In a recent dialogue with one of the homophobic Christians who support government bans on same-sex marriage, we had a surprisingly-open exchange of views… which ended, unsurprisingly, in the homophobic Christian running away vowing never, ever to return. (In fairness, I think I gave her ample excuse to do so: I should have stuck to giving her the battle-of-the-texts.)
I wrote: “In Canada – in any country where equal marriage exists – one could simply say Well, you think same-sex marriage is wrong, I think same-sex marriage is right, we can agree to disagree. Proposition 8 is an attack on two basic civil rights: Directly, on the freedom to marry; indirectly, given the motivation most of its supporters profess to impose their religious beliefs on others, on freedom of religion.”
Christian responded: “Sure, and theoretically this works. However, we have ramifications to this, which would directly impact a person’s freedom of religion- say a Christian business owner forced to provide health insurance against his religious beliefs. Is he supposed to just ‘get over it’?” (emphasis mine)
I answered: “Well, I’m a little puzzled by your assertion that the provision of health insurance could be against a Christian business owner’s belief. Can you explain how this Christian business owner would justify this belief in terms of Christianity, with specific reference to Matthew, Chapter 5, verses 39-48;
39. “But, I am telling you,
Do not rise up against evil*,
Except whoever strikes you on the right side,
turn to him the other.
40. “And whoever wishes to put you on trial,
and take your shirt* from you,
Leave him your cape too.
41. “Whoever forces you to go a mile,
go with him two.
42. “Whoever asks you [for something,]
give it to him;
And whoever wishes to benefit from you,
do not stop him.
43. “You heard it said,
‘Love your best friend and hate your enemy.’
44. “But, I am telling you,
Like your enemy and bless those who curse you
And do good to those who hate you
and pray for those who exploit you and leave you bare;*
45. “So that you become the sons of your heavenly Father,
He who makes his sun shine on the good and the wicked,
And brings down the rain on the righteous and the abominable.
46. “For if you like those who like you,
what are you to be compensated for?
Do not even the revenue collectors do this?
47. “And if you greet your brothers only,*
What good is that?*
Do not the revenue collectors do this also?
48. “Be therefore mature people, like your Father in heaven is Mature.
Chapter 6, verses 19-21;
19. “Do not set your treasures on earth,
where rust and pestilence destroy,
and where thieves dig and steal.
20. “Except, set your treasures in heaven,
where neither rust nor pestilence destroy,
And where thieves do not dig or steal.
21. “For where your treasure is,
There your heart will also be.
Chapter 7, verses 1-5;
1. “Do not judge, so as not to be judged.
2.”For by the judgment that you judge, you shall be judged,
And by the measure that you measure, you shall be measured.
3. “Why do you see the straw in your brother’s eye,
and the beam that is before* your eye you do not notice*?
4. “Otherwise, how can you tell your brother,
‘Let me take the straw out of your eye,’
and, behold, the beam in [front of] your eye?
5. “Hypocrites*, first, clear the beam from your eyes,
and then it will be clear for you
to take out the straw from your brother’s eye.
and very specifically and directly to this question of a Christian who thinks his faith requires him to deny someone health insurance, Chapter 25, verses 41-45?
41. “Then he will say also to those on his left, ‘Go away from me you accursed to eternal fire, that is set for the Devil and his angels.
42. ” ‘For I was hungry and you did not give me to eat. I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink.
43. ” ‘I was an outcast and you did not take me in. And I was naked and you did not cloth me. And I was ill and in prison and you did not visit me.’
44. “Then they too shall reply and say, ‘Our Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or an outcast or naked or ill or in prison, and we did not serve you?’
45. “Then he will reply and say to them, ‘Amen, I am telling you, that whatever you did not do for one of these little ones, neither did you do it for me.’
If he’s a believer, wouldn’t he think “On the day of judgement, do I really want to hear Jesus tell me ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’” and just provide his employee’s wife or husband with the health insurance? Is your argument really that Jesus would want this businessman to let an employee’s spouse go without health insurance, in order to make clear to the employee that the businessman disapproves of the relationship?
This is actually a serious question: you’ve genuinely puzzled me. I thought Christians regarded the directives of Jesus rather more highly than this example suggests you do. Can you cite the sayings of Jesus that have led you to the conclusion that the Christian thing to do is to deny someone health insurance in order to show your moral disapproval, and if so, how you feel about answering that very direct statement in Matthew Chapter 25?”
Christian answered: “No, of course, as a Christian I take the directives of Christ very seriously, and I do believe that loving one’s neighbor is paramount. But I see a real problem in supporting a lifestyle that one is morally opposed to. Sorry if my example was confusing, but I hope you can grasp my intended point.”
I responded: “Oh no, I think your example was extremely clear, very telling about what you actually believe. I wondered whether you would try to defend your assertion that a Christian businessman could use his beliefs to justify denying health insurance to the spouse of his employee, and if so, how you would try to do that – but I admit I did think it would be simpler for you to just run away from it, especially if you didn’t actually believe all that in the gospels about “For I hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in; naked, and ye clothed Me; I was sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.” Because if you did, after all, how could you possibly reason that it would be justifiable to deny someone health insurance, or indeed any other benefit of employment, because they were in your view living an immoral lifestyle. Are you setting yourself up to be like Simon the Pharisee (Luke Ch7 36-50)? Is that your aspiration?”
