Being “Right” is a Mistake – A Fresh Look at Arizona

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“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45

Do you remember Disney classic Sleeping Beauty — when the fairies clean house, make a cake, and design a dress for  Sleeping Beauty? These fairies have been charged to protect the princess from the evil Maleficent, who has cursed her to die. They’ve  hidden this girl away for 16 years, there nearly there now…  just chill until the end of the day, and the curse will broken!

They decide to have a little party instead.

So here they are, preparing for this party they shouldn’t be having… One fairy wants the dress pink, the other wants it blue, back and forth they go with their wands — pink to blue to pink to blue — and suddenly the dress is a splattered mess of pink and blue. Of course it is. You could see it coming a mile away.

Here’s what else you could see a mile away: the the blue and pink fairy magic going out the chimney, alerting Maleficent to the secret cottage hiding Sleeping Beauty. All those 16 long years, and they’ve given away the game. Now it’s easy an easy job for Maleficent to go and finish her off.

That’s what came to mind as I looked at this new Arizona legislation. Lawmakers wave their wands around, hoping to please their constituents — from Prop 8 to DOMA to the Arizona bill — flinging legislation hither and yon. They try in vain to stop the overwhelming acceptance of marriage-equality.  But that’s not what the law is for. America’s magnificent freedoms were not hard-fought and won so we can discriminate against people. Those freedoms were won so no one could discriminate against you. That’s how it works: when you can discriminate against others, they can discriminate against you.

Also, those freedoms were provided so this great intermix of people, with a multiplicity of beliefs, could live daily lives as unhindered as possible — because we all live here and it’s best if we can somehow get along.

Freedom of religion is an amazing right in our country. We can proclaim what we believe without fear of persecution. Or execution. Most of the world does not have that right. But freedom of religion does not include the right to enforce our religion on others.

Here’s what’s most deeply disturbing Arizona’s legislation. The ones seeking this “religious freedom” are those who claim to be Christians — but Jesus never told you seek that  kind of freedom. On the contrary. Those who truly were being persecuted expected Jesus to enact laws to make their lives easier. “Fix our oppressors,” was their rallying cry. “Stop them from making us do things.”

But Jesus said, in essence, “I didn’t come here for that! That is not what this is about. Don’t focus on them, focus instead on ME!”  Mark 12:17 paraphrase. “Even when you really are persecuted — being told by a soldier to drop everything and carry their gear for an entire mile — you want me to change that? No! Go with them TWO miles!” That’s how Jesus feels about us trying to change laws to suit us. That’s to be our response as well. And this is not really persecution, by the way. I mean, we need to be clear about that. Persecution is having your property seized. Or your children. Or being tortured… or killed. Click here for a true idea of persecution. It looks really different from having to serve someone you don’t like… which, by the way, is the call of the Christian life. No one ever said it would be easy, but it is simple. I stand on great biblical authority then to say that if Jesus were standing here, he’d say, “Take their wedding photographs… make them the best photographs ever!

So even if you feel like you’re being persecuted for your faith, it’s important to remember that you aren’t. But Jesus, in his infinite wisdom, knew how impossible it would be for us to love those we would rather hate — it’s part of our humanness. So in his infinite kindness, he said, “That’s okay, you just let me love them through you.” Yeah. That’s the call of the Christian life.

What we don’t really see, as we sling our words back and forth like the pink and blue fairies, is the debris flying up the chimney — signaling our self-focus to the world.

Those fairies had a simple job: hide Sleeping Beauty until the curse is broken. We too have a simple job: “Love. I’ll do the rest.”

6 thoughts on “Being “Right” is a Mistake – A Fresh Look at Arizona

  1. I so agree with all of this, but I especially appreciated what you said about the mistaken perception on the part of certain Christians that they are somehow being persecuted if the law says they can’t refuse their services to a gay couple. I sometimes think American evangelicals have persecution envy. Since we have freedom of religion in the U.S., they will never have to suffer for their faith the way Christians in other parts of the world do. It seems like certain people in this country want to suffer for their faith, so they have to make up cases in which they feel persecuted. They have no idea what true persecution looks like. It’s so sad…

    • Persecution envy – that’s fantastic. I completely agree. And I’ve been in Christian circles where they talk about the coming persecution, being persecuted for your faith, and it is a badge of honor to even imagine it. But it’s fantasy. And dishonoring to those whose lives are in danger daily because of their faith. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Why are we born with such strong desires to be right all the time! If you open a business, you do so knowing that there will be people of ALL walks of life that may want your services. I suddenly had a vision of the Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street. When Macy’s openly admitted they were not equipped to serve their customers but took the time to find out who was, they made their customers happy and more loyal. If the photographer and bakery had thought ahead of time of who might ask for their services, they could have easily said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable providing my service for you, but I have talked with these people they said they would be happy to help.” It is still denying them service, but it shows respect by helping them get the service they ultimately were in search of. But, instead, they had to be ‘right’ by simply denying them service. We just have to get over ourselves!

    • Really we’ll put, Criselda. The respect is the issue, isn’t it? As Justin Lee said, if he were to get married and someone didn’t want to do his cake for that reason, he wouldn’t want them to. Me neither. In fact, I agree with the sign: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” I actually think the right of association is important and basic. But when those anyones are disproportionately LGBTQ, then arming those servers with a legal right is going the wrong direction. Too similar to the “whites only” signs we shudder to remember.

  3. Love this! I was so flabbergasted at this piece of legislation that I sent Jan Brewer (governor of AZ) an email last week! Your perspective is spot on! Love your enemies and bake them the best wedding cake you’ve ever baked. That is what the Christian response to gay marriage should be!

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