Spiritual Affirmation

Religious Liberty In A Time Of Marriage Equality

by Rev . Chris Glaser

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision broadening the understanding of marriage, those who have fought same-gender marriage now express fears that they will be called upon to do things their consciences will not permit and are clamoring for “religious liberty.”

It’s ironic that those who denied religious liberty to LGBT people in terms of church membership and leadership, ordination to ministry, as well as marriage, are anxious that this uppity minority will demand something of them.

I can’t help but smile at their naïveté that, when my partner and I marry, we would want other than a tasteful gay caterer, a lesbian cake designer, a bisexual soloist, and a transgender minister.

And I don’t think any same-gender couple is likely to risk a pastry chef who might spit in their wedding cake batter!

Clergy and congregations always have the right not to marry a couple. I have declined officiating at weddings of couples I thought were not ready or entering into marriage for the wrong reasons.

In my years as a pastor, I have been called upon to serve adulterers, criminals, evangelicals, conservatives, and straight couples.

After all, it’s the nature of ministry to serve all kinds of people whose lifestyles I might not emulate.

Are the Christians crying “religious liberty” of such delicate character that they cannot bring themselves to serve or work or worship alongside those different from themselves? Are they afraid we might “rub off” on them?

Jesus spoke to this very issue when he criticized the scribes and Pharisees for their obsessive-compulsive, over-the-top avoidance of ritual impurity, one that prevented them from dining even with each other lest they be rendered spiritually “unclean.”

Answering a lawyer’s question regarding the commandments and eternal life, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, contrasting his mercy with the priest and lay priest who passed by the roadside casualty, presumably to remain ritually pure, perhaps on their way to the temple at Jerusalem.

Jesus himself hung out with all the wrong people.

Jesus allowed “unclean” women to touch him, and ventured into a cemetery, risking ritual impurity, to command Lazarus to “Come out!”

At Pentecost, the walls of the house where the disciples were meeting seem to disappear as the Spirit enables them to speak in the languages of the many foreign pilgrims on the streets of Jerusalem.

Later the Spirit falls upon disgusting and depraved Gentiles, prompting Peter to explain baptizing them to the earliest church council, “If God gave them the same gift given us, who was I that I could withstand God?”

Christians, get a grip. In Jesus’ simple admonition to greet strangers is your clue to do the same.

“For if you greet only those you know,” Jesus said, “What reward have you? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?”

Originally published by Chris Glaser; Photo by flickr user WehoCity