The Point: What Do Blueberries and Gay Weddings Have in Common? Nothing.

You must agree, or it’s your business. For the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

I read the headline and thought, “This can’t be true.”: “You Can’t Sell Blueberries Unless You Affirm Gay Marriage.”

But the city of East Lansing, Michigan has banned the Tennes family from selling produce at the city’s farmers market. Why? Because their Catholic faith prohibits them from hosting gay weddings on their farm.

The city said the family had violated East Lansing’s “Civil Rights ordinances and public policy against discrimination.” Never mind that the Tennes farm is 22 miles outside the city limits and that hosting weddings way out there has nothing to do with selling blueberries in town.

Folks, way back in 2010 Chuck Colson said that so-called “gay marriage” would, “spell the doom of religious freedom in America.” That’s being played out before our eyes in East Lansing and elsewhere.

So what do you do? Pray. Vote. Support organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is suing East Lansing on behalf of the Tennes family. When it comes to religious freedom, we can’t give up.

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  • Robert Cremer

    I pray that people who believe in religious freedom travel to the Tenne’s farm to buy their produce!

  • Joseph

    John, please get your facts straight before you post.

    It is simple. The policy of the farmers market requires that all vendors comply with the city’s civil rights ordinances regardless of whether they live in the city. It does not matter that they live 22 miles away.

    The policy also requires adhering to city ordinances both at the market and “as a general business practice.” The fact that Tennes states publicly his intention to rent his farm for hetero- but not same-sex weddings will likely be considered a “general business practice,” thus violating the city ordinance.

    The author of the piece you cite, Todd Starnes, is notorious for dabbling in lies, conspiracy theories, and (yes) bigotry. Are you not aware of this?

    You could have written that because of your beliefs, this ordinance is wrong and should be changed, or an exception should be made in this case (because he’s a nice guy? blueberries are delicious? Christians need special rights?).

    Nobody is forced to open a business or provide a service, but if you choose to provide a public service, you need to provide the same service to everyone under the law. You cannot just refuse to follow the law and then claim persecution because you think you can pick and choose which laws to follow.

    Arguing that it is “spell[ing] the doom of religious freedom in America” if someone can’t sell blueberries because he refuses to follow the rules is needless fear-mongering. And misrepresenting facts always does a disservice to your readers.

  • jason taylor

    Just to start with Joseph, city ordinances should not have a right to force someone to do anything in their own house or on their own farm anymore then they should have the right to force them to quarter troops, or to undergo involuntary searches and seizures. And demanding that gays should have the right to trespass is demanding not equal treatment but a pernicious favoritism. Or are you claiming rights that the Queen of England does not claim anymore?

    • Joseph

      Good heavens, enough with the straw man arguments! 🙂

      “City ordinances should not have a right to force someone to do anything in their own house…”
      The city ordinance is not forcing Tennes to do anything in his own house. They’re forcing him to abide by their policies (that every other vendor does) to sell at the market! For argument’s sake, let’s not even care if he wants to discriminate. All it means is that he doesn’t have an extra right to sell blueberries at the market. The city has every right to regulate who sells at their market. It’s commerce law 101.

      “…demanding that gays should have the right to trespass…”
      Is everyone who patronizes a public business a trespasser in your eyes? LGBT people are not asking to “trespass,” they’re asking to be treated in the SAME way that every other patron of his farm is treated.

      • AtTheCrossroads

        Joseph . . . the big difference is that government, at least as it is still defined by the US Constitution, does not have the right to choose one religious belief over another (1st Amendment). Thus, it is unconstitutional for them to favor those who define marriage as any two people who “love” each other, over those who define marriage as a life-long covenant between one man and one woman. That is the religious belief that they are forbidding the Tennes to freely express by way of denying them the right to sell their products at “their” market. They allow all other farmers to sell at this market (which BTW is paid for in part by the Tennes’ taxes), but not the Tennes, because their form of religious expression is verboten . . . “get back in line you sheep”!. If the tables were turned and the government leaders denied you and Phoenix the right to sell because you didn’t want your personal property used to promote and celebrate something you believe to be very wrong . . . oh the weeping and gnashing of teeth that would ensue. Actually much worse I fear. But decent, law-honoring people like the Tennes will use decent law-honoring means to right this wrong. You should hope for your own freedom’s sake that they win. Alliance Defending Freedom could use your support!

        • Phoenix1977

          Please allow me to poke some holes in your argument.
          First of all, government is not choosing one religion over the other. Government is enforcing the law of the land onto all people in that land. That’s not only the right of any government, it’s the government’s duty.

          Second, Christians keep stating marriage is religious believe (Catholics even go as far as stating it’s a holy sacrament) while it is first and foremost a legal contract which existed thousands of years before the was even a single Christian. In Ancient Greece same-sex marriage was even allowed and in Rome same-sex relationships held the same standard as opposite-sex marriages. As with so many things Christianity took existing ceremonies, rituals and laws, changed them a little and gave them a religious meaning and POOF: a new reality was born. But marriage is still a legal contract, putting it well within the authority of the government to change it’s conditions. Which is exactly what happened on June 26th, 2015.

          Third, what you people keep forgetting is that, until quite recently, government DID forbid us access to several things, like being with the one you loved on his death bed or sharing a pension after retirement. In 18 states LGBTs can still be fired for no other reason than being LGBT. So people like me don’t have to imagine anything. Most of us lived it and a lot of us still do simply by being born in the wrong state in the Union.

