’d like to recommend an excellent book titled Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan which exhaustively deals with these types of objections to these laws that Bill Maher and Dan Savage cited in their videos. Also, the video below of Dr. Michael Brown beautifully summarizes how the Old Testament laws are to be properly viewed now in less than two minutes…
While I don’t commonly jump into the realm of politics in my apologetic writings, I felt like this issue needs desperately addressed. I only selected three individuals who have consistently made an influential imprint on the culture within their own sphere of influence. Sadly, the culture seems to have adopted their approach. Their approach is grossly intolerant towards those of conservative Christian values. Having viewed the work of all three of these men for years, I can say with confidence that they are not capable of have a civil well reasoned discussion to any meaningful degree.
I’d like to concede that I am quite familiar of how narrow-minded some Christians can be. They can be just as bull headed and pompous in their approach as these men are. However, the social climate has shown that Christians are now the ones being deliberately isolated as bigoted, narrow-minded, and intolerant for no other reason than being a loyal follower of Christ. Since many secularists misunderstand the essence of being a Christ follower, it’s inherently difficult for them to give a credible and honest critique of our worldview. That is why they often resort to advancing misrepresentations and delivering malicious ad hominem attacks.
Am I saying that gays haven’t been mistreated by people who self-identify as being Christian? Absolutely not. However, we’re now in a culture where Christians are being largely condemned for being Christians more so than homosexuals are being condemned for being homosexual. This is a very politically incorrect thing to say, but it’s absolutely true and I don’t care what the PC police think about my assessment of the political and religious atmosphere. Not because I don’t care about them as individuals, but because I feel their agenda is a corrupt one. As Christians, it’s shouldn’t be a surprise that nonbelievers venomously oppose us to the point where hate is unambiguously aimed at us. In their eyes, any sign of traditional Christian values must be extinguished because it symbolizes a worldview that aims to improve upon every individual life. What is so wrong with that? The problem is that so many people who live in contradiction to the will of God end up trying to combat it by demonizing it in public. This is what we are seeing in American culture.
Tolerance, as I hope to experience one day, should be a two-way street. Political posturing in the liberal media would be happy to mislead you into believing that Bible-believing Christians would joyously stone every homosexual in existence. This is patently absurd. Straw man fallacies are overwhelmingly abundant in the modern news outlets, so much so that watching the news makes you vulnerable to being an innocent victim of secular propaganda. Tolerance has largely been redefined to mean, “I’m tolerant of everyone who agrees with me.” Political commentators and activists who unashamedly insult Christians without remorse are guilty of being as narrow-minded, ignorant, hateful, and bigoted as they are claiming Christians are. Our goal as Christians is to remain Christ-like in our approach and not succumb to their tactics. Falling into such a trap would do a huge disservice to our cause. We can rest assured that we have the truth and realize that through the Holy Spirit, God will do amazing things if we are obedient in everything He asks us to us through His Word.