Wrestling with Arizona


I’ve been wrestling with the rightness or wrongness of SB 1062 the controversial bill passed by the Arizona Legislature but vetoed by the state’s Governor Jan Brewer which would have granted private businesses protection if they chose not to offer services that violated their religious beliefs.

Usually I find myself firmly on the conservative end of controversies like this, but I’m finding it hard to land foursquare for or against this type of legislation which has been, by the way, considered in Kansas, Tennessee, Idaho, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Utah.

Full disclosure: I believe homosexuality is one of many sins falling short of God’s will and standards, and that attempts to revise the Bible to say otherwise amount to mental gymnastics. I regret America’s general drift towards sanctioning same sex marriage, as I believe it’s a social experiment we’ve entered into at the expense of future generations. Obviously, then, I oppose most though not all goals of the gay rights movement, which makes me, I’d say, a religious conservative’s religious conservative.

So my indecision on SB 1062 has nothing to do with my view of human sexuality, and everything to do with my pondering how we as Christ’s followers are to live in tension with societal trends, love our neighbors, remain faithful to God and godly standards, and, in essence, comply with what John observed so well: “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.” (I John 2:6)

In support of such bills, it’s obvious that America’s legitimization of  homosexual marriage has put many Christian business owners in a quandary. Paul said, after all, to “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather, reprove them”(Ephesians 5:11) and he admonished Timothy to “not be a partaker of the wrongdoing of others” (I Timothy 5:22) while reminding all of us that “whatsoever is not done of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) So when bakers, florists or photographers who’re trying to live according to scripture are asked to lend their service to a ceremony they know to be wrong, they have an understandable crisis of conscience. To them, and perhaps to us, the answer’s simple: Politely decline on religious grounds, refer the customer to someone with different views, and move on. I’ve no doubt that in doing so, the Christian business owner has no desire to hurt or insult anyone. Rather, he’s just wanting to operate within the parameters of his own faith-based conscience. In most if not all cases, plenty of other suppliers will gladly accept the gay couple’s business; no undue burden has been placed on anyone. Fair enough.

Or not. In criticism of the bill, it’s fair to note what may be a hefty double standard. Christian suppliers inevitably, it seems to me, provide goods and services to people whose way of relating is un-Biblical. A Christian baker has quite likely whipped up a cake or two for couples who are unequally yoked – a Christian marrying a non-Christian – in violation of II Corinthians 6:14. A godly florist may well have provided color and beauty to the union of people who were previously married and divorced on totally unscriptural grounds. And the photographer who loves the Lord has quite likely said “Smile” to couples who lived together unrepentantly before the Big Day. Maybe I’m wrong here; maybe folks in those situations took as strong a stand as some are now taking on the gay issue. But to be candid, I doubt it, which raises the problem of imbalance. Heterosexual sin? Wink-wink; nod-nod. Same sex marriage? Unthinkable.

But OK, maybe I’m all wet, assuming too much and unfairly pre-judging. But there’s also the problem of consistency across the board. After all, if providers can withhold their services based on religious conviction alone, aren’t we all endangered? I know many liberal Christians who believe, based on their religious convictions, that I’m reactionary, homophobic, prejudiced. Good grief, if such folks were caterers, florists or photographers when I married my wife back in 1987 they could easily, under this bill, have refused my business. Could I have gone down the street to get the same services from someone more likeminded? Probably. And yet —

What if current trends continue and the general public becomes convinced that the traditional view of sexuality is dangerous and exists in the same camp as racism? Is it so far fetched to assume many, if not most, service providers would consider serving religious conservatives like me to be akin to serving the KKK? Could they not then say, “We can’t offer services to religious bigots like Joe Dallas, based on our own deeply held religious viewpoints?” It seems to me that the very laws we’re considering to be protective of our beliefs could ironically become legislation empowering the majority to discriminate against Bible believing Christians. And while it’s true that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”(II timothy 3:12) do we really want to have a hand in needlessly making that persecution happen?