          So far it doesn’t look good for the Tennes family. So far there is 1 court ruling in favor of religious liberty and quite a few in favor of LGBT rights and against discrimination with religion as an excuse. The Tennes could be the next victory for religious liberty but it will do them little good. Most businesses fighting the same fight have either closed shop (like “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” and “Görtz Haus Gallery”) or decided to get out of the wedding business and taking their losses (“Masterpiece Cakeshop” in Colorado). So the ultimate question is: can the Tennes family survive and economic assault as well as a legal battle? For most small businesses the answer is negative.

          • Scott

            Please allow me a rebuttal.

            It seems the basis of your argument stands on whether or not marriage was a legal contract prior to being a covenant between two people and God? Since you can’t go further back than Adam and Eve, I believe you are wrong. Marriage was a covenant prior to being a legal contract. Whether or not you believe in Adam and Eve or God for that matter would bear significant reference as to whether or not you believe same sex marriage is an event you would allow on your farm.

          • Phoenix1977

            I don’t think it will be any surprise that I don’t agree with you 🙂

            First of all, the government should enforce the law of the land on everyone without exception since everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and, therefor, has the same obligations in the eyes of the law. Your choice to be a Christian doesn’t change that and shouldn’t change that.

            The argument about bookstores is similar (and just as flawed) as the Jewish butcher not selling pork. Chosing not to sell anything at all based on your religion is not the same as deciding not to sell a particular product to a particular group of people. So the choice to only sell Christian books because of your religion is fine. However, deciding to sell Christian book only to Christian would not be, just as it would be a punishable offense to refuse to sell Christian books to LGBTs or putting up a sign “No sales to blacks” (as were regularly seen in the 1970 even after racial segregation was outlawed). Same goes to wedding cakes, wedding photo’s, floral arrangements for weddings and weddin venues, at least in the 32 states that have active anti-discrimination laws.

            It’s the Church that says marriage is a convenant between believers and their god. But since Christianity didn’t exist until 2000 years ago Christians cannot claim the existence of a ceremony that already existed more than 2000 years ago. Marriage is such a ceremony / institution.
            But regardless of that discussion, marriage is a law and laws are not the area religion has a say in. Only the government does. And the law was changed to allow same-sex couples to get married just as opposite-sex couples are. Bringing us back to the begining of the comment: everybody is equal in the eyes of the law and therefor has to obey the same laws, without exception.

          • Scott

            Not at all… in fact I might be a little disappointed if you did. : J

            I will begin by paying you a compliment before I disagree. : J It is clear you are intelligent and your posts have lost the anger that I detected in the beginning. It is also clear that you are passionate about what you believe. I respect that and thank you for your continued civil nature.

            First of all, if a Christian refused to sell a Christian book to a non believer then they are missing the point! : ) You touched on my point when you said “So the choice to only sell Christian books because of your religion is fine.” What is unsaid (and this gets a little closer) is that a Christian may not sell certain types of books (lets use pornographic books as an example) and profit off the sale. Further illustrated, if someone were to demand the book store owner order such a book, even if they could legally order the book, they would have to refuse because they are not permitted by God to do so. He or she should have the right to refuse the patrons request. This refusal in and of itself, isn’t an act of bigotry if the bookstore owner is conscientiously objecting because they fear God. After all they are a Christian bookstore owner. The owner is not harming the patron and the patron may seek that book from a non Christian bookstore (which might have been the more intelligent choice to begin with). Like the content of books, not all weddings are the same. Rather than list the differences, I will let your more than capable mind illustrate them for you, it will do a better job than me. Just as a Jewish Rabbi wouldn’t and probably shouldn’t be a asked to marry a Methodist couple, he should also have the right to refuse the request. If the Tennes are Christians, than why shouldn’t they be allowed to hold only Christian weddings on their farm?

            The law can’t (and we shouldn’t let it) force all stores sell the same services and products. I personally don’t care for Walmart and the big box Goliaths that consume our city fringes. : ) Local diversity is a better model in my humble opinion. Because the content of wedding ceremonies vastly differs based on deeply held spiritual conviction, I think it might be safe to say that they are not all the same. If we are going to refer to such a ceremony as a product, then it also would be fair to say that that they could and should be sold in different stores. I am hoping that you can understand this metaphor is pointing to diversity and nothing more. My apology for I am leaving much unsaid here. : ) I do not want monoculture where all of society is asked to behave the same way and you I’m guessing value the same.

            Christians also don’t believe in forcing other people to change. God requires us to witness for Him (not an easy task in today’s climate mind you : ), but we know in the end we are only the messengers. I think you told me in a previous post that there is 0% chance of you joining us but I pray that isn’t the case. Either way, God loves you and so do I!

            One last thought. Christians believe Christ died and rose again to save us from our sins. We were Jews before that. We believe that marriage started with Adam and Eve and that was ordained by God. That precedes any human contract.

          • Scott

            Because some religions (not just Christians) believe that marriage is forbidden between same sex partners, they should be allowed to honor their faith by not participating in those ceremonies. The government cannot be allowed force someone to commit an act that goes against their conscience (or worse their God). A legal contract (like the government) should not be allowed force a person or their business to participate in something it does not wish to participate in. A book store may be able to sell all kinds of books but chooses to sell only college text (or Christian) books. Just because I can’t buy a Christian book at the store that sells college text books, doesn’t mean I have the right to either force them to either sell Christian books or ban them from selling books altogether.

  • Phoenix1977

    Why should we care whether or not the Tennes family can sell their blueberries? It’s not unfair nor is it unheard of to use economics to force people to step in line. When Apartheid was still reigning in South-Africa half the world placed a boycot on South-African products, in the end forcing an entire country to give up a law on which half their civilization was build. If a country can be brought to it’s knees like that so can a single family. We have seen it in other cases.

