Barronelle, Belief, and Benedict

February 21, 2017 — Leave a comment

“The Christian life, properly understood, cannot be merely a set of propositions agreed to, but must also be a way of life. And that requires a culture, which is to say, the realization in a material way–in deeds, in language, in song, in drama, in practices, etc.–of the propositions taught by Christianity. To be perfectly clear, at the core of all this is a living spiritual relationship with God, one that cannot be reduced to words, deeds, or beliefs,” Rod Dreher (emphasis his).

With little fanfare from the mainstream media, the Washington Supreme Court last week unanimously sided against Barronelle Stutzman, a 71-year-old florist who refused to provide flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

Stutzman has been battling the legal challenge, which threatens to relieve her of her life’s work and earnings.

She is appealing to the US Supreme Court. A ruling favorable to religious freedom seems unlikely since the court has already refused to hear an appeal from a New Mexico photographer, also sued for refusing service for a same-sex wedding. These cases are a harbinger of things to come. 

Rod Dreher: “Traditional Christians ought to see Barronnelle Stutzman as one canary in the coal mine (and there are many). The State of Washington, the ACLU, and two gay plaintiffs are trying to crush her, financially and otherwise. They may succeed in taking away her livelihood and then bankrupting her. . . . Whatever happens to her, they will not take away her faith and her dignity. She is a rock.”

And Stutzman’s faith has been rock-like. She has consistently reached out to those who oppose her with Christian grace and love.

But, florists, photographers, bakers, and wedding planners are not the endgame. Even if the court were to rule in Stutzman’s favor–essentially overturning their own implicit agreement in the New Mexico case–there is no reason to believe that religious freedom in America stands on anything like solid ground.

And it’s naive to think that this issue will never land at the doorstep of our churches and private schools.

The SCOTUS ruling legalizing same-sex marriage would seem to reassure churches that in the pulpit religious freedom is secure. But the devil may be found in the details of the local laws that made a florist and a photographer civil defendants.

America has reached a point where the primary social imperative is the personal impression of the individual. This impression now trumps all. And it didn’t just begin with same-sex marriage. It’s been going on for quite some time. We have largely looked the other way as moral foundations of life and marriage cracked then crumbled.

And along the way, the Church or at least pieces of it have twisted themselves into pretzel-like contortions trying to–as many might put it–stay relevant.

“50 or 100 years ago, [conservative Christians] were convinced to broaden verses like “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female in Christ” (Galatians 3, Colossians 4) to justify our support of progressive agendas like feminism, while passing over other verses about sexual roles in the church, family, and society (1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Timothy 3, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 11…).  This led us down a road that converged with the Enlightenment’s view of the individual.” David Goodwin

We stopped asking God what He wants for us and began to ask ourselves what we want. And that became our priority.

We have reached a line we cannot cross and still remain the Church because crossing that line would mean we have become something else, no longer the Church. Crossing the line means becoming a false church with a false gospel. The one that tells you it’s okay to worship yourself.

The one that tells you that you are not here to serve God; He is here to serve you.

To serve God will mean we will take up our crosses and pay any price–as Barronelle Stutzman has decided to do.

The picture is not optimistic. But we are not without hope. Dreher:

“Hope is not the same thing as optimism. St. Benedict didn’t set out to Save Western Civilization™; all he wanted to do was create a space within which he could pray and worship God away from the chaos and decadence of the city. What he and his followers did, without knowing it, was to lay the foundation for the birth of a new civilization out of the ruins of the old. So it is with us.”

The world rushes in with its noise and threats of coming persecution. We can set ourselves apart–even in the midst of chaos and decadence.

We can be the people of hope who shine light in darkness.

But only if we stand in the light against the darkness. And we can know we do not stand alone.


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Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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