All of which leaves me, I hate to say, a little bewildered and not quite able to fully support or resist laws like SB 1062. I’m still wrestling with it, and still very open to the opinions of my fellow believers. Yes, the bill’s been vetoed, but no, that doesn’t make it a moot point. Other states will consider similar laws, calling us to thoughtfully, prayerfully consider where we land on the matter.

But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking discrimination policies for business owners will be the end of the story. I’ve no doubt that the gay rights movement fully intends to pressure the Christian Church into either adopting a pro-homosexual viewpoint, or remaining silent on the issue altogether. Either through the revocation of tax exempt status for churches who don’t toe the politically correct line, or through lawsuits, or hate crime legislation, we will surely see Christian churches and organizations either cave to or resist the pressure to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol or face the fire.

That’s when there’ll be no room for wrestling, no question about the rightness or wrongness involved, no place for indecision. Because when the Church chooses to preach what the world approves, rather than face the world’s wrath, then there’s no longer a discernible reason for Her existence. So God help us to be wise and discerning while asking ourselves which battles to fight, but to be unmovable when the answer is clear, compelling and non-negotiable.








Shelley | Feb 27, 2014

Once again Joe your writing is fantastic. I too have been wrestling with the whole Arizona bill...on the one hand I want to support anything that can fight the popularity of homosexuality in our world, but on the other hand worry that a bill, such as the one proposed, could do more harm than good in the long run. Thank you for sharing your insights, and thank you for always diligently approaching issues with well studied Bible truths.
Please uphold our daughter in your prayers. We've been on a very long and painful journey the past 2 1/2 years. Your testimony gives us hope that she can turn her life back to God and his truths for her life.

John Henson | Feb 27, 2014

I've just recently started reading your blogs and I guess this is the first time I haven't agreed with you wholeheartedly. It's just that same-sex marriage is not even really marriage. It's a perversion of the term. It's not like someone simply being married outside of God's will. Or at least that's the way I see it.

Geri Ann | Feb 27, 2014

I think the way to look at it is the way conservative radio host Dennis Prager described it - it has nothing to do with serving the PEOPLE, it has to do with participating by your professional services (photography, florist, catering, etc.) in an EVENT that is unBiblical. A business professional who is Christian can and does do business with "sinners" all day long (pretty hard not to since ALL of us are sinners! LOL!) but to be asked to provide a professional service for an unholy EVENT such as a gay marriage is different. I think Dennis Prager's explanation works well to overcome the confusion in this matter.

Cynthia | Feb 27, 2014

WOW Matthew 7:1

Terri Herman | Feb 28, 2014

I also wondered about the fall-out of such laws. I also realized after reading this and discussing with my husband, that the reason we may give services to "unyoked" or previously living together, etc but call out a gay couple is that same-sex marriage is visibly wrong. As a professional, it's not the place to investigate whether the situation is Biblical or not. Should surveys be taken? Background checks? How far should we go? Also, my husband pointed out that other couples may be "correcting" a wrong by getting married but gay marriage is never correct. Thoughts?

