When my parents married in 1964, my father’s dad declared that my father had disgraced his race. My father’s sister, although unhappy with her brother’s decision, decided it was okay, as long as they didn’t have children. After all, what kind of life would a mixed race child have? It’s not God’s will to mix races. The child will be ridiculed and considered an outcast; not accepted by either race. I guess it never dawned on her that SHE and people sharing her “Christian Values” were the only cause of any ridicule and scorn I would feel.
Ironically, my grandfather turned out to play a very positive and important role in my life. I can only imagine this happened after he decided to see my mother as a human being. My aunt lived a long life, spending lots of time with my parents and even me. We were close, maybe because she had her own conscious awakening that people are just people. To further her awareness, God gave her a beautiful gay grandson.
As I stare out my front widow, I look out onto my Hoosier neighbors going about their Hoosier business. Most of them are just trying to make a living, raise a family and enjoy their lives in this beautiful state in which we reside. Hoosiers are known for their hospitality and friendly manner, but today, I find myself watching intently and wondering which ones agree with RFRA.
I have a golden rule, if you will indulge me, I live by each day. I teach it to my children and I exhibit it to my friends, family and acquaintances. That rule is:
No Tolerance for Intolerance
It is non-negotiable.
I guess it may be true that unless one has experienced intolerance personally, one may not fully understand why it is so important to take a stand against it. In the case of my relatives, they were forced, of sorts, to face the reality that our family had a different dynamic than most. It’s difficult to support segregation when your mixed-race granddaughter is sitting on your lap. It’s hard to refuse service to a gay couple when your grandson has a husband.
We all have interpretations of what God is to us (if at all and that’s perfectly fine too). Some think of Him as a merciful God, some as a vengeful God. I like to think that if there is a God, He doesn’t make mistakes and He loves everyone. He would never ask His followers to discriminate or turn against another simply because they are different. Different can be scary. After all, different means uncommon, out of the ordinary, unusual. For too long, the ignorant and frightened have chosen the definition of different to mean dangerous and immoral. The ignorant have long hidden behind twisted interpretations of the Bible to justify bigoted beliefs.
Here are the sad facts. In a recent survey, The Public Religion Research Institute found that 10 percent of Americans believe business owners should be able to refuse to serve black people if they see that as a violation of their religious beliefs. The outward racial discrimination permissible because of a “religious belief,” seems extreme and dated; but these days, is socially acceptable racism. 19 percent of Americans believe it is okay to discriminate against the LGBT community with a slightly higher percent (21) of Americans believing it’s perfectly fine to deny services to atheists. Go figure. Jews come in around the same as blacks, so don’t get comfortable, Shlomo.
Buying and selling stuff is one of the most basic ways Americans interact with each other—if people can’t tolerate difference in the economic sphere, I will bet any amount of money they can’t tolerate it anywhere. In this poll, the best explanation for the minority view is purely straightforward racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. But hovering beneath that is an important claim: Economic life is an acceptable realm for segregation.
In conclusion, this RFRA does matter. It does change the climate of our state. It screams discrimination in the quiet and deceitful way it crept to the Governor’s desk and his pen silently signed it into law. It paraded itself as “religious freedom” and marched right into the history books as one of the worst decisions in Indiana history.
Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning . . . is the most segregated hour in Christian America.—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
*Thanks to Emma Green for polling information