Monday, June 29, 2015

Render unto Caesar- June 28, 2015

Throughout Jesus's ministry, there were those who sought to destroy him by catching him in his words. On one such occasion, Matthew, Mark and Luke all recorded the event (see Matthew 22:15-21, Mark 12:13-17 and Luke 20:19-26). The following is from Mathew's account:

16   And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

17   Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not?

18   But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

19   Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

20   And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

21   They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

Christ was the greatest of all men, and the master teacher. He demonstrated beautifully how religion and political entities could co-exist. He did not challenge those of earthly authority because there was no need. His kingdom was far greater than the small kingdom they sought to protect.

I believe that the principles he taught are appropriate with regard to the issue of the Supreme Court's opinion regarding same-sex marriage. I believe that my gay friends have the right to civil liberties: being safe from persecution, being able to attain housing, being able to speak regarding their choices, being able to inherit from people without having to have a will (among other things). Some of the people I hold dearest in my life are gay. I want their lives to be wonderful. I want them to be happy.

Insofar as the opinion is referring to rights invented and conferred by government, my gay friends and family members are right. They should not be denied the right to a license that is a government convention.

Unfortunately, this opinion did not protect the other side of Christ's teaching. We are to render unto God that which is God's. Justice Kennedy briefly states: Finally, the First Amendment ensures that religions, those who adhere to religious doctrines, and others have protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.

Those words are hollow. The First Amendment existed in the 1800's when our Church was persecuted and members were even martyred for our beliefs. Many of you may disagree with the belief in plural marriage, but at that time, it was a commandment from the Lord. The people in the Church were carrying out that which was commanded, and the government, determining those beliefs to be invalid, took legal actions to destroy the organization of the Church. Families were torn apart as honest, good men were imprisoned for their religious beliefs. The property of the Church was taken.

So what if our courts and our government authorities do not remain true to the doctrine espoused in the First Amendment. What could be the result? Any entity that receives federal monies can, and will, be forced to comply with the law and that can include providing services or property to those who are in relationships for which they do not agree. So, for example, the Catholic Church may find itself having to perform marriages that are against the basic tenants of their religion. Photographers who philosophically disagree with a same-sex marriage may have to agree to provide their services even if their religious beliefs are contrary, or be sued or prosecuted for discrimination.

None of that would matter if there was any acceptance that a belief in the Bible and Book of Mormon were morally acceptable. Instead, we find ourselves being demeaned, judged, disparaged, and possibly sued. I heard a comment once about the issue in which the commentator stated that no one should have a "right" to be married in a particular place. Just because I might have wanted to be married in a synagogue did not give me the right to do so.

The wording of the opinion says that the right to marry a person of your choice is a constitutionally protected right. Does that mean that polygamy is now legal again? Does it mean that a person can marry a teenager without consent of the parent? Does it mean that persons who may have previously been involved in a gay relationship but have since moved on may be subject to claims for property from their previous partner under common-law marriage states? Did it take into account the costs, emotionally and monetarily, for those who discontinue in a gay relationship and will now have to divorce?

Justice Roberts was absolutely right in his comment: “If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

For me, the issue was never really about my gay friends. It was always about fighting to preserve our religious freedom. I have been criticized, condemned, demeaned, unfriended, and even had people not support us at our farewell because of our beliefs. What happened to the call for love and acceptance from those people?

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