3 Things I’d Like to Say About Indiana’s RFRA Controversy

Pastor Bob O'Bannon

Plus recommendations for further reading

The state of Indiana became the center of a national controversy last month when it passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was interpreted by many as an attempt by Gov. Mike Pence to give license to Christians to discriminate against the LGBT community.

People from all walks of life spoke out, mostly in hot indignation. Companies threatened to pull their business out of the state. Rock bands canceled concerts. The owner of Vera Mae’s restaurant here in Muncie announced that Gov. Pence was not welcome in their restaurant. The city of Muncie and Delaware County both approved resolutions that repudiated RFRA. Gov. Pence’s approval rating has plummeted as a result of his support for the law.

I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not a politician, but there is much here on which Christians should be carefully reflecting. The smoke has settled for the time being, but the fire is just getting started. There are three things I’d like to say about the controversy:

1) Christians are not looking for opportunities to discriminate. Gregg Doyel is a sportswriter for the Indianapolis Star. He wrote a story about the NCAA basketball tournament in which he stated in the opening paragraph that RFRA was passed to “allow Christians to discriminate against gays.” Not only is this a false statement, but it paints a false picture of Christians. After 10 years in the pastorate and 33 years as a Christian, I personally cannot recall any Christian who was looking for an opportunity to discriminate against anyone.

I’m not suggesting that Christians have never been guilty of discrimination, because of course they have, and for this we should be sincerely contrite and repentant, but this idea that Christians are overflowing with hatred toward homosexuals is mostly the result of a carefully planned propaganda campaign. In 1989, a book called After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the ‘90s laid out a clear path for persuading the general public to accept homosexuality. For example, the book recommends:

“Gays must be portrayed as victims in need of protection so that straights will be inclined by reflex to adopt the role of protector . . . The public should be persuaded that gays are victims of circumstance, that they no more chose their sexual orientation than they did, say, their height, skin color, talents, or limitations . . . Gays should be portrayed as victims of prejudice.”

Twenty-five years later, we’re seeing the fruit of this agenda. In most cases, people believe that Christians are looking to discriminate against LBGT not because they’ve seen it happen, but because they’ve been conditioned to believe it. It reminds me of a quote by the famous British commentator Malcolm Muggeridge: “People do not believe lies because they have to, but because they want to.” In this case, the lie is that Christians are looking for opportunities to discriminate.

2) Christians should not look at gay people as if they are the enemy. My guess is that most gay people just want to live quiet and peaceful lives like everyone else. They don’t want to see Christian florists losing their livelihood because of their religious convictions, as is evidenced by a lesbian named Courtney Hoffman, who actually apologized to a Christian pizza owner for the actions of the gay community.

Most gay people don’t want to make trouble, but there is a contingent within the LGBT population who have an agenda that is far greater than just securing the right to marry. For instance, Urvashi Vaid, an Indian-American LGBT activist, is quoted as saying, “We have an agenda to create a society in which homosexuality is regarded as healthy, natural and normal.”

Frank Kameny, a gay activist who was honored by President Obama in the White House in 2009, said: “Let us have more and better enjoyment of more and better sexual perversions, by whatever definition, by more and more consenting adults.”

Robert Skutch, the author of Who’s in a Family? a book that presents same-sex marriage as normal and which was distributed to kindergartners in Massachusetts, said on NPR radio that “the whole purpose of the book was to get the subject (of same-sex parent households) out into the minds and the awareness of children before they are old enough to have been convinced that there’s another way of looking at life.”

Christians don’t object to gay people as human beings. We’re all created in the image of God. We’re all broken people in need of grace and mercy. Gay people are not the enemy — the devil is. But we do object to the attempt by gay activists to totally transform and redefine the definition of marriage, and to oppress people who disagree. Anyone assuming that this is some kind of shrill overreaction by the Christian community need only read this piece in the New York Times that calls for church leaders to be “made” to “take homosexuality off the sin list.”

As I understand it, RFRA is simply a way to protect the rights of people of faith to act in accordance with their convictions, so they are not “made” to do anything. The enemy in this situation is not gay people, but the prospect of losing freedom, which is in everyone’s best interests to preserve. (Incidentally, click here to read a letter in which 16 law professors, including faculty from Harvard and Stanford, wrote to offer their support of RFRA).

3) Christians should be willing to speak up on this issue. Amazingly, the propaganda machine in our culture has convinced almost everyone that the real sin is not homosexual activity, but speaking out against it. This leads many Christians to shrink back from the opportunity to address the issue out of fear of being called a bigot or homophobe, or because the issue appears too complex or too “open to interpretation.”

There are many controversial issues that the Bible does not address specifically — “grey areas” like illegal immigration, capitalism vs. socialism, public vs. private schools, gun control, etc. These are topics where we have to agree to disagree. But marriage is not a grey area. It is addressed explicitly and repeatedly in the Bible. It is foundational to Christian morality, and even profoundly illustrative of the Gospel. So Christian, speak up!

What an opportunity we have — never would I have thought that Christianity would be so prominently featured in our national discourse, but that day has arrived. And the only way the Biblical view of marriage will be known is if Christians make it known by speaking humbly, respectfully and intelligently about it. We must listen carefully to those with whom we talk, while also being willing to say the truth — that homosexuality activity (and heterosexual immorality, for that matter) is a sin, and yet that it is a sin for which Jesus Christ has provided full atonement. As Peter told us, always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

Speaking intelligently on this issue is no small task, so how do we prepare ourselves? One way is to go to the Aquila Report and do a search for “same-sex marriage” or “LGBT.” You will find a plethora of thoughtful blogs and articles on the subject.

If you’re prepared for more in-depth reading, I recommend the following books: