The headlines this week have been dominated by the Ashers decision and Prince Charles’ visit. This vlog reflects on both.
You can read more about the Ashers decision int he post below. I was, and remain concerned about how the judge found that ‘support for same sex marriage is indissociable from sexual orientation.’ Essentially, if I had ordered the cake with that message and Ashers had refused, it seems that they would have been guilty of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation against me! If correct, this is a very troublesome extension of equality law – again not just for Christians, but for everyone.
As Ashers’s barrister said in court, “Forcing individuals on pain of court to produce goods promoting a cause they disagree with is the very antithesis of democracy.” The law, which rightly protects people from discrimination, has now been extended to police ideas. The ruling diminishes the freedom of everyone and that is a problem because equality is important but what does it mean without freedom?
A few days post-trial it is also time to reflect. Sitting in court listening to the evidence, it was difficult to hear Gareth Lee explain how he felt like a second class citizen when the order was declined. It was also difficult listening to the McArthur family talk about how they wrestled to honour Jesus in this situation.
The question then turns to how we as Christians should generally respond? Personally, I would find the suggestion of making the best possible cake for Mr Lee, of going the extra mile as in Matt 5, more persuasive if the McArthurs and Mr Lee had known each other well. The radical nature of the response only works if Mr Lee knew the McArthurs are Christians and they knew he is gay. Neither did on the evidence, and so it would have been an unremarkable transaction with no transformational aspect. Jesus had an incredible ability to speak truth and bring about transformation.
When he met with women at the well he noted that she had had five husbands before she headed off and witnessed to the whole town. When he stepped in to prevent the stoning of the woman caught in adultery he told her to go and sin no more. After Jesus dined with Zacchaeus, lots of people got back money they had been cheated of and the poor were blessed. An encounter with Jesus tended to lead to transformation, without undermining the truth.
The power of the handshake between the Prince and the President (of Sinn Fein) was that both knew exactly who the other was and both held to their identities, while encountering each other.
The mother of Paul Maxwell who was killed in the explosion that killed Lord Mountbatton said this, “After the church service in Drumcliffe, which was absolutely wonderful, there was such a sense of healing, it was like a healing balm was present and a sense of forgiveness, and a great sense of hope. I came out feeling really euphoric.”
The Prince of Peace, who sacrificed His life for us, is the source healing, honour and hope. In Him we move forward in love, truth and grace, seeking the transformation that comes through the Holy Spirit.
May your kingdom come.