    As I said in another comment, Karma’s a bitch and Christians are now experiencing almost 2000 years of bad karma, of oppression, blood shed, war, mutilation and who knows what else coming back at them full force. Don’t expect those once oppressed by Christians to be sympathetic because that won’t happen. Christians made their bed and now they have to sleep in it. Don’t blame the rest of us that bed is far from comfortable.

    • Gina Dalfonzo

      Phoenix1977, please bear in mind the language warning in our comment policy, and consider calling karma something else next time.

      You might also consider that, if you think no one should care about whether a family can make a living and that you’d prefer to see them brought to their knees simply because they disagree with you, a lot of people are going to wonder why they should take you seriously at all.

      • Phoenix1977

        My comment on Karma was a quote, not my own invention. Last time I checked editing quotes was heavily frowned upon. In academia it will get you expelled (as a student) or terminated (as a professor).

        Why should people take me seriously? Because I am on the same side of the courts, or corporate America, the majority of Americans and the international community. Because I’m here and not going anywhere. Because, as a whole, the LGBT community will never ever accept our basic human right to be who we are infringed again as it was in the past. Because we are on the right side of history as history has proven in other situations over and over again.
        Why should people take me seriously? Because I’m as serious as a heart attack.

        • Gina Dalfonzo

          It’s a saying, not a quote, and I’m not asking you to edit it, I’m asking you not to use it.

  • jason taylor

    A farmer should be able to forbid people coming on his property, For Any Darned Reason He Feels Like. That right is far older and far more important then any right to a gay wedding which can just as well be held one place as another. If you do not like that Joseph, imagine if someone had the right to plant listening devices at a gay bar to pick up blackmail material? That would be wrong for any number of reasons as well as illegal but prominent among these is that the establishment’s owner should have a right to forbid trespass, For Any Darned Reason He Feels Like.

    • Joseph

      Jason, you are confused. He is not operating his farm as a private home, but as a public business. This is not trespassing, any more than someone who walks into a store, hotel, restaurant, etc. is trespassing on account of being there.

      The argument that gay weddings can be held elsewhere is irrelevant under the Constitution, and your argument about bugging a gay bar is nonsense. Nobody is asking to commit a crime. People have a right to be treated equally under the law (not separate but equal, for you history fans!).

      Don’t like it? Amend the Constitution.

    • Phoenix1977

      Under the law he is required to allow same-sex couples to get married on his farm if he also host opposite-sex marriages there. Offering a public service to one means offering it to all.

  • Scott

    Joseph, please consider all angles (and a little more grace) before you post.

    John’s point is that the City of East Lansing should not have the right to ban Tennes Farm from selling blueberries at the farmers market because the Farm does not host same sex weddings. If he were advertising his wedding business at the market that might be another issue. As long as they comply with the city ordinance while conducting business there, the city has no right to reach outside of its limits.

    Regarding your comment “You could have written that because of your beliefs… Christians need special rights?” Those “special” rights were not so special 30 years ago. The LGBT and liberal law makers have been re-writing the laws concerning marriage (as well as gender identity) based on their opinions about sex and marriage for years as if humans have the authority to define something we didn’t (yes I’m going to say it) create. Those of you who do not believe in God fail to understand that Christians live their lives according to God’s moral laws because we love and fear our creator, not because we hate those who do not. We believe (based on evidence mind you) that there are consequences to a life lived devoid of God’s moral principals. Dire consequences at that.

    When people who do not understand Christians (or the God we believe in) start re-writing and making new laws/rules, we have a responsibility to speak up.

    It is short sighted to say “Arguing that it is “spell[ing] the doom of religious freedom in America” if someone can’t sell blueberries because he refuses to follow the rules…” That depends on who is making (or rather changing) the rules. Nothing was misrepresented… you just don’t agree with the authors opinion.

    I pray that you would gain a better understanding of the Christian faith and tolerance for those who do not agree with your ideology.

    • Joseph

      Scott,

      First of all, I reject your baseless accusation that I do not believe in God. You don’t know the first thing about me. Correct me if I misunderstand you, but it makes me sick to see Christians arguing that other people (and other Christians) aren’t religious, faithful, or as worthy as them, just because they have different opinions.

      Now getting back to the main points:

      It’s one thing to say you disagree with the city ordinance. It’s another to say the city has no right to regulate policies regarding who sells in their market. If you make a moral argument, that’s fine, that’s your opinion. If you make it into a legal argument, you’ll lose. It’s commerce law 101.

      It doesn’t matter that some notion of “right” existed 30 years ago. Laws change. Don’t like it? Change it back.

      When I said the article was misrepresenting, I clearly was not talking about this (extreme) opinion, but the facts in the article. I thought that was self-explanatory.

      My purpose in writing is not to express my disagreement with OPINION, but with FACTS. It is certainly not evidence of intolerance.

      In fact, arguably, in challenging you, I’m helping you to form a stronger argument. If you can’t argue without distorting reality, that’s a sign of a really weak argument.

      • Scott

        I’m sorry. My intension was not to insinuate that you do not believe in God. You are right, I know nothing about you. Your worth to God is the same as mine. That is why Jesus died for us.

        I do agree that the city has the right to regulate how business is conducted at the market… and if Tennes was advertising his “weddings on the farm” business at the market then they might have grounds to ban the farm. But the city does not have the right to regulate how the Tennes Farm conducts their business outside of the city limits. If the farm employees comply with the city ordinance while within city limits than they should not be penalized.

        Changing laws are another matter and quite honestly would take more time than I have to address right now.

    • Phoenix1977

      Yes, 30 years ago open discrimination against LGBTs would be perfectly acceptable, just as openly discriminating against black people was perfectly acceptable 60 years ago. But guess what? It’s not 60 or 30 years ago. It’s not even 2 years ago when same-sex marriage was still illegal in the majority of the states. It is now, 2017, and the rules of today apply, even in a small town like East Lansing, Michigan.

