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On Aug. 22 the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that wedding photographer Elaine Huguenin violated state law when she declined to photograph a lesbian “commitment ceremony” because of her Christian beliefs that homosexuality is a sin.
As a result of the ruling, she and her husband were ordered to pay more than $6,000 in attorney’s fees to the lesbian couple.
Kelly Boggs, columnist for Baptist Press and director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, in an Aug. 23 article titled “The Moment of Truth is Coming,” cited New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson’s concurring opinion, in which he wrote, “The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead … the Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.”
Justice Bosson is quoted further as saying, “…compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world…it is the price of citizenship… [They] now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives… It will no doubt leave a tangible mark on the Huguenins and others of similar views.”
The time is quickly approaching when American Christians will be expected to publicly compromise our beliefs.
This is a sobering reality for those of us who believe that the Bible is God’s inspired, authoritative word to humanity, and that it is binding on our lives; for while the salvation we have received is personal, it was never meant to be private, and we understand that it has ramifications for all of life, including the public square.
It was another teaching of the Bible, namely that all people are created in God’s image, that compelled William Wilberforce to fight the slave trade in 18th and 19th century Great Britain. While many so-called Christians were attending church, they were turning a blind eye to the horrors inflicted upon a group of people created in the image of God; they may have personally believed that the slave trade was immoral, but the status quo caused them to compromise their beliefs. Wilberforce, however, was compelled by his belief in what Scripture said about the dignity of humanity as being of equal worth in God’s sight. The atrociousness of this godless practice could not be ignored. At one point Wilberforce wrote, “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the [slave] trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.”
Whether it is our view on God’s design for marriage, the full humanness of an unborn child, or the exclusivity of Jesus Christ for salvation, the weight of our faith cannot be bound within the unnatural constraints of our private lives. The fact Christians are called to be salt and light precludes this (Matt. 5:13-16). Wilberforce once wrote in his journal, “My walk is a public one…my business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me.”
When Christians leave the house each day, we cannot hang our convictions by the door to be picked up only when we return home; they are part and parcel of who we are.
As the reformer Martin Luther said at the Diet of Worms in April 1521, “to go against conscious is neither right nor safe…here I stand, I can do no other. So God help me.”
God help us all, just as he did the Huguenins, to stand, whether it is popular or not; for we can do no other.
Brian Owens is an associate pastor with youth and children emphasis at Farmdale Baptist Church. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.