The speed at which the Supreme Court is eroding civil rights protections, making vulnerable groups even more vulnerable is frankly, overwhelming. In truth, the last several years of SCOTUS decisions, particularly regarding religious liberty and the thinly veiled discrimination some Christians practice against LGBTQ people, have resulted in creating a special class of privilege for Christians.
But before we get to that reality, let’s take a minute to reflect on this week’s decision which allowed a web designer in Colorado to refuse to design websites for gay people because it violates her faith, which is something I will never understand. In the decision written by Justice Gorsuch, he created a brand new categorization of businesses that sell what he called “expressive” goods, or customized products. These businesses now get to choose who they sell to, which hearkens back to exactly what was protected against when the 1963 Civil Rights Act was passed. What this means is that the 1963 Civil Rights Act is now on the chopping block.
To say this is disturbing is the understatement of the year. The Supreme Court has virtually gutted the 1964 Voting Rights Act and they seem focused now on the Civil Rights Act. I am betting the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education is next on the list.
This is not happenstance; this is premeditated. It is apparent that in recent SCOTUS decisions the far-right conservative justices have laid out a path they want their allies to pursue with further cases that will ultimately be brought before the Court. In this case, the Justices clearly want to chip away at civil rights protections for minority groups. Thus, if businesses that sell “expressive” products – whatever those might be – now want to deny services to an interracial couple, or an unmarried couple that lives together, or a fisherman who handles fish with fins or scales, or a rancher who raises pigs – all of whom can be discriminated against by misinterpreting isolated Scriptures – something conservative evangelicals excel at – there will be heavily-financed groups ready to take up their case.
This is very frightening, but to be fully honest, I am more angry than frightened. I am angry about a syncretized form of Christianity created by conservative evangelicals who believe they deserve to be granted a privileged status that allows them to discriminate against LGBTQ people (and perhaps interracial couples and anyone else they deem to be living in their culturally-skewed understanding of sin), all in the name of an Americanized Jesus whose reign is characterized by special protections for Americanized Christians and denied to anyone else not deemed worthy.
And when I hear my conservative Christian friends – even friends who were in my wedding! – talk about this increasingly apparent phenomenon they almost sound apologetic; something like, “I wish I didn’t have to discriminate against gay people, but it’s in the Bible!” Yeah, so is rape, murder, genocide, theft, and a whole host of ways in which to dehumanize people. Just because something is in the Bible does not mean it is prescriptive. For my evangelical friends who love to point to the Bible, oh how I wish they actually read it.
At the heart of this Supreme Court decision and the special privileges they are granting Christians is the belief that the rights of a Christian are simply more important than the rights of others. And for anyone who truly reads Scripture, this is grossly antithetical to the ethic taught by Jesus. Just take a look at the Beatitudes, which is the sine qua non of all of Jesus’ teachings:
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he began to speak and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:1-10)
What runs throughout these teachings is that Jesus wants his followers to be people who place the rights of others ahead of themselves. An easier question to ask after reading Matthew 5 is this: does anything in this passage support condemning or discriminating against others based on the disapproval of the way they live? The answer is unequivocally no.
But we would be kidding ourselves if we thought this was the end Americanized evangelical Christians are after. It’s not. The end result is that LGBTQ people are second-class citizens and the rights of Christians are unassailable.
This is a frightening prospect and a twisted biblical interpretation that everyone faithfully following Jesus must loudly reject.