      There is also something Christians need to start understanding. Your religion means nothing when dealing with the law of the land. Your religion doesn’t give you a “get out of jail free” card if you violate the law. Because what would be next if we’d allow open discrimination against gay men and women? Would it be okay to “accidentally” hit a gay man for looking at you funny? Because he might have been “mindraping” you (and you might laugh but in the past this actually was an acceptable defense for violence against gay men)? Setting their house on fire for sleeping with one of your family members (a tactic frequently used by the KKK to discourage interracial relationships)? Stoning them “accidentally” since that is what the bible says you should do to a gay man?
      And if the answer to all those questions is “no, of course not” (in that case I believe there is still hope for you) than why on earth would we allow discrimination of gay men and women with religion as excuse?

      Breaking the law has consequences. Speeding will get you fined. Stealing will get you jail time. Murder might get you the death penalty. And discriminating LGBTs will cause you to lose your spot on the farmer’s market, in case of the Tennes family. Choices and consequences, and learning to live with them …

      • Scott

        Christians are not violent people. No where in the New Testament does Jesus say that one should stone a “gay” man or woman. Christians are supposed to “turn and offer the other cheek” when confronted with violence much less initiate it.

        While it is true that we believe same sex attraction to be a sin, an obedient Christian would never harm someone because they are same sex attracted. Nor would they tolerate such a thing. Discrimination is never a Christian goal either. Because of our faith in God we are supposed to turn away from sin. There are many other sexual sins that Christians are not supposed to give into and in my opinion, not one of them is worse than the other. Fear and hate have lead to anger and because of this we have lost the ability to discuss these issues in a civil manner. Sexual desire is powerful… I understand that… but it is just a small part of who a person is. Common ground can be found if we were to look for it…

        Rosaria Butterfield wrote a good book called “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.” Full disclosure I have not read it but it is on my short list. From what I understand it is very insightful. Also Timothy Keller’s book Making Sense of God is a good read…

        • Phoenix1977

          In the New Testament Jesus never mentioned homosexuality of same-sex attraction either. The only time it’s mentioned in the New Testament is when Peter discusses it in Rome. So one could argue Jesus had no problem with homosexuality, which, by the way, is the position more and more branches of Christianity are taking nowadays while the more orthodox Christians defend their opposition towards gays with the position Peter took in Romans, combined with the saying that Jesus hadn’t come to abolish the old ways (claiming that meant all commands mentioned in Leviticus still applied).

          I’m sorry to say this but I see no common ground that can be reached. You say my sexuality is a sin and I can chose to turn away from it. I say I’m born this way and I demand the right to be who I am. My victory is your defeat and vice versa and I truly don’t see where a compromise can be found. Not to mention the majority of the LGBT community simply doesn’t trust Christians enough (and, no offense, with good reason) to even sit down and talk to you.

          • Scott

            Sadly you are right about Christians who have abused your (the LGBT community) ability to trust. That is not what Jesus would have wanted.

            Jesus does speak out against sexual sin in the New Testament… I think a good theologian might conclude that all sexual sin is equal in the eyes of God. If that is the case than you and I are the same. Remember I was an atheist like you for many years. I would point you to John 8: 1-11 (you probably know it). It is only through the blood of Christ that we may find redemption. I have chosen to repent for my sins and have worked to change my life. You may or may not choose such a path but I would invite you none the less. If you chose not to, it is not my place to condemn you. Condemnation is God’s alone. I cannot live like you but why can’t WE live. Why can’t we go to different wedding ceremonies? We don’t had to participate in the same religious ceremonies but why can’t we have coffee together? We can live in the same communities can’t we?

            I will say it again, common ground can be found if we look. Fear not! : )

          • Phoenix1977

            You chose to repent for your sins. I chose to refuse to be called a sinner completely. By refusing to believe in a god the sinner argument disappears, as well as the “need” to repent.

            You have no idea how difficult it is to live in the same community as Christians for a gay non-Christian man. Let me paint you a picture.
            One of my former classmates from (Christian) High School is now a Christian politician in our parliament. Since we work in the same cities and we even share some committees (him as a politician, me as a doctor) we bump into each other regularly. And the very first thing he says to me, every single time we meet, is: “Has the Lord cured you of your illness yet?”. Even before greeting. Every single time since my coming out. And the first few dozen times I tried to explain things to him, reason with him, etc. But I stopped doing that. I ignore his derogatory comment nowadays. Or reply with: “Hello …., nice to see you too.”. So, even though we used to be friends and spent time together (I even know his wife and like her quite a bit as a friend) I stopped hanging out with him. Why on earth would I spend time with someone who diminishes me with every second sentence he says? Last time I tried to have an actual conversation with him was when his wife was pregnant. So I asked him how she was doing and if they were exited t become parents, his first response was: “Well, it’s difficult to explain to someone like you since you will never know this joy”.

            And I can tell you many, many, many more stories like this. Like how my upstairs neighbor tried to have me and my ex-partner evicted from our apartment because he didn’t want to live in the same building as “a couple of filthy, god-defying fags”. Or how my previous car was keyed, with verses from Leviticus scratched into the paint. Or how another former classmate of mine committed suicide because his very Christian mother told him it would be better if he were dead instead of gay.

            So, please, tell me how on earth LGBTs can ever live in the same communities as Christians when all we ever get from Christians is verbal and/or physical abuse? Or explain to me why we would even want to.