Suzanne | Feb 28, 2014

First if not already done I would suggest you read the actual legislation. It is not long, and there is no mention at all of homosexuality. It is legislation clarifying the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which has been law in AZ since the 1990's. The legislation is about protecting the Religious Freedom of individuals and the legislation clearly defines that to apply to business owners. It is in response to what is happening across the country where homosexuals in most cases are targeting Christian business owners to participate in their 'wedding' ceremonies and then when the owner POLITELY explains why they have to decline, the homosexuals turn them in for discrimination. The lawsuits are expensive and oppressive. This legislation was going to allow the business owner to explain in court why their deeply held religious beliefs were preventing them from providing service and how devastating the lawsuit would be to them.
WHY not just go to another florist, photographer or baker? WHY not respect the deeply held religious convictions of the owner? Where is the respect and tolerance from the homosexuals?
Are Christian doctors going to be forced to perform abortions in the name of love and serving sinners? Should a Kosher Jewish owner be forced to butcher a pig for a customer? We have two cases in this country where Muslim employees were granted exemptions from having to follow their employers known and stated rules because it violated their religious beliefs.
We also have Canada to watch and see where the homosexual activists are heading with all this. Two pastors have been cited for violating discrimination laws because they were teaching the Scriptures about homosexual sin in their Churches.
WHO IS GOING TO STAND UP AND PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF CHRISTIANS, WHICH INCLUDES BUSINESS OWNERS? If the Christians of America will not unite and stand up for their blood bought freedoms then we will continue to lose them. It is happening daily.
America was founded upon religious freedom and that religion was Christianity and now Christianity is being targeted by Homosexual tyrants. Please know I do not consider all homosexuals to be activists or tyrants. But there are enough in positions of power now, politically, culturally and religiously that they are winning legislatively and in the hearts and minds of many Americans, including Christians.
Clearly, Christians are the target, to silence us and force us to agree that homosexuality is normal and equal to heterosexuality is the goal.
The lies and misinformation spread by the media and believed by most about this legislation is frightening and dangerous.
We are now experiencing across this country that 'We The Peoples' rights no longer matter. The voters vote to keep marriage as between one man and woman and Liberal judges declare that un-Constitutional, nullifying the citizens vote! This just happened in Texas on Wednesday. We have the voters of AZ elect Representitives who pass legislation to protect the freedom of religion of business owners and the Governor vetoes it. We now have Eric Holder, Attorney General of the US telling state Attorney Generals that they do not have to obey state laws when it comes to same-sex marriage bans.
The gravity of the situation cannot be underestimated.

Greg Balzer | Feb 28, 2014

Thanks for thinking this topic through from a scriptural standpoint, Joe. The concerns and questions you illustrated so clearly are indeed valid. The verses you shared tie the issue to scripture. I was hoping to scroll down and find the resolution to the tension between the competing concerns, but...
I guess this all needs more thought, reading, wrestling and prayer.

I find the questions raised on this issue so compelling because they all deal with the larger question of how the church is called to live in the world. The Bible provides all things for life and Godliness, how do the scriptures tell us to address this tension? How do we love God and love (serve?) others yet not compromise our own beliefs?

One way is the (totally valid) approach offered by Suzanne. We (the Christian church) separate ourselves by getting our government to pass laws that turn America into a Christian nation (again?). Problem solved, right? I think we can all agree that this approach died in the 60's, if it was ever really valid. I'm not convinced that Anerica is the church - that shining light on a hill - pointing to Jesus.

When democratically governed people no longer base their identity and their faith and their actions upon the Bible, what do believers do? How do we act? Can we really expect to pass Biblically based laws if our culture is non-Christian? Furthermore, do we really need secular laws to validate what God and the Bible tell us to do? We are indeed called to love (and serve) our neighbor. But if that service violates our conscience, are we only going to act as God requires if it is allowed by law?

In a culture composed of many people with different faiths - do we really want government to decide whose beliefs are really legitimate? In hindsight, government's involvement in protected classes was a bad idea. It has led us to a place where we trust in the president and legislation rather than God.

More questions without answers. But these really are important questions to ask. Thank you for your careful thought and writing.

Jerry | Feb 28, 2014

I hear ya Joe. I'm in process here too. I'm settled on the 'what's right and what's wrong' but in process of how to respond to each.

Suzanne | Mar 1, 2014

Joe, I think the distinction in providing services and products for the Christians involved is contributing to same sex ceremonies. There have been no instances where a service or product has been denied a to customer just because they are Homosexual. In fact in the case of an elderly florist in Washington state, she had provided flowers for a homosexual customer for years, it was only when he asked for her to provide the flowers for his same-sex ceremony that she politely explained to him that because she was a Christian she could not participate in what he was asking. They hugged and he went home and reported her to the state for discrimination.

It looks to me that Christians business owners are either going to be forced to violate their religious convictions or shut down their businesses.

I read in your book, "When Homosexuality Hits Home", that you do not attend same sex ceremonies or weddings. You have made a distinction of conscience in making that decision. I think these business owners are making similar decisions in not lending their time and talents to same sex ceremonies, it could be taken as condoning them. It is the participating in same sex ceremonies that is the difference, than providing goods and services for others in various sexual sins.

