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Saturday, April 4, 2015

I'm on God's side, and I'm going to show you that I'm on God's side!

In response to my last post, a friend sent me a link to an article entitled "A call for sanity in the matter of Memories Pizza vs. the Internet" by Caitlin Dewey (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/04/02/a-call-for-sanity-in-the-matter-of-memories-pizza-vs-the-internet/). In the article, Ms. Dewey reproved the folks on the Internet who attacked an Indiana restaurant owner who stated that she would not cater a hypothetical gay wedding. As a consequence of the attacks on the small-town business, the owner was forced to close her doors after serving pizza to the community for nine years. She wrote: "Vigilantes on Twitter and Reddit want to frame the downfall of Memories Pizza as some kind of win in the culture war, but the people defacing O’Connor’s Yelp page and parodying her on fake Web sites have not righted the scales of justice or struck some heroic blow for gay rights. For one thing, they’re not changing anyone’s mind. For another, all they’ve done is sat at a computer — and wrecked a stranger’s life."

In reading through this article, I must admit that I was filled with conflicting emotions and spent several days pondering how to respond to the points raised in it. People who supported my position on the Indiana religious freedom law had engaged in trolling that was designed to punish the owner of this small "mom and pop" business. The justification for this behavior was supposedly a position of moral superiority (the business owner was a bigot). Yeah, this got the old wheels turning in a lot of different directions.

First, for those Christians who participated in the trolling campaign against this business, shame on you! Remember the golden rule: "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12, NLT) Is purposefully destroying someone's business based on the principles of love and compassion? Is it right to employ a defense of moral superiority to justify oneself for engaging in such behavior? "How can you think of saying to your friend, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:4) In other words, was this trolling reflective of Christian behavior? No, clearly, it was not.

What about the folks who support my position on the Indiana law who are not Christians? As my atheistic friends are quick to point out, one doesn't have to be a Christian to have a moral compass. Remember the Platinum Rule: "Treat others the way they would like to be treated." As I've said before, self-righteousness is not an attractive trait in Atheists or Christians.

So why did it take me so long to write this post? If there is such moral clarity about this trolling behavior, what were the other considerations that prevented a quick response to Ms. Dewey's article?

I must admit that it was hard for me to summon a little compassion and empathy for someone who had voluntarily offered what I considered to be a hateful statement to the press/public (i.e. "if a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say 'No…We’re a Christian establishment.'") Isn't there something in Scripture about those who suffer for wrongdoing as opposed to those who are suffering for righteousness sake (I Peter 2:19-20)? Please allow me to explain: After the Civil War, many of my Southern ancestors were devastated financially - some of them lost their small farms. The loss of a handful of slaves (generally, anywhere from one to five) represented a substantial loss (in both labor and currency) for these folks. Was slavery wrong? Yes. Were these folks Christians? I think so. Do I feel sympathy and compassion for their loss? No, their loss was a consequence of bad choices on their part. I'm glad and thankful that they were able to rebuild their lives on a better foundation (and not just from the perspective of my own obvious self-interest in being a descendant of theirs - but also from the perspective of a Christian who is supposed to love his brother/sister at all times and in all circumstances).

We are all free to harbor whatever petty prejudices and bigotries we've decided that God wants us to incorporate within the kingdoms of our own minds. BUT why must we insist on imposing those views on others and causing them pain, inconvenience or suffering? If you believe that abortion is wrong, don't get an abortion! If you believe that homosexual behavior is abominable and sinful, then don't engage in that behavior! Why do some of us insist on publicly registering our disapproval or displeasure with certain behaviors by doing things (or saying things) that are designed to interfere with the choices which others have made? Ok, I get that we think that they're bad choices; but the fact remains that they are someone else's choices - not ours! Why do we feel compelled to interfere with someone else's personal choices? Why can't we all just be content to trust in God (or, if you prefer, fate) for the outcome? If you're confident that you are in the right, what have YOU got to worry about?


  1. The only problem I see with this conclusion would be when someone's personal choice does harm to someone else, either physically or psychologically. A group of men are raping a young woman and I happen by - it's their choice, so why would I interfere? I'd be in the "right" in my own mind by rejecting that sort of behavior for myself, so leave it to God, or some kind of Sharia law to take care of it?

  2. Sha'Tara, great point! The tension between the freedom that God has given us to make personal choices and our obligation to love each other is one that has kept the Supreme Court of the United States busy for over two hundred years. Generally speaking, I believe that my freedom is subject to some limitation when it begins to infringe on yours in a significant way. Also, I would say that we can never use our freedom of choice as an excuse to turn a blind eye to someone in need.