          • Scott

            I am very sorry for the pain your ex-friend has caused you. I would say most of us who have not struggled with same sex attraction, cannot understand it. This is most assuredly true of your friend. I am no psychiatrist but I would guess that the combination of lack of understanding and fear have led to some degree of pain for him as well. Please note that this is only a guess.
            Pain and fear can lead us to do unthinkable things. Jesus alludes to this in the bible as well. You must remember that Christians are broken people that are not exempt from either.
            I also can tell you that I know many more Christians that share my viewpoint. We believe that God loves ALL people so much that he sent Jesus to die for our sins. We do not believe persecuting others is the example we have been given to follow. You may live next door to me and I would neither physically or verbally abuse you. I might even invite you over for coffee… The only thing you might not like about me is that I would share the gospel. I would not however, continue to beat you over the head with it. : ) But I would pray for you (as I am doing now) in my spare time. Does this sound like such a bad neighbor. I would wager that we might even agree about some current issues.
            Please don’t fall victim to condemning a group of people for the actions of a few. History provides us with a few helpful reminders of why not to do this. If I have not persecuted or condemned you in our conversation, then let me be the example of a Christian who has

          • Phoenix1977

            Scott,
            You might be a nice guy. I have no idea. And I will never find out because if you were my neighbor and you invited me for coffee I would politely decline. Because I wouldn’t trust you. Because I’m not condemning a group over a few; I’m condemning a group over a lot. I’m turning 40 this year and in my 40 years I have only met a handful of Christians who might share your views and several hundreds who would not. I have learned, the hard way, to keep Christians at a safe distance and I literally have the scars to remind me of that.
            The problem is, I gave you one example but I have dozens more, most of them from personal experience, some experienced by people close to me.
            So yes, I have been damaged. But that damage isn’t the cause of my “same-sex attraction”, as some (Christian) psychologist nowadays claim. It’s the result of it, by Christians. As a result, I will always look at Christians with apprehension and distrust. And I’m not alone in that; the same goes for a lot of LGBTs. Just because you are a nice guy doesn’t mean all Christians are. Like I said, I speak from experience.

          • Scott

            Trust is earned so fair enough. By virtue of continuing our conversation and disclosing personal information you have offered a degree of trust. For that I am grateful. If you wouldn’t have coffee with me then at least you and I were able to have a civil conversation here. J

            I have noticed that you are a frequent poster on Breakpoint. If John and Eric can’t change your mind about Christians, than it is likely that I will not be able to either. I do have a couple of questions though. Why do you read their articles?
            Also, before I go back to our original topic, might I ask why you don’t believe in God (or a god)? I don’t want to presume the answers to these questions.

          • Phoenix1977

            I hope you don’t be offended (or anyone else here on this site) but the main reason why I read articles on (religious) conservative websites is the ancient dogma: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. For most LGBTs it’s to keep taps on how religious conservatives threaten our existence and our right to live our lives.
            And I don’t believe in a god (any god) because it doesn’t fit my world view. Take one look at what is happening nowadays in the world. Where do you see the influence of a loving god in that? Humanity is destroying this planet at record speed; today there are more species extinct than ever walked the earth simultaneously and people kill each other for a smallest disagreement.
            The Church preaches forgiveness and love but at the same time gives people excuse for hatred and fear. On Sunday people hold hands while on Monday they have those same hands on each other’s throats. And those of us who are supposed to be the best humanity has to offer (those who serve your god in the churches) prove to be the worst of the worst, taking advantage of everyone weaker than themselves, including children.
            Add to it my sexuality. I truly believe I was born this way, especially when looking back at my life, which, by your believes, would mean your god made me this way. But at the same time your god doesn’t want me to be that way. So either your god made a mistake (which is, according to the bible, impossible) or he wants to torture me (and why would I praise a god who likes to torture people?) or he doesn’t mind I’m gay at all (and if that’s the case, what else is the Church wrong about?).
            All of that got me to the following conclusion:
            – Your god does not exist;
            – Your god is not loving but malevolent
            – Your god is not omnipotent and infallible at all
            – Your god simply doesn’t care
            In either case your god is not worth my devotion, attention or time, so he won’t get it. And as soon as I reached that conclusion I could stop trying to reconciling all the contradicting elements and my self-loathing as a gay man and I could finally be happy.

          • Scott

            First of all Phoenix, I can’t thank you enough for your honesty… your answer is more than I could’ve hoped for. I am encouraged that you were willing to answer my questions and continue our conversation. Since I have drank coffee during some the time I’ve spent replying to your messages, would it be ok for me to pretend that that you have accepted my invitation to coffee and conversation? J

            Aslo you might consider me a religious conservative, but it is my hope that in the end you would not consider me an enemy. As a Christian I would like to convince you that it is not my goal to either threaten your existence or the right to live your life. At the very least I would like to offer you another point of view to consider when you hear the word Christian.

            After reading your response carefully, I decided I couldn’t possibly respond to all your objections in one reply and do them or you any justice. So I will focus on the first question you posed in the second paragraph: “Where do you see the influence of a loving God…?” This is an ancient argument and much has been written about it. I was recently given a book by Francis S. Collins entitled “The Language of God.” In his book he uses the metaphor of pouring pure water in a rusty cup. It is not the water’s fault that it is contaminated by the cup. The pure message of the gospel is carried in impure containers. Your experience might confirm this metaphor.

            Another point to consider is that you simply can’t acknowledge only the bad while ignoring the good. Since Moses led the Jews out from under their oppressors in Egypt, there have been countless acts of good. A few examples might be Corie Ten Boom, William Wilberforrce, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa and the list goes on. All these people did great things for justice in the name of Christ. There is also the point that Christians don’t corner the market on oppression and evil deeds. I think we could both name some pretty infamous atheists as well. In Francis’ book he mentions the failed Marxists experiments and Moa’s China to name a few. While it is true that “the existence of religious oppression and hypocrisy is profoundly sobering,” the truth is we should evaluate God as the water not the rusty container.

