Friday, April 3, 2015

The Religious Freedom Act and Good Friday

On this Good Friday as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act swirls around our heads, I am thinking of the cross. Not just a two thousand year old cross—but the green wooden cross that hangs on a picture in my office.

Last summer our son and his partner decided to get legally married. They had been together twenty-five years and thanks to their state of Pennsylvania’s new law they could be joined in holy matrimony.

My son asked me if I would do the wedding. Knowing no couple whose love runs deeper, I agreed. So one morning after breakfast  last summer we gathered by their fireplace in their living room. Mark, my son’s partner said, “You may want to wear this cross” And he handed me a green wooden cross.

So I slipped the cross around my neck and they pledged their vows to one another. It was a holy moment for me and for them  too, I think. Tears ran down all our faces. And that morning I simply did what I have been doing for over 40 years—I married two people in love.

What does my little green cross and Good Friday have to do with the hoopla over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? Everything. And even though Indiana has backed off parts of this bill—this battle is far from over. This law would allow businesses to refuse to serve gays out of religious conviction. A whole lot of Christians in Germany felt the same way about serving Jews. I thought of all the Christians that stood at the front door of their churches and shook their heads to blacks. In the name of religious conviction both groups thought they were protecting their faith and their values. Some even cited Biblical evidence on both occasions.

The word religion comes from the root word, to bind. Faith should unite and not separate or divide. Real religion should never discriminate against fellow human beings.

The word freedom is also misunderstood. Whose freedom are we talking about in this law? Sponsors say we infringe of the freedom of those of religious convictions if we do not pass laws that allow people to pick and choose whom they will serve. This freedom is narrow because it excludes many in the name of the few. Martin Luther King was right when he said, “Unless all are free no one is free.”

So on this Good Friday we remember a hill long ago and far away. And we recall the One who stretched out his arms to everyone. And I think of my little green cross and a day last summer.

(I took this picture in my office. The self-portrait is of my son who drew this years ago.)

--Roger Lovette /

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