I really thought I wasn’t going to talk about this divisive issue anymore, because I realize at this point there is little to be gained. People on both sides have made up their minds.
And yet… I haven’t seen many people make this distinction. It is crucial to understanding what is going on here. Obviously if you are an agnostic then this may seem like a trivial detail, but it is crucial to understanding why the framing of this controversy is so lopsided.
There is a full-court press to frame the issue as, “Some Christian business owners want the legal right to not serve gay people.” I can understand when people at Salon take that tack, but I really lost all hope when even self-described libertarians like Penn Jillette don’t even take the time to understand the issue.
This CNN piece is classic.
Be careful to watch the actual questions posed to the people on camera, as opposed to the “summary” that the CNN guy gives after the fact. The florists in Georgia are never asked, “Would you refuse to sell flowers to someone you knew was gay?” No, the actual exchanges we see on tape always involve a hypothetical business opportunity to provide the flowers for a gay commitment ceremony (they don’t have gay marriage in Georgia). (UPDATE: In two of the interviews, we clearly hear that the question concerns a gay ceremony, while in the third we don’t hear the opening question.)
Admittedly, the woman who falls into the CNN guy’s trap was partly asking for it when she said “it’s a different kind of sin,” but strictly speaking his analogy was awful. In case you don’t click the link, he asked her if she would sell flowers to an adulterer, and she admitted she would.
But let’s think about that for a minute. Do customers actually walk into the florist–especially when the employees are smiley women with Southern drawls as in this CNN piece–and say, “Hey, I’m sleeping with my secretary, and I want to get her something nice. Let’s hope the old lady doesn’t find out, amirite?!”
Of course not. Likewise, suppose there were a national movement to change the divorce laws, so that infidelity could no longer be used in alimony or custody battles, because it reflected an outdated cultural prejudice in favor of monogamy. And then someone came into a Georgia florist shop and said, “My friends and I are having a party celebrating adultery. Can you provide the flowers for that ceremony?”
That would be closer to the hypothetical concerning gay marriage, for someone who is a Bible-believing Christian, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them didn’t want to work for such a client, in that political context.
In closing: I TOTALLY AGREE that many Christians who think homosexual behavior is a sin, for some reason artificially elevate it to a higher category. Indeed that’s what got that Georgia florist busted on the gotcha question by the CNN guy. (As I said on Facebook recently: If you’re a standard Christian, you think gay people are sinners who deserve hell. You also think straight people are sinners who deserve hell.) But this willful refusal to actually understand what is motivating these Christian business owners is annoying. If you want to accuse or mock them, fair enough, but at least accurately state their position.