Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Indiana Religious Freedom Law, the Pizza Parlour and What it Says About the Church


By now everyone knows about the so-called Indiana Religious Freedom Law fracas last week. Despite the multifaceted rhetoric, few doubt that the bill was conceived as the means to allow businesses to reserve offering services to LGBT folk (say for example providing goods and services to marriage ceremonies of same sex couples) in the name of religious freedom. It protected such acts from lawsuits. If it were me, and I was afraid of such complicity, I would just politely refuse, and then give witness to why. If I was put in prison for my convictions I’d consider it an honor.  I would humbly submit and offer some explanations to the world as to why I felt this was important enough for me to go to prison. This would hopefully be an act of humility (I have my issues) instead of pretentious hubris. It would be an act of suffering versus an act of power. It would offer a profound witness to the world instead of unleash a world of hate in my direction. If serving a pizza to a gay wedding was that important of a problem for me (which it is not) this is the way I would go. My theory is: What better way to witness for Christ than to go to prison?

But I digress. For me there is another lesson for the church in this whole mess. This lesson is located in the observation of the furious backlash against that little Memories Pizza parlor every one is talking about. In case you didn’t hear about it, one of the owners of a small local pizzeria found herself in the unfortunate position of being interviewed on local television news about the Indiana law. She evidently admitted that the pizzeria would not cater to a gay wedding if they ordered pizzas. In a matter of hours, this little pizzeria became the overnight subject of lewd insults and degrading comments. Their Yelp review site lit up with degrading insults, dehumanizing slurs, lewd pictures of naked men, threats to rob and burn down the place, etc. etc. It was a monster coalescence of hate. But it didn’t end there. Less than a few days later, the pizza parlor somehow announced it was on the verge of shutting down and going out of business, when some 29,000 people started a GoFundMe page and donated close to a million dollars in less than a week! How does one little pizza parlor become the eye of such a furious hurricane? (This descriptor is very important to me because the eye of a hurricane is hollow/empty. There’s nothing there. It nonetheless holds the storm together. ).

For me this is the reveal of the state of our culture and the ideologies surrounding the LGBT issues of our day. I suggest that all churches take note of this little pizza parlor and learn the lesson. It is, what I called in End of Evangelicalism?, an eruption of the real. It reveals the antagonism and the identity forming power around these antagonisms, that are at work in these ideologies. It is notable that it comes now not just from the right in a stupid defensive act of hubris called the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It is equally as forceful from the left. The level of vitriol and hate cast on this tiny little pizzeria reveals it in all its ugliness.

Here’s my one point . . .


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