Like a dwindling storm finding a new gust of humidity, we’ve found the latest fuel for the conservative Christian portion of the internet rage tornado. And in a completely unsurprising development, it comes to us from US pop culture’s living monument to the amphetamine buzz, reality television. Recently HGTV announced that they were pulling the plug on a planned show featuring the house-flipping Benham brothers in light of their stance against what brother David called, “homosexuality and its agenda.” Much like during the brief suspension of Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson, a variety of voices attempting to represent conservative Christianity ranging from Pat Robertson to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal have called this incident an attack on religious liberty. Countless denizens of social media have taken up the cry, bemoaning what this means for American Christianity.
But conservative Christians, particularly those interested in GOP-influenced business and political models, should actually be thrilled by these developments. I don’t mean passively okay with it; I mean Pharrell dance video kind of happy. Why?
Because it’s the exact kind of religious liberty they’ve been asking for. The beautiful and terrible part of an impartial and secular set of guidelines is that it applies to everyone in the exact same way, even if you don’t like the other side. The United States is not the homeland of Christianity. Christianity, with its counterculture and rewiring of human greed, never was and never will be the default position of this culture or any other. Religious liberty is not the freedom to be Christian; it is simply the freedom to be. And that freedom is in the best interests of Christ, who desires that we turn to Him rather than being legislated into faking it.
If you think Hobby Lobby should have religious freedom to block contraception, then A&E and HGTV have to equally have the religious freedom to remove employees that go against the image or ideology they want. Though I struggle with the concept of corporate First Amendment rights, I am confident that to have one side you have to have the other. Anything less is unadulterated hypocrisy.
And I’m even more confident in how these rights apply to individuals and associations. If you want the freedom to criticize these business decisions, groups like Right Wing Watch have to have the freedom to call for dismissals. If you want the freedom to believe in a man from a desperately impoverished hometown who also happened to be God and came back from the dead, then those who don’t must have the freedom to say we are certifiably insane for doing so. In fact, the Savior we follow promised that they would. Anything less than this freedom exposes us as power-hungry hypocrites, desiring only to control a culture rather than let Christ transform it.