Mark Wingfield, a Southern Baptist pastor in Dallas, has a provocative piece on religious liberty in Tuesday’s Dallas Morning News. Sometimes, he argues, cries of religious persecution are really failures of Christian empathy.
Here is a taste:
Imagine this scenario: An evangelical Christian couple is planning their wedding and wants a cake for their reception from the best bakery in town. So they visit the Jewish baker to make arrangements but are greeted with bad news: “Sorry, we don’t bake cakes for Christian weddings.” Can you imagine the outcry in the Christian community?
Or how about this: You are involved in a horrific automobile accident near a small town and rushed by ambulance to the nearest hospital. You are taken to an emergency room to be treated by a doctor who first takes down vital demographic information, only to conclude: “I’m sorry. I’m a Muslim and my faith will not allow me to do the procedure you need to live. You’ll have to wait until we can transport you to a larger hospital with other doctors.” Again, can you imagine the outcry in the Christian community?
Or one more: Your best friend at work recommends a manicurist she loves, so you make an appointment. Upon arrival, you are made to feel unwelcome because everyone else there is lesbian, but you’re not. The clear but unspoken message is that straight Christian women who don’t condone same-sex relationships are not welcome here. How would you talk about that at your weekly Bible study group?
All these things happen in America today, but usually with the roles reversed or with different categories of people involved. Hearing these tales with a twist shines a light on how wrong they are. Things look different when you’re the minority instead of the majority. Or at least, things should look different.
In most every contemporary instance of calls for additional legislation or presidential executive orders or city ordinances to address religious liberty concerns, Christians — and particularly the evangelical Christians from whence I have come — are presented as the aggrieved parties who desire additional protections to freely express their religious convictions. Seldom, however, does anyone stop to consider how it would feel for the shoe to be on the other foot. How might evangelical Christians see ourselves on the other side of the story, not as the persecuted but as potential persecutors? Would that make a difference in what we demand for ourselves?
Read the rest here.