Climbing out of our God-box
I do not usually talk about politics here, except in the sense that everyday life is political. But I'm about to make an exception.
And the particular aspect of politics that has me going at the moment is its intersection with religion. First the Supreme Court decreed that a profit-making corporation could exercise religion, and that if a corporation said its religious principles were offended by a law — a law that applies to all corporations, church-going and non-church-going alike — then that corporation did not have to obey the law. There was nothing in the Court's decision about whether a corporation's behavior — for example, how it treats its employees or what it supports with its investments — bears out the sincerity of its religious beliefs. No, it was enough that a corporation should say that obeying the law would compel it to violate its religious beliefs.
Can you imagine what would happen if such a policy were applied to non-corporate persons?
“My faith tells me killing is wrong. And even if I'm not holding a gun, I can't be part of an organization that kills, so I can't join the military.” “OK, you're excused.” Maybe not the best example in a country with a volunteer military, but how easy was it to be a conscientious objector when there was a draft?
“Your Honor, I was defending Christianity when I blew up the mosque.” “Very commendable, young lady. Case dismissed!”
“Peace out, Officer. I belong to the Church of the Holy Bong. In fact, I'm really high in that church.” “Oh. All right, then. I'll let you get on with your, um, services.”
“My religion forbids me from supporting a government that tortures, meddles in the governments of other countries, spies on its own citizens as well as those of its allies, so I can't pay my taxes.” “Fine. You're off the hook.”
“My Bible says women are to be submissive to men. I can't possibly work for a female boss.” “Very good, sir. We'll fire her and hire a man in her place. Oh, er, we can't fire her. She's the president of the United States.” That example, of course, is pure fantasy.
And now religious groups are asking President Obama to exempt them from his proposed executive order forbidding employers receiving federal contracts from discriminating on the basis of sexuality or gender identity. Excuse me? Whose religion requires them to discriminate against other people? This amounts to asking for a pass to fire, or not hire, someone, because you don't like them. It is OK to not like someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. It is not OK for a federal contractor to discriminate against people in employment merely because of their sexuality or their gender identity.
But there is a larger point here: if you are a Christian, even if you think the Bible says that all homosexual sex is wrong — you have to reckon with the two greatest commandments, as identified by Jesus: “Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Loving God and your neighbor cannot possibly mean deciding that someone, because of a characteristic they did not choose, and which, in any case, is not relevant to their job performance, does not deserve to have a job (or a place to live, or the freedom to walk down the street without being attacked). I am not talking here about behavior — the person who acts inappropriately, whatever their sexuality. I am talking about the mere fact of being who one is.
If loving God and other people — all other people — is the heart of Christianity, then a Christian's religion should compel him or her to protect the rights of others, not try to take them away. It should make us seek to treat other people as we would want to be treated, and moreover, as we would want those we love to be treated.
We are all guilty, from time to time, of trying to put God in a box — the box that defines who we think we are, who else we are willing to include, what kind of behavior we find acceptable, and so on. But God doesn't fit in any of our boxes. And ultimately, faith is about climbing out of our box and into God's all-embracing spaciousness.