Mea culpa. I took the bait. I reacted rashly. You can see it in my tweets. It’s not that I was “wrong” so much as misdirected. That’s what seems to be at issue.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA, is a good thing in my opinion. It gives local legs to its federal equivalent and so helps stem the tide of the encroaching progressivism with its hatred of Christianity. It allows us a certain degree of separation from hostile entities. That action has its proper value. I see it as having a benefit to us that coincides with I Timothy 2:1-2:
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
In other words, the basic level of persecution and intimidation we recently viewed in Indiana would enjoy a legal recourse. The net effect is that Christians would be able to live a free life since they are not generally going out and bothering people.
Of course the popular media propaganda says otherwise. But that’s another matter
But there is a problem and it is about how we treat Religious Freedom Restoration Act: It is not part of and does not represent church doctrine. It never has. There is no mandate in the New Testament that believers should cease participation in this world of sinful humans. For that matter, excuses for non-participation might actually run contrary to one specific mandate. A couple of supporting NT passages deal with this question. First, I Corinthians 5:9-10
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.
and Matthew 9:10
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.
With regard to Matthew’s record, the food Jesus at would have been purchased with funds that came from the abuse of taxpayers. Jesus participated in a system which opposed His sense of justice. Yet he did not question where the food came from and yet he did not celebrate the sin. He kept his focus on His mission, one which transcended where he was interacting.
Likewise the 1 Corinthians passage makes this principle quite clear: We are to engage the world. The alternative, as a friend once said to me, is that “we might as well be Amish.” We are to be taking the redemptive message of Christ out on an interpersonal level. The old revivalism approach — bring them into the church to hear the gospel — that’s not what most of the NT examples are about. Missionaries were sent. Proclamation was done on a constant basis rather than being built around events and forms.
This creates a dilemma for us. Is it possible to participate in a worldly activity without affirming that activity? Of course it is. We all go to the state fair, the grocery store, and high school sporting events. We also acknowledge that there are certain areas where a Christian is not free to participate such as, among others, the production of pornography. We certainly cannot enable sin.
The next step is more difficult: Is it possible to participate in a worldly celebration without affirming that activity? This is much more difficult. There are many believers who see the American Pledge of Allegiance as a compromise, a divided allegiance for the believer. As far as I can tell, most of the nation-oriented objections seem to come from the Anabaptist community.
This is a far more challenging question in defining a Christian ethic. Would my presence at a homosexual ceremony be affirming? Maybe, maybe not. I wonder if there might be a difference based on how would approach my presence. Would a homosexual couple be willing to hire Christians if they thought the Christians might engage in evangelism at their event?
At this point I am still of the same basic opinion — I would not do anything to provide support or encouragement for homosexual ceremonies. But I would add this caveat: Not all homosexual activities would fall into this category. Some more evangelistic among us might take it as an opportunity, like Paul in prison, to take the message of Christ to a captive audience. It may not always be proper business practice, but then again we are not slaves to business, we are children of and serve Christ.
At this point my opinion of the situation is this: If I can participate in an event without affirming its content, and if with my presence I first do not compromise my piety and second act as a verbal conveyance of redemption in Christ to the participants, then participation is fine.