The state motto of Indiana is The Crossroads of America. It appears as if a collision is about to take place at that crossroads and there is no way to stop it.
Two irreconcilable worldviews are headed for that intersection this legislative session and both are claiming its most basic rights are at stake. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community maintains that the immutability of its identity demands that businesses facilitate, endorse, service and even celebrate any activity surrounding that identity. The conservative, evangelical Christian community maintains that participation in certain activities contravenes their sincerely held religious beliefs and they should not be compelled or forced by government leverage (fines) to do what violates their conscience. Some are suggesting that a law can be written to uphold both groups’ concerns. I am suggesting that is impossible.
For most “born-again” Christians the faith is far more profound than a simple adoption of a set of beliefs. Attend a Bible-believing church and you will soon hear that Christianity is far deeper than simple intellectual assent. It is life-altering as a person invites Jesus Christ to actually become “Lord of their life.” Something radical and personal happens. The Scripture speaks of “old things passing away and all things becoming new.” Paul would liken it to becoming “a new creature” or a person who is so thoroughly transformed that who they were would be unrecognizable. In other words, the Christian has a new “identity.” This is why Paul would write, “… It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me….” (Gal. 2:20).
We call that conversion and it is here the irreconcilability of the debate resides. The Christian worldview is as much our identity as are the proclivities of the LGBT community. What this means to most Christians is that we are to do what is good and to avoid what God forbids. In fact, we are taught that “love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (I Cor. 13:6).
This worldview collision has never been about bakers selling their brownies, photographers taking senior pictures, or Christians running LGBT people out of their businesses. It has been about whether or not a sincerely held religious belief can still be upheld in America. Can businesspeople reflect their identity change as Christians in their businesses or must they huddle only behind the walls of their churches?
The first 10 amendments to the Constitution make up the Bill of Rights, which were written by James Madison in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties. These liberties include the “free exercise of religion.” That exercise of religion is not simply a carved-out place in a piece of legislation that assures Christians of a location to worship on Sunday morning, but rather it is a constitutionally protected right to live that faith and practice that faith daily.
To suggest otherwise to the conservative, evangelical community is not only an affront to our faith, but an invitation to civil disobedience.
Baird is state field director of the Indiana Pastors Alliance.