But that time, sadly, isn't now. There are other things occupying my mind this Holy Week, which is not uncommon as a pastor. What is uncommon - and what concerns me deeply - is the "religious freedom" legislation that is currently on the floor of my home state legislature. Just a week or so ago, Indiana took the plunge. My beloved North Carolina is apparently up next.
If you know me, you know I stand in pretty strong opposition to this kind of stuff. It represents a convoluted understanding of "religious freedom," which I talk about in this previous blog post. More than that, it's a terrible witness as people of faith. And because this legislation is being created and pushed by people of faith - people who in no way speak for me - I feel like I have to speak up so folks will at least know not all religious types think and act like this.
Which is why I chose today to share my concerns with my two state representatives in a letter. Given that one of them was the co-author of the bill, I'm not optimistic about my chances of swaying his vote. But at least he knows where I stand.
You'll find the letter text below. Feel free to read, share, and comment if you'd like. I welcome all comments no matter the opinion, but will delete any that don't contribute in a meaningful way to the conversation. You know the drill.
We're better than this, folks. I fervently believe that. Hopefully this will never come to pass and I can get back to blogging about my future trip down an insane roller coaster twelve miles from my house.
The Honorable Dan Bishop
N.C. House of Representatives
300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 607
Raleigh, NC 27603-5925
Dear Mr. Bishop,
Holy Week is always a busy time for us clergy, with multiple services to prepare for and other elements of the season that bring such conviction and joy to the Lenten journey, as we help our congregations prepare for Easter Sunday and the celebration of the resurrection.
This year, however, I find Holy Week to feel a bit melancholy, as I am well aware that you and your legislative colleagues are preparing to debate HB348, “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” – which, if approved, would permit those who desire so to deny basic goods and services to particular citizens of our state based on their “religious beliefs.”
I find it terribly sad and ironic that such a bill, done in the name of religion (and Christianity in particular) would surface on our house floor on the same week that Christians worldwide celebrate the crucified and risen Christ – a man we believe willingly died for all people. ALL people. As the familiar John 3:16 proclaims, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…..” “The world,” by definition, amounts to everyone. There were no qualifiers attached to this selfless and redemptive act; Jesus did not die for select individuals based on skin color, demographics or sexual orientation. He died for everyone, period. The true “religious freedom.”
HB348 is bad public policy, as our friends in the Hoosier state are now finding out. The sudden shift of cultural acceptance of the LGBT community over the past few years has certainly blindsided many, including those who have long fought to see this equality take place. Measures like this bill, however, are ill-conceived responses from those who struggle with this change.
Even more so, it is a misguided effort by people of faith in the name of faith. Based on his track record and actions during this most holy of weeks in which we now find ourselves, it seems pretty clear to me that Jesus himself would not be in support of such efforts.
My Holy Week prayer for you and the other legislators in the Old North State is that you will be moved to vote against this bill if brought to the floor – and, if you are a person of faith, do so not in spite of your faith, but precisely because of it.
Dr. Stephen B. Lindsley, Senior Minister