When I thought about what to write about today it occurred to me that a few of the republican candidates running for president were especially interested in feeding off the votes and fear of the christian members of our society. Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal are the ones coming to mind as they are the most vocal. Ben Carson is right there, and frankly there really isn’t a republican that does not in some way attempt to assure and manipulate this frightened christian element.
My original plan was to point out how wrong they were to even believe there was a democratic, or society wide, backlash against the beliefs these people hold close. I thought it over as I looked through a few bits of information last night and this morning and changed my mind.
I read about a couple named the Odgaards that bought an old church and turned it into a wedding chapel in Iowa. They are Mennonites according to the tale, and when Iowa became one of the early states to allow gay marriage this soon became an issue they had to contend with. A Homosexual couple came to their chapel requesting to be married in a formal ceremony. The Odgaards refused, they say, on the grounds of their faith.
What followed was a series of events that, like events often do, got out of hand. One of the couple posted a rant on social media about the chapels refusal which went viral in the LGBT community and the friends of. Pressure was applied by both the friends of the couple and the friends of the Odgaard’s to comply with the request to marry the couple. The Odgaards stood firm. The couple, upon hearing of the harsh reaction sent the way of the Odgaards by the LGBT community, and friends thereof, asked these people to cease harassing the Odgaards. Political leaders jumped in with Cruz and Huckabee using the situation to demonize liberals and Obama for “criminalizing christianity” as they put it. Basically the situation became another front in the war between the far right and far left.
Before social media and before the partisan divide we have experienced in the wake of the Reagan era this might have gone a lot smoother. The real issues get so clouded in rhetoric now that people lose sight of the core of the discussion. Really, one couple wanted to run a wedding chapel as they saw fit and one couple wanted to get married. That is the bottom line here. If this was private property and the couple said, “may we hold our gay wedding on your lawn?” Not one person in the United States would, or should, say one word if the answer was yes or no. It is their property to do with as they see fit. With the advent of this opinion generating entity we call the internet a whole host of issues arise though. Issues that are often quite unintended.
When the homosexual couple posted their complaint online it is quite reasonable to assume it was merely a small rant intended to let off steam and complain. They were hurt, embarrassed, and felt their rights were violated. I vented thus about Best Buy a few times online myself. The difference between my venting about Best Buy and their venting about this chapel has a major difference. There is no major social force with an agenda to change the policies of Best Buy. There is a social movement to empower and enforce change regarding the treatment of LGBT people and their rights. The couple accidentally tapped into this movement and it took off.
On the other side of the coin the Odgaards simply wanted to live by what they see as the edicts of their faith. While they suspected this issue might arise and probably fretted over the eventuality of this decision, they surely did not anticipate the larger repercussions. They did not know their decision would tap into the pro LGBT communities wrath any more than they thought they would become the poster family for the likes of Cruz, and Huckabee, and Jindal.
Neither the Odgaards or the couple were aware that they were about to become Gettysburg. Just another battle front in the endless clash between these very different, and very entrenched, ideologies. If they had known, maybe both sides would have given a lot more thought to their actions.
There are many different ways to break down the issues at this point but let us focus on two. There is the law in Iowa at the time which says LGBT people have the right to marry. There is also the free market notion that someone opening and owning a business is allowed to pick who they will serve.
The law saying LGBT people have a right to marry does not cover all venues. The law does not expressly say because you have the right to do something that I am obliged to do it for you if you ask. Churches turn down weddings all the time. I am an Atheist, and I assure you I would not enter a church and demand they marry me to my girlfriend as they would refuse. In fact there is a good chance the Odgaards would also refuse to perform a ceremony for me if they learned of my beliefs, though it is also a good chance that, seeing a women on my arm and not a man, they would not ask.
As far as the free market idea where people pick and choose customers. Many would cite this as basic common sense thinking. “It is my place of business and I can do as I wish because this is America.” But America has laws, and rules, and issues that make this very much out of the realm of common sense. We are already forbidden by many laws and rules from discriminating against people for creed, color, religious preference, gender, it is no real stretch to add sexual preference, just a comma and a few more letters arraigned to form words. Your current objection to those particular words is in no way different from previous objections when words like race, creed, and gender, were allowed along the way.
Women’s rights were fought for, and are now accepted. Slavery was once practiced, and civil rights fought for, won, and are now accepted. These, and others, were situations where the Bible was used to justify the prejudices and oppression of people. In these cases society sought change, not as a whole, but in small groups. These groups were espousing different ideas, different ways of thinking, as they rose up. These groups became larger, eventually becoming large enough to alter the status quo. And, though I was not there for these battles personally, I can bet the Cruzs, Huckabees, and Jindals of the day were. I bet they cried foul and sought to cease change as the old ways were the best. The old ways were the right ways. The old ways were of God and the Bible.
Both arguments, the free market one, and the LGBT marriage is legal one, reach a very similar point in this particular tale as we take it to its projected end. In this tale the chapel is a wedding chapel but not a Mennonite one, it is not affiliated with a church. This makes it a privately owned business. When one opens the doors on a privately owned business in a community one is subject to certain principles of business. It does not matter who owns the business but only that the business is in, and serves, a community of some sort.
Ford, and Chevrolet for instance are very large businesses. It would in no way serve them to say we do not allow our cars to be sold to gay people. We do not have gay workers. We do not allow our vehicles to be used for gay marriages. If they tried this the outcry would be worldwide. If they tried this the government would be forced to step in and stop it.
These companies are vast, they serve a world community and employ a huge amount of people. They are also served by this same world community they supply as our tax dollars go to keep their companies up and running. You cannot accept the tax dollars and aid of a community and refuse to serve particular segments of it.
The small community wedding chapel, or cake maker, or tuxedo provider, is subject to a smaller version of these principles. They accept help from firemen and police, they benefit from roads and sewers and all the infrastructure a community provides through taxes. These taxes are paid for by white people, and black people, and latino people. They are paid for by Atheists like myself and yes, by LGBT people. You cannot accept these aspects of your business then cater to only who you deem acceptable.
It is sad to me that things can not be handled in a reasonable way by reasonable people. It is sad that there is yet another major battle so we can add yet another comma followed by letters arraigned to signify sexual preference to the list of things a government says we cannot discriminate against. And it is sad that the people whining about government overreach are the very ones forcing the government to step in and add this comma and those letters. But maybe saddest of all is that after this battle is waged, won, then accepted, there will be another. Out there lies yet another group we oppress. Yet another reason the bible will not allow society to accept yet another grouping of humans. Perhaps then I will need to re-post this only changing the names to highlight the new menace.
Here’s hoping this is the last battle. Do not let the likes of Cruz, Huckabee, and Jindal turn this into a nation of hate. Fight for reasonable people with reasonable views. Fight for the homosexual couple that wishes only to be married, but also, fight for people like the Odgaards as they struggle to understand and incorporate the new ideas society adopts. Punishing them for their views is not a moral high ground. Accepting them, and their views, as best you can, and as you want them to do yours, is the only real way forward.
I would be remiss if I didn’t cite the webpage below as a source of some kind. While I have read other posts and other news articles on this subject it was this particular article that gave me a calmer perspective about both sides of the discussion before I sat to write. Sometimes, as an Atheist, and potentially the next group in line for the demonizing by the religious right, I get caught up in making sure the likes of the republican candidates do not get their wish to turn this into a political entity for Christianity. To that end I forget that many of these people are being used by people feeding on fear instead of promoting understanding of one another. It is a good article and you should read it.