Have you ever talked to someone who knew they were going to die? Knew it in an “I’ve got some things to say” kind of way?
Most likely not on the list would be politics, taxes, weeds, or calories. Those things that seemed and were so important just yesterday go up in a puff of clarifying smoke.
When the real battle appears, all lesser skirmishes cease.
I think the real battle is here.
We (the royal we) have fought a war for independence, abolished slavery, survived the Great Depression (maybe two depending on you who ask), conquered polio, and pressured Gorbachev to tear down that wall. We (again the royal we) have debated all the ‘isms: capitalism, communism, socialism, sexism, racism, feminism, environmentalism, imperialism, colonialism, and totalitarianism. We’ve taken on abortion, impeachment, global warming, and gay marriage.
Lesser skirmishes all compared to the new battle on the horizon.
The fight for beliefs and values won’t disappear, but in these—dare I say it—End Times, the mother of all battles will be against the temptation to go along just to get along.
And it’s going to get very ugly. You can already tell.
If #Lovewins doesn’t represent you, you’re cast as a hater. Fighting “equality” makes you a bully. Standing on the Word of God makes you “weak minded,” “bigoted,” “prejudiced,” “pretentious,” and “intellectually lazy,” all of which I was recently called.
You, like I, can be accused of “blocking peace” and “wanting people’s lives to suck.” You’re lucky if all you are today is “misguided.”
And God and the Bible, no matter how bedrock to your life, are swiped away in disgust and condescension by those whose bedrock is outside of either.
The profound meaning we derive from God’s Word is not allowed into the debate. Faith, by definition, is the hope for things which are not seen, which are true. In the legal arena, that and $4 will buy you a latté at Starbucks.
Melissa and Aaron Klein (Image source: Sweet Cakes By Melissa/Samaritan’s Purse)
A Pennsylvania newspaper announced it will no longer publish op-eds opposing gay marriage. I can’t imagine they will be the only one. Now, proclaim the hands at the levers, the issue is decided; our voices are no longer worthy of being heard.
It would be so much easier to join our fellow citizens who have never heard of Benghazi but know that Kim Kardashian ate a donut every morning of her first pregnancy. The ones who get their sum total of political and current events awareness from The Daily Show or Facebook. Maybe even the ones who think fame, fortune, and a reality show will make all their dreams come true.
If we stay engaged, the heat will continue to build for the roughly 30 percent of us who recognize the name Barronelle Stutzman, have an opinion about the impending nuclear agreement with Iran, know that Carly Fiorina rose from secretary to CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and spend a fair amount of our conversation time focused on ideas rather than people.
Here’s the twist.
Even those of us who have the courage to stand or fall on God’s word are already divided.
Mormons in the same congregation, equally committed to their faith, differ on same-sex marriage and the ordination of women. Some protestant denominations have directed their clergy to perform same-sex weddings while others prohibit it. Some Christians insist their fellow believers bake the cake and arrange the flowers while others insist to be forced to do so makes a mockery of religious freedom.
The churches that support gay marriage are now “the cool kids.” Lucky them. Sort of.
I understand my theology, understand why homosexuality is called a sin, will double down on my understanding of God’s word if it’s the last thing I do, but it may be the last conversation I have with family and friends I love—their decision, not mine.
Another twist? For the most part, we’re all equally sincere.
Take for example the recent order issued by Brad Avakian, Oregon’s Commissioner for Bureau of Labor and Industries in regard to Sweet Cakes by Melissa, the bakery fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony.
“…the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries hereby orders Respondents Aaron Klein and Melissa Klein to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published, circulated, issued or displayed, any communication, notice, advertisement or sign of any kind to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, services or privileges of a place of public accommodation will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination will be made against, any person on account of sexual orientation.”
The Daily Signal reported “In the ruling, Avakian placed an effective gag order on the Kleins, ordering them to ‘cease and desist’ from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.”
Slate reported “Avakian wrote that the couple must ‘cease and desist’ stating that Sweet Cakes would continue to turn away gay couples. As individuals, the Kleins may declare that Oregon’s anti-discrimination law should not protect gay couples. But when speaking publicly about the future of their own business, they must not opine that they will maintain a policy of anti-gay discrimination.”
I understand the words of the ruling, and I also understand that two journalists read the same words differently. Not to be nasty “read them differently,” but truly “read them differently.”
And we’re back to the battle of all battles, the temptation to fold because it’s too hard to withstand the judgments, especially on the part of our fellow believers. And make no mistake, they are judgments, which, however gently, we reciprocate of them.
Those of us who engage have to decide for ourselves what we think, not only of this case and this order, but of every other happening in the public sphere. It would be naively reassuring to believe all Christians feel the same. They don’t. They won’t. If I had a crystal ball, I would say that more schisms are likely the longer we quake at the edge.
Can we take it when even the people sitting next to us in church think we’re “misguided” (on Sunday when charity abounds) and “bigoted” (every other less charity-abounding day of the week)?
There’s really no way out. We stand at the Judgment Bar alone. It won’t matter if we were admired or vilified by each other. What God will ask is, “Did you do the best you could to understand and follow my will?”
And a perfect God will understand that no matter our answer, the truth is we did it all imperfectly. But I really believe what will count most is the sincerity and courage with which we did it.
Donna Carol Voss is an author, blogger, speaker, and mom. A Berkeley grad, a former pagan, a Mormon on purpose, and an original thinker on 21st century living, she is the author of “One of Everything,” the story of how she got from where she was to where she is. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Feature Image: AP
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