            As a Christian I want you to know that your value to God is no different than my own. I also want to be as respectful as I can when I share my view points with you so please let me know if I am at least achieving the correct level of respect. Also please let me know if this reply is helpful in describing Christianity in a fresh perspective? Some of the books I have mentioned (here and in some of my other replies) might do a better job of articulating these thoughts more clearly. I am sorry I did not address the rest of your points, but I figured this might be a good start. We can continue if you wish. : )

          • Scott

            Thank you for sharing some of the experiences that have shaped why you feel the way you do about Christianity. I would tell you that I converted to Christianity because my experience with Christians has been polar opposite to yours. In answer to your question about living in the same communities, I would say that the Christians I know (am close with) in the community I live would not treat you this way…

            My elementary school experience was more like a war zone than a place to learn. I was the subject of torment and violence because my skin color made me a minority and I was quiet/different from most of the other boys. I suffered (almost daily) beatings until one of my sympathetic friends taught me to fight back. I was a product of abuse and violence. Once I learned how defend myself, I quickly learned to use this new found power for vengeance. I became exactly like the kids that abused me, taking those scars with me into young adulthood. Sadly I would have been likely to verbally (if not physically) abuse someone like you simply because violence was how I learned to change the people around me. Violence truly does incite more violence.

            When I converted, the Christian message presented to me was one of peace and love (very different than the one you received). I also believe that the anger/hate/violence imposed upon you at the hands of Christians pushed you away from Christianity. I would also tell your story to all of Christianity as a warning to what can happen when we deviate from Christ’s teaching to “love our neighbor as ourself.” No where in the New Testament does it say beat the hell out of the opposition until they submit to you. In fact Jesus’ overwhelming message is one of love. If we as Christ followers want to win the hearts of people who do not believe, then we must follow the model Jesus left us with…

            I will pray that you meet more Christians who have Jesus’ love in their heart. If you haven’t, please read the New Testament and consider His message for yourself. If nothing else, you will gain a deeper understanding of who Christians are called to follow…

            To finish answering your question about living in the same community, I would tell you Christians believe in the dignity of all human life, we are all made in the image of God. Because God loves all his creation, we are called to love as Christ loved us. This includes His willingness to pay for our sins on the cross. Christ did not persecute, He did not hate, He did not commit acts of violence, instead He healed, He taught, and most of all, He loved. A neighborhood filled with people like this would be a safe place don’t you think?

            If God existed, if heaven and hell existed, would you wager your eternity against a material life on earth? I know you believe He does not, but neither you nor I can prove our differing belief about His existence. As a Christian I don’t want to change your behavior, instead I want you to win your salvation by choosing Jesus. My job is to point you towards a loving creator… not push you away from Him. I know that I am not the judge of you, I am simply a messenger who comes out of love not fear or hate. In the end I know that I can’t change your mind or make you do anything against your will so I will respect you by not trying to impose or force my will on you. The books I have suggested earlier are good examples of the peaceful Christianity I describe. They are quite different from the abusive violence you have experienced. Please let me invite you to read them. A peaceful invitation from a peaceful Christian. You may read them in the peaceful environment of your home away from the threat of persecution.

          • Scott

            One last thought… we are all born sinners, that is our nature. We always have a choice and usually if it is a difficult choice, it is one of consequence.

  • jason taylor

    Whether or not we should care whether or not the Tennes family should sell their blueberries, Phoenix, we should care if someone is extending anti-discrimination laws to inordinate lengths. It is far more important that a man’s home be his castle then whether a gay marriage ceremony be held there instead of somewhere else. If I were to pass out tracts at a gay bar the manager has a perfect right to have the bouncer throw me out on my ear, despite the fact that I happen to think the eternal destiny of gay people is more important then their night of pleasure and am exercising my freedom of religion. The reason would be that it is not my bar as it was not the prospective couple’s blueberry farm.

    • Phoenix1977

      Personally I think that bouncer would do you a favor by throwing you out. Present days LGBTs might not take so kindly to you trying to “save” them. Actually, I think most gay men and women believe they need to be saved from you, not by you. Ever seen the movie “Stonewall”, about what led to the Stonewall riots and especially what happened during those riots?

  • Scott

    Phoenix 1977,

    Christians act out of love, compassion and obedience to God. We are more akin to the likes of Mother Theresa, William Wilberforce, Jackie Robinson, and millions more like them. If you were to read about the life of Jesus, you would know that He was not a violent war monger but taught non violence to His disciples. Christians are more likely to be martyred than to act out violently if they are obedient to Jesus’ teaching in the bible. The Karma you refer to is fictitious to us and seems more likely to haunt someone like Adolf Hitler. Hitler would be the opposite of how a Christian would behave and should be considered an agent of evil. Christians also believe in good and evil. Intensionally causing harm to someone would be considered evil. Your anger seems more akin to someone like him.

    I challenge you to read about the Christians I mentioned above. Read the New Testament and C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and then you might gain an understanding of what it really means to be Christian.

    I will pray for God’s peace and love to find you.

    • Joseph

      Scott, it’s certainly no sign of a good Christian to compare people who disagree with you to Adolf Hitler. With such extreme rhetoric, people will stop taking you seriously.

      • Scott

        I think you know that I am not comparing you to Hitler. The hate and anger in Hitler’s heart drove him to do the things he did. We all have the capacity for this very same hate and we can give into it without committing historic atrocities. Hate is the enemy, not you.

        I also do not condemn you for disagreeing with me… we simply disagree and I was articulating my opposing view point.

        • Joseph

          When you write to Phoenix “Your anger seems more akin to someone like him,” the “him” reads to refer to Hitler. No? Just making that point.