Greg, I never said we as Christians should separate ourselves. Quite the opposite. I think we as Christians have a duty to be engaged, standing for truth and righteousness in the political process, as well as all of life. My point was that our Constitutional rights as citizens of America are inalienable, they are given by God, not by government and no man or government has the right to force us to violate our Religious convictions.

We are not the ones trying to make 'new laws', the laws that have protected us for over two hundred years are being re-interpreted to demand us to participate in their ceremonies.

Jamey Stuart | Mar 1, 2014

Very Thought provoking, Joe. I've wrestled with your thoughts, and appreciate the many comments that further clarify or complicate the issue. I pastor a church, and I am guessing that your predictions on what will happen next are spot on. Churches need to be prepared to face some challenging days ahead and take on the expenses of defending themselves in court or losing a tax exempt status. I fear that many churches may be forced to go under and many more will capitulate. May those who stand strong do so with incredible grace and tenacity. A difficult balance to strike indeed! Blessings.

Karen | Mar 2, 2014

I understand your way of thinking, Joe, but this sin is not like other sins. This sin has the potential of altering a major building block of society!! The family!!! This is just too vital. We cannot allow any endorsement of this sin. And, these businesses are privately owned; in other words they are the private property of the business owner. No one has the right to tell a person how he may or may not use his property unless he is doing real damage to another or another's property. These mentioned business owners are not hurting anyone or their family or other property. They can refuse to offer services to ANYONE they decide to. This is OK! It is their property. We can't go into every business owner's conscience and life and investigate if he is living a consistently Christian life. It's his business in both meanings of the word.

I know you have sympathy for many people caught up in the gay lie and even those who know the truth and can't seem to get rid of the attraction, but sympathy and empathy for them does not trump the rights of a business owner. My son is SSA so I am not just talking off the top of my head here.

We are Christians first and Americans second. But any law that violates our Christian belief cannot be obeyed if it contradicts the law of God as in Scripture and the teachings of the Church. I am Catholic and we base all our belief on Sacred Scripture as interpreted by Sacred Tradition, not as each individual person decides to interpret it. This eliminates all the ambiguity. I know there are Catholics who don't agree with this, even in the clergy, but if that is the case, they are not following the teachings of the Church. The catechism is very clear. SB1062 does not violate these teachings.

We can show Christian love in other ways - praying for all those whose lives have been touched by this awful deception, training to counsel those who are seeking help, donating to ministries such as yours and the Catholic Church's Courage and EnCourage ministries or volunteering in any capacity possible to support these groups.

Thank you for listening and for all you do for these wounded souls. I am reading your book right now and I appreciate so much of your advice. I hope some day to share it with my son.

Lou | Mar 2, 2014

In this case neither side seemed to look at the actual wording of the document. (At least if anyone did it was not reported.) We seem to be getting into too many arguments where the words involved have two differing definitions; whether the word is science, grace, sin, calvinism, or in this case "service".

"The greatest cause of verbicide (the murder of a word) is the fact that most people are obviously far more anxious to express their approval and disapproval of things than to describe them." (C.S. Lewis - Studies in Words)

Lou | Mar 2, 2014

We bring up issues of heterosexual sin compared to homosexual sin; but in many cases the former are not obvious. What application should this passage have from 1 Corinthians 10?

"23 You say, “I am allowed to do anything” - but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”- but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.

25 So you may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace without raising questions of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27 If someone who isn’t a believer asks you home for dinner, accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. 28 (But suppose someone tells you, “This meat was offered to an idol.” Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. 29 It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.) For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? 30 If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?

31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God." (1 Cor 10:23-32 NLT)

Or in light of this debate...

If someone who isn’t a believer asks you to bake them a cake, accept the job if you want to. Bake whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. 28 (But suppose someone tells you, “This cake is for a gay wedding, or incestuous wedding, or polygamous wedding.” Don’t bake it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you.

Because a baker doesn't hire a private detective to check out the background of couple "A", to try and find out if there is an unbiblical divorce in their past, we then try to tell them that that when couple "B" shows up with an obvious sin issue they can't discriminate???

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