There is a quip about prayer that goes: “Be careful what you pray for because you might just get what you ask for.”
That caution comes as a reminder of how often we fail to see the full consequence of our asking, and our action and can be quite surprised by the actual outcome.
It seems a fitting caution to recent conversations about the Restoration of Religious Freedom Acts being legislated around the country. I had assumed protections built into the Constitution and Bill of Rights would be sufficient in giving us all the freedom to believe or not believe what we want and the ability to practice either freely, short of trampling on the basic rights of others who differ from us.
That balance seems a wise limitation, one I learned about at a young age when told that my right to freely swing my fist stops an inch in front of my younger brother’s nose. But given the wording and intent of recent RRFAs, it seems that for many that is not the desired outcome of such legislation. The intent, rather, is to shake a codified fist in the face of growing gay and lesbian right-to-marry legislation in a majority of states, legislation likely reaffirmed by upcoming Supreme Court decisions.
Suddenly religious freedom becomes the reawakened right to discriminate against a certain class or group of society by dismissing their civil rights in order to promote one’s own religious rights and sensibilities. Again, be careful what you pray or ask for.
So is it now within my religious right to refuse to serve any part of the public that doesn’t believe in God (1st Commandment) or who uses God’s name to cover up lies (2nd ) or who refuses to worship on Sunday (Sabbath) or who has disrespected parents and other leaders (4th)? How about not serving those who are divorced (Jesus speaks of that issue but says not a word about homosexuality) or those who have sex before marriage or being especially firm in refusing to serve those who have committed murder (5th) or adultery (6th), theft (7th) or character assassination (8th)?
It seems quite a list to run through before I make any sales to anyone, especially to those who are jealous and covetous of what their neighbors have (9th and 10th), since that pretty much defines a consumer economy.
And if this is my newly minted freedom, doesn’t that religious right also extend to those who practice Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism or any of the myriad other world religions? The RRFA legislation being promoted is not called Restoration of Christian-only Religious Freedom, is it? Imagine the mess with everyone acting toward others who differ with and from them in the same manner conservative Christianity is trying to legislate for itself.
Perhaps they’ve misplaced Jesus’ words about coming to serve (not be served) and to give his life, not just for a self-selected group of Christians, but for the sake of the whole wide world. At least that’s the surprising outcome Jesus said he’s praying for.