          I agree we all have the capacity to hate, but I think the hate of Hitler stands out as quite extreme. We all have the capacity to love, but we shouldn’t pretend we’re all Mother Teresa!

          • Scott

            Also note that I said “Your anger” and not “you.” Hopefully you are not defined by your anger. Hate escalates in our heart if we entertain it. Not all people find themselves in the unique position Adolf Hitler was when he let his hate escalate into the historic atrocities it produced.

          • Scott

            Phoenix is not Hitler just like I am not Mother Theresa. But my goal is to practice love so that I could one day be known for love rather than the opposite.

    • Phoenix1977

      Well, Scott, you certainly aren’t describing the Christians I unhappily met and suffered, or the Christians who massacred an entire race while discovering Latin America or even the Christians who forced people to convert in Thailand and Indonesia in order to get food and blankets after the 2004 tsunami. There was no love or compassion there and if there was obedience to your god that only proves I truly want nothing to do with that entity.

      If I would read about your Jesus I would read nothing more than very well orchestrated propaganda dating back to the the First Council of Nicaea in 325. And you can be very sure the Church destroyed anything that can question the decisions made during that meeting. So I’ll pass, thank you.

      Believe it or not but I actually was raised as a Christian until I discovered the giant loopholes in church teachings, rulings and law, not to mention the constant backstabbing, gossiping and attempts to isolate and destroy anyone who was not 100% on board with the course set by the Church. “Devide and conquer”, or better, “devide and destroy” could very well be the mantra of the Church. Add in the mix I do like to think for myself instead of following blindly (very big no-no in most branches of Christianity, especially the more orthodox ones), the state the world is in under the omnipotent watch of a “loving” god (I wonder what the world would be like should your god be malevolent if a loving god allows things to get this out of hand) and, not entirely unimportant, my sexuality and I came to the conclusion not only was Christianity not for me but I consider it the main reason why humanity is unable to achieve peace and reach it’s full potential.

      So chances of me returning to Christianity: less than 0% Your god can keep it’s peace. I don’t want anything from it.

      • Scott

        Perhaps you might consider a different viewpoint.

        First of all I am sorry for the the bad experience you had. Christians are people… and people sin. Even the best of us do. You should have been treated better by those who claim to act in the name of Christ.

        First addressing the “Christians who massacred an entire race while discovering Latin America…” If you are acting in accordance to Jesus teaching, you just don’t massacre. People are sinful by nature and that includes all Christians. There are people who would use any excuse (including hiding behind God) for personal gain… I would argue there are more non-Christians than Christians who fall to this temptation. If you are speaking of European imperial conquest, I might argue that most Royalty (as well as the cultural elite) acted out of a desire for power and wealth. Many faithful Christians at that time spoke up but were brushed aside because they had little or no power and their message ran contrary to this sinful desire. Just read about William Wilberforce. He worked tirelessly in the name of Christ towards abolishing the slave trade at a time when imperial England was at the height of its power (a battle he eventually won). His is a story worth reading. It seems to me that human desire for self gain stands in the way of the oppressed rather than Christianity. I wonder if this is the reason everyone celebrated Eric Liddell’s gold medal in the olympics but very few know about his greatest accomplishment in China. People tend to forget those who sacrifice for others while remembering those who finish on top.

        I’m sorry you are not willing to read about Jesus in the New Testament. I would say that education is important to an informed opinion. To read an argument from both view points helps us to understand those who might think differently. There is also a good book called “Cold Case Christianity” written by J. Warner Wallace. He investigated the evidence against Christianity in hopes of proving it false. Wallace began his investigation as an atheist and finished a Christian, then wrote a book about it. In his book he addresses your claim against the First Council of Nicaea. The most telling piece of evidence in my opinion is that 11 (Judas replacement being Matthias) of the 12 disciples were martyred for their faith. Why would someone die for a cause that did not bring them personal gain?

        I do believe you were raised as a Christian… believe it or not I wasn’t. For many years I was as you, an atheist. The “constant backstabbing, gossiping and attempts to isolate and destroy…” exist everywhere. Not just in the church. My grandfather (an agnostic by the way) used to tell me “Where ever you go, there you are.” I thought his saying was stupid until many years after he died when I finally understood what he meant. We take with us all our baggage… our pain and suffering, our anger, our bias and everything else our dirty little hearts collect over the years. Some of what we carry is imposed upon us and some of it is self induced.

        As for humanity… The problem isn’t with God. It’s with people. We lust for pleasure (power, greed and self indulgence) at the expense of everything else. Jesus’ message stands diametrically opposed to our selfish greed. He asks us instead to love others at the expense of our selfishness. Not a popular message with those who seek worldly gratification. Imagine a humanity based on selfless giving rather than what we have now… I believe the world would look quite different.

      • Just one of many voices

        Thanks again, for sharing details behind your worldview. It helps me make sense of your comments & take you more seriously.

        At 33 years, my eyes are still being opened to how rare a church and family I was raised in. I’ve always known these judging, hateful, “devide & conquer” (is there a reason you spelled divide with an e?) churches are out there, but I’ve just never been in one.

        And the churches I’ve been a part of actually encourage their members very highly to think critically, outside the box, and question for themselves whether or not the words being taught from the pulpit are true.

        “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1

        • Phoenix1977

          Form my experience your story is more exception than rule.