Christian asked: “Again-in a morally relative society, why do I have to answer to YOU?”
I responded: “You don’t. You are, in a free society (what you call a “morally relative” society) free to hold any opinion you choose, and pass those opinions on to your children, your friends, your family, your acquaintance, and random strangers met on the Internet. Those opinions may be hurtful, nasty, hateful, meanminded, and may bring you and your religion into disrepute: and other people are equally entitled to hold opinions of you based on the opinions you profess.
You follow me? You’re entitled to tell me that in your view God hates queers. I’m entitled to tell you what I think of you for holding that opinion of God. In a free society, neither opinion is privileged above the other.
But you have declared your active support for an unfree society – in which your belief about what God wants of people is imposed by law on others, forcing them to obey your views regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of them. (I don’t mean to single you out: obviously, many other people also hold this belief that the US ought not to be a culture that supports full equality under the law and freedom of belief protected by the courts.) Which made your question of me completely hypocritical. Now, I await your citation of gospel verses to justify your belief that on the day of judgement Jesus will ask that Christian businessowner ‘How could you let that immoral person have health insurance!'”
Christan’s response; “Re: the Christian business owner- nope. Sorry. According to you, I don’t have to justify anything. According to you, I can use hateful language (though I haven’t at any time) and disperse these opinions freely, to the detriment of society. According to you, there is no such thing as right and wrong, so I am under no obligation to defend myself to you or anyone else.”
(However, after some more dialogue…)
Christian explained: “Start with any of Jesus’ teachings. His exhortation is “go and sin no more”. He sits with sinners and tax collectors, but doesn’t provide them with health insurance, [emphasis mine] nor does he support their lifestyle. Try Mark 9:42,
41. “For whoever gives you just a cup of water, you are Christians*, amen, I am telling you, their recompense shall not be forgotten.*
42. “And whoever misleads* one of these small ones who believes in me, deserves to have a donkey’s millstone thrown on his head and be thrown into the sea.
43. “If your hand leads you to crime,* cut it off. You are better off entering
eternal life a cripple, rather than having to go to gehenna* with two hands,
where we are exhorted not to cause anyone to sin. Supporting a lifestyle we know is sinful would be causing someone to sin. Try Proverbs 24, where it exhorts us to pull back those who are staggering towards death. Try Romans, where we are exhorted to NOT conform to the pattern of the world. Romans 14
12. Hence every human being among us shall answer on their own behalf to God.
13. Henceforth, do not judge one another, except deem it fitting that you do not place a stumbling block before your brother.
14. For I know and I am assured* by Lord Jesus Christ, that nothing which defiles from him ever ensues. Except those that which they regard as defiling, to them alone it defiles.
15. If then because of food you discriminate against your brother, you are not following the course of love. Do not abandon someone for whom Christ died, because of your diet.
16. And do not blaspheme our blessing.
17. For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, except righteousness and peace and joy in the holy Spirit.
18. For whoever serves Christ through these, is praising God, and is approved* before humanity.
19. So let us now pursue peace and those who build up one another.
tells us that he is blessed who does not condemn himself by what he approves. I Corinthians 5 asks us to “expel” the immoral brother, specifically dealing with this issue of sexual immorality. Or the passage in chapter 10 that asks us to work for the good of many. In Galatians 4, Paul warns against being separated from the teachings of Christ by our zeal for others. Ephesians 4 talks about being truthful to one’s neighbor, telling us not to be partners with sinful people.
Shall I go on?
The challenge for the Christian (and NOT for the atheist) is to balance our love of God’s truth and our love for others. Supporting a lifestyle we are morally exhorted not to engage in is, in itself, sinful.”
There’s actually a lot of textual material there to respond to (for example, in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul spells out that he is talking about expelling people from the Church for their “immorality”, and rebukes the early Christians he is writing to for getting angry about the “immorality” of people outside the Church) but the first thing that Homophobic Christian had said He sits with sinners and tax collectors, but doesn’t provide them with health insurance, nor does he support their lifestyle. was the first thing I responded to:
Me: “So you think that when Jesus said ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ – he specifically did not intend to include any sinners – or at least, no one “living an immoral lifestyle” – among the “least ones”?”
Christian: “Not at all, and again you’ve deliberately misunderstood (or misread?) my statements. LOVE balanced with TRUTH. Jesus says, ‘your sins are forgiven, now go and sin no more. I don’t know if you have children, but it’s the same principle- you love them SO much that you show them right from wrong. Do you ever stop loving them? By no means! But who would let their child (or anyone they love- which, for Christians, includes ALL PEOPLE) run into oncoming traffic, citing their “personal freedom” to do so?”
Me: “No, you just said exactly the opposite where you assert that Jesus himself would never have helped someone “living an immoral lifestyle”. This is specifically on the issue of: How does a Christian businessman justify in terms of his faith refusing health insurance to the spouse of his employee? Your answer was, today, that Jesus would just have “sat with them” – not actually felt himself obliged to help. Have you already forgotten that?”
(Quotes all taken from the Aramaic Bible.)
The constant assertions by those who oppose Proposition 8 is that God is on their side: God, they declare, wants them to do this. The “Why does God need a starship” absurdity of this claim has already been covered: my point here (as a well-read atheist) is that they have literally no textual justification for their presumption that, as Christians, God wants them to bring the power of the state to bear on lesbians and gays living together in civil marriage.