This week I step away from the jovial and step into the realm of cultural engagement, more precisely… the work of the Ohio legislature. I tend to take a biblical approach to all of life, and I firmly believe that the Bible speaks to every arena of life. We have been incredibly blessed to live in this grand land that as Lincoln said was … “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Liberty is a universal value. As the conclusion of our Pledge of Allegiance reminds us, it is available “for all.” Yet there is growing pressure to pass laws that are fundamentally unjust and unconstitutional. Laws which limit Americans’ liberty. Being fully convinced of this, I feel compelled to add value to the understanding of a bill, House Bill 160 which elevates “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to protected class status. While everyone opposes discrimination, HB 160 creates a host of problems… in fact, it creates division. So, I am concerned.
There are a number of reasons or concern and as a Pastor, I am drawn to focusing on three points, so here goes: the first is this… It’s bad for business. As Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George explain: While these bills have some superficially appealing aspects, they would only increase cultural tensions, further empower an already powerful special-interest lobby, and impose unjustly on [Americans] of many different faiths and all walks of life. All citizens should oppose unjust discrimination, but SOGI laws are not the way to do that. As Christians, we are called to honor God in all we do, not only in overtly religious roles. But these laws almost certainly will give some people of faith an ultimatum: some of the problems that this legislation would bring according to Citizens for Community Values, Ohio’s Family Policy Council are… Require schools, restaurants, Christian ministries, and any public accommodation to allow biological men in women’s restrooms and locker rooms. Require businesses participate in same-sex weddings, regardless of the business owner’s religious beliefs. Require domestic violence shelters to allow biological men to bathe and bunk with women if the men claim they are women. Require public schools allow biological boys in girl’s locker rooms, dressing rooms, and girl’s athletics. The bottom line is that all laws must respect freedom and promote justice for every citizen, no matter who they are. After all, a society that protects everyone’s freedom to peacefully live according to their beliefs promotes an environment of mutual respect among Americans from all walks of life. This legislation threatens individuals, business owners, and non-profit organizations that want to live and work according to their faith. Passing these laws puts Americans’ religious liberty at risk.
Secondly, it’s bad for freedom! So, this is the point where I realize I may anger some for saying this… so, get ready… we believe that our rights here in America come from God. We do not believe our rights come from our group. Another word for group is union, another word for union is soviet! The thought that because of my group I have rights is not what we believe as a nation, is not and never has been who we are. You have to go to another country to believe that. Our founders said that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nowhere else in the world treasures life like America. Nowhere else in the world treasures liberty like America. Legislation that creates group rights will threaten this freedom. As Sarah Cramer of Alliance Defending Freedom writes, “Laws that add sexual orientation and gender identity as new classifications under the law raise profound concerns about how these laws empower the government to override basic freedoms of conscience, religion, speech, and other liberties.”
Thirdly it’s bad in a biblical sense. Again, I believe that the Bible speaks to every important issue of life. After all, it was God who came up with the idea of government. He established it and has clear principles about every major issue facing our nation or any other nation. The Bible even uses a strong metaphor regarding Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.” Having said all that, we as followers of Jesus desire to be redemptive in a very wounded, broken world. Those struggling in issues of sexuality need our compassion and love…. Jesus came “full of grace and truth” and we must do the same. Grace first, then truth… though many get the order wrong, we must follow Jesus example and do the same. Using my friend Jim Garlow’s words here… “To love people so much that we articulate God’s truth on even this controversial matter and share it in a tender and respectful way that releases the Holy Spirit’s power to help people have victory.”
I so appreciate the approach my friend Aaron Baer, President of Citizens for Community Values has shared… Love Doesn’t Bully! This legislation does! For the sake of business in Ohio encourage your legislator and your friends to oppose this bill. For the sake of the freedom of all Ohioan’s now and for generations to come, encourage your legislator and your friends to oppose this bill. For the sake of all we believe the Bible to say and be in our lives, encourage your legislator and your friends to oppose this bill. That there may be LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!
Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.