          Oh, and my spelling of “divide” is probably because I’m not a native English speaker 🙂

          • Just one of many voices

            Exactly what I was getting at when I said “how rare a church and family I was raised in.” Notice the word RARE 🙂

  • jason taylor

    Oh and Phoenix, YOU did not suffer “2000 years of oppression” for being gay. Technically not even your ancestors did as that is not biologically possible. Those who you take as you’r spiritual ancestors at times individually suffered oppression, and at other times were simply ignored and at other times they were persecuted for the sake of honor rather then Christianity(it is amazing how people think that because the Church was a political institution in the past, people then were all morbidly ascetic). In any event none of them suffered “2000 years of oppression”. YOU only suffered as much oppression as YOU suffered, and you do not get to claim vengeance on people you do not know for the sake of people you also do not know. If you do not wish to live by those rules you can move to Albania where there is plenty of vengeance-seeking going on. And for the record, everyone has oppressed ancestors dating far back before 2000 years seeing as the vast majority of humanity were and are oppressed and the oppression took worse forms then anything you can imagine in your normal life. You can live as a citizen and not claim a blood-oath for your cousin’s, cousin’s, cousin’s great-grampa, or you can live like a tribesman. But you cannot do both.

    • Phoenix1977

      You have no idea what I suffered so let’s not go there.

  • jason taylor

    Joseph, if your concept of law is “laws change, don’t like it change it back” then you are simply appealing to unlimited power which is a dangerous appeal to make as it trusts either in your infinite ability to maintain power, my infinite courtesy, or the infinite possibility of power never being in the hands of a third person who does not share my courtesy. If I were you I should consider placing some trust in laws that were changed at the Constitution and before that at the Great Charter and before that in Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, and in umpteen Moots, Things, Councils, and whatnots and and for which the changing is tyranny. I am not accusing YOU personally of wanting to strike down all that has been achieved. I am only saying that that is the effect of simply saying “laws change” and the saying of it flings away protections that you might have want of. Or when the last of THESE laws is struck down and the devil turns round on you where will you hide?

    • Phoenix1977

      I have a different question for you. Do you actually believe the LGBT community would allow you to change the law back?

      • jason taylor

        You mean back to the law that people should be able to decide for themselves who goes on their property and for what purpose? Nope. What does that tell you?

        • Phoenix1977

          No, back to the situation where same-sex couples aren’t allowed to get married. Someone running a public business never had the luxury to decide who is and isn’t allowed on his property. That’s only possible if you keep your property private, meaning you should not have a business located there.

          • Joel Stucki

            But the question isn’t “who is allowed on the property.” The question is “what is allowed to happen on the property.” THAT, my friend, is still and always has been the province of the business owner. Whether it’s a civil rights issue or not, the owner of the business has a right to decide what events and activities will take place on the property and also what activities, causes, etc. the business will participate in or be involved with offsite.

          • Phoenix1977

            So you say a business owner is allowed to refuse blacks couples? Or interracial couples? Before you answer: if a business owner would do that he would be shut down and rightfully so.
            If you operate a business that means in 32 states you are required, by law, to offer the same products and services to everyone. So no picking and choosing as an entrepreneur: offering your farm as a wedding venue for opposite-sex couples means, at least in Michigan, you are required to offer your farm as wedding venue for same-sex couples as well because, under the law, there is no difference anymore between the two. Just as “equal in the eyes of the law” means your religion doesn’t give you a pass to discriminate. The US Supreme Court established that in the 1960s already when people tried to reinstate racial segregation with religion as an argument.

    • Joseph

      It’s funny how quickly “law-and-order” types in the party of “personal responsibility” change when they decide they don’t feel like following the law…Not sure if you’re one of those folks, Jason, but it is a trend on one side of the spectrum 🙂

  • AtTheCrossroads

    Phoenix1977: “But regardless of that discussion, marriage is a law and laws are not the area religion has a say in. Only the government does. And the law was changed to allow same-sex couples to get married just as opposite-sex couples are. Bringing us back to the begining of the comment: everybody is equal in the eyes of the law and therefor has to obey the same laws, without exception.”

    What’s in a name? Everything! So if I choose to name my soda shop “Starbuck’s”; that really doesn’t make it a Starbuck’s . . . and Starbuck’s has every right to be troubled (ie. file a massive lawsuit) and do what it can to stop me from confusing what Starbuck’s is.

    Now I know you don’t accept this any more than you accept that there are significant differences between men and women . . . but the fact is Christian Marriage is significantly different from same-sex “marriage”. It has always been more than the uniting of any two (or more?) people who “love” and want to have sex with one another (sorry to be crass). Christian Marriage, that which has been defined within Western Civilization for hundreds of years and within Judeo/Christian communities since their existence, has much more to it . . . by definition. The reason Western governments have historically had an interest in protecting and promoting this limited definition is very well defended by studies that show it (Christian Marriage) to be the best recipe for societal strength, stability and growth.

    So regardless of whether our regressive Western Government has decided to abandon its support for this thing called Christian Marriage, Christians (and anyone else for that matter) retain the right to define marriage according to their closely held religious beliefs. This freedom also allows us to define a wedding as a ceremony that celebrates Christian Marriage. Thus, if a Christian photographer, cake decorator, property owner, etc. does not want to provide services to a ceremony that directly undermines the definition of Christian Marriage, the government is prohibited by the First Amendment from forcing them to do so.

    A Muslim deli owner can choose to sell all kinds of meat except pork because it is offensive for him to do so. Even if a law is passed that all pork must now be referred to as beef . . . it is not beef according to the deli owner’s religious belief. To force him to sell it, no matter what it is called, violates his freedom of religious expression.

    There is a reason freedom of religion is the first protection in the Bill of Rights. It is because religion has to do with an individual’s conscience . . . not just what he believes, but what he believes to be right vs wrong. When government is given authority over conscience all freedom is lost . . . even for those who foolishly worked to undermine it.

    You don’t have to agree with me that Christian Marriage is importantly different than same-sex “marriage”. But you have to grant me the freedom to believe it is, and act accordingly . . . just as I grant the same freedom to you.