Posts tagged ‘Washington’

Flowers, Same-Sex Marriage, and Responding with Grace


Barronelle Stutzman enjoyed catching up with her friend, Rob Ingersoll.  He would stop by regularly to order custom bouquets from the mom-and-pop flower shop she operated, Arlene’s Flowers, and the two would talk about what was going on in their respective lives.  Everything was coming up, excuse the pun, roses, until one day when Rob stopped by Arlene’s Flowers to ask Barronelle to provide custom flower arrangements for his upcoming wedding to his partner, Curt.  According to a deposition by Ms. Stutzman, she responded by putting her hands on Mr. Ingersoll and saying, “Because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, I can’t do that.”  Understandably, he walked away feeling deeply hurt and rejected.  After that, it didn’t take long for a legal firestorm to explode.

The two men sued Arlene’s Flowers for $7.91, the price it cost to drive to another florist.  Then, on February 16, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Ms. Stutzman was in violation of state law, claiming that Ms. Stutzman’s actions constituted “socially harmful conduct” and that the “government views acts of discrimination,” which is how they regarded Ms. Stutzman’s refusal of service, “as independent social evils.”

In a situation like this, it can be difficult for a Christian to figure out how to respond.  Indeed, there has been a fair amount of debate among Christians over whether or not it is biblically-appropriate to provide certain services, as Barronelle Stutzman refused to do, for a same-sex wedding.

Regardless of what an individual Christian may or may not be willing to accommodate in a situation like this, Ms. Stutzman’s overall response to this controversy has been charitable and exemplary.  Shortly after the controversy erupted, she penned an opinion piece for The Seattle Times.  She opened:

Rob Ingersoll will always be my friend. Recent events have complicated – but not changed – that fact for me.

Ms. Stutzman began with a statement of love for Mr. Ingersoll.  Even if he sues her, she will not disown him.  She will always be a friend to him, even after she felt she had to have a conversation with him that was, in her words, “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.”

She continued by explaining her desire to balance her moral convictions with her Christian love:

I knew he was in a relationship with a man and he knew I was a Christian. But that never clouded the friendship for either of us or threatened our shared creativity – until he asked me to design something special to celebrate his upcoming wedding.

If all he’d asked for were prearranged flowers, I’d gladly have provided them. If the celebration were for his partner’s birthday, I’d have been delighted to pour my best into the challenge. But as a Christian, weddings have a particular significance…

I’ve never questioned Rob’s and Curt Freed’s right to live out their beliefs. And I wouldn’t have done anything to keep them from getting married, or even getting flowers. Even setting aside my warm feelings for them, I wouldn’t have deliberately taken actions that would mean the end of being able to do the work I love or risk my family’s home and savings.

I just couldn’t see a way clear in my heart to honor God with the talents He has given me by going against the word He has given us.

Whatever decision another Christian would have made if faced with a situation like this, it is difficult to disparage Ms. Stutzman’s desire to be both faithful to her moral convictions and loving toward her friend.

In the news, much has been made about what this story and the Washington Supreme Court’s ruling mean for religious freedom.  The questions this controversy raises about religious freedom are indeed monumental.  And the court’s ruling a couple of weeks ago is certainly open to vigorous questioning.  But in the midst of all the thorny Constitutional and legal quandaries, let’s not miss the simple story of a woman trying to live out her faith in Jesus in front of others and for the sake of others.  For this is how each of us are called to live – loving even those with whom we deeply disagree us and seeking to winsomely hold forth to the world the use of God’s gifts – like the gift of marriage – according to God’s intentions.

Whatever ultimately comes of this case, this call will not change.

February 27, 2017 at 5:59 am Leave a comment

The Court of Public Opinion



We are a nation of polls.  We poll public opinion on just about everything imaginable – from how Congress is doing their jobs to how the president is doing his job to how many people support gay marriage to how many people support tougher gun control laws to how many people support the legalization of marijuana.

It’s this last bit of polling data that formed the focus of an L.A. Times article by Robin Abcarian, which chronicled the shifting tide of public opinion on our culture’s most famous controlled substance:

The Gallup organization released a poll showing that for the first time in 44 years, a wide margin of Americans – 58% to 39% – believe marijuana should be legalized.

Less than a year ago, only 48% said pot should be legal. That is an astonishing leap of 10 points in the last 11 months alone.[1]

The article explains that Colorado and Washington have led the curve by legalizing recreational marijuana use and their progressive policies, in turn, are moving the country forward:  “Like gay marriage, pot is here to stay.  And just like gay marriage, it seems like the rest of the country is finally starting to catch on.  Or light up.”

Personally, I find it ironic and more than a little medically disingenuous that at the same time cigarettes are increasingly controlled and decried because of the health risks associated with inhaling nicotine, tar, and smoke, using marijuana, which impairs motor abilities and adversely affects cardiopulmonary health, is increasingly accepted.

Regardless of the medical and, for the matter, moral arguments against the legalization of marijuana, I nevertheless must agree with Abcarian’s conclusion:  “Like gay marriage, pot is here to stay.”

Why do I concur with Abcarian’s conclusion?  Because we live in a society obsessed with and ruled by public opinion.  Our working presupposition is that if the majority of people approve of something, that something ought to be implemented societally.  And if the majority of people approve of something, that something ought to be considered good and right.  Public opinion, then, shapes far more than our federal policy; it guides our society’s morality.

But there is a problem with public opinion.  Because the people who proffer it are sinful, public opinion can be sinful.  One need look no farther than Pontius Pilate’s opinion poll:  “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Matthew 27:22)?  I’m not sure the public was right or righteous when they gave their opinion on Jesus’ sentence.

The apostle Paul reminds us of the stark sinfulness that can sometimes mark public opinion when he writes:

[People] have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:29-32)

According to Paul, the public delights in sanctioning sin.  Far from being good and moral, the public is sinful and wicked.  And lest we think we are somehow immune to the depravity of the general public, Paul reminds us that we too play a role in society’s degeneracy:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Romans 2:1)

It’s not just that public opinion “out there” can be wrong, it’s that our own opinions can be wrong because our opinions are stained and maimed by sin.

In a culture where public opinion shapes nearly everything, Christians have a countercultural message:  what is moral and best is not always what is popular and promoted.  Instead, what is moral and what is best is that which is revealed by God.

So what does this mean for the debate over legalizing marijuana?  It means that a debate such as this one cannot be settled by a poll.  Instead, we, as Christians, need to think about this issue in light of God’s Word.  Perhaps what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20 is a good place to begin:  “Therefore honor God with your body.”

[1] Robin Abcarian, “Like gay marriage, medical marijuana is here to stay,” L.A. Times (10.23.2013).

November 4, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

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