Denny Burk, a Southern Baptist theologian and pastor, gave expert testimony in the Baronnelle Stutzman case. Here he reflects on what it means. Excerpt:
When I was first asked to give testimony, I thought my role as an SBC pastor and seminary professor would simply be to enter into the record what Southern Baptists believe about marriage. But that is not at all what it turned out to be.
For an entire day, I sat across the table from attorneys representing the Washington Attorney General and the ACLU (two different attorneys because Ms. Stutzman is being sued by the state and by the gay couple that she was once friends with). These attorneys didn’t merely ask me what Southern Baptist believe. They tried to show that what Southern Baptists believe amounts to invidious discrimination.
I had to defend not only our denomination’s statement of faith (The Baptist Faith and Message) but also resolutions passed by our denomination going back 30 and 40 years. It was hostile questioning intended to discredit what Southern Baptists believe about marriage. They wanted to discredit us so that they could discredit her. And make no mistake, once they succeed in punishing her, others will use this precedent to punish the rest of us—and not just Southern Baptists but any person who dares to act on their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
This is important for traditional Christians. It might be more important than you think it is. The ACLU, most of the media, the legal establishment, the Democratic Party — they all hate us. I mean, hate us. If Barronelle Stutzman were a Muslim, we never would have heard of this story. She is a Southern Baptist, therefore she must be destroyed. To paraphrase Terry Mattingly, the Grand Unified Theory here is: The Religious Right Must Lose.
This will never end. It will never, ever end. Best get that learned now. This case is going all the way to the US Supreme Court, which will either refuse to hear it (in which case the Washington court’s ruling stands), or it will hear it and render a judgment. I would not bet money on that judgment going in Stutzman’s favor.
So, we have to fight where and how we can, but we also have to realize that we will probably lose. What then? If we have any courage at all, we are not going to compromise our consciences. What will we do? How will we pay the debts inflicted on us by our persecutors? How will we work again? How do you get along in a society in which the people who hold the greatest power think you are Public Enemy No. 1?
From The Benedict Option:
In the end, it comes down to what believers are willing to suffer for the faith. Are we ready to have our social capital devalued and lose professional status, including the possibility of accumulating wealth? Are we prepared to relocate to places far from the wealth and power of the cities of the empire, in search of a more religiously free way of life? It’s going to come to that for more and more of us. The time of testing is at hand.
“A lot of Christians see no difference between being faithfully Christian and being professionally and socially ambitious,” says a religious liberty activist. “That is ending.”
Like I keep saying: this may not be the end of the world, but it is the end of a world. When the might of the State of Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union comes down on the head of gentle, grandmotherly, small-town florist, and seeks her ruin for declining to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, you know that we are dealing with a bottomless well of hatred. You know exactly what we are dealing with here. So, prepare. We are all going to be asked to pay the cost of discipleship. When I interviewed her last summer, Stutzman said to me: “If they can come after me, they can go after anybody.”
True. Expect no justice, tolerance, mercy, or love in these matters. The Religious Right Must Lose. Alliance Defending Freedom, the religious liberty legal organization representing Barronnelle pro bono, is taking tax-free donations to help pay for her defense. If the US Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, or rules against her, the Christian community nationwide will need to step up to pay her fine, and to reward her for having stood in the crucible and held firm, despite the contempt heaped on her head. Today its Barronelle Stutzman; tomorrow it might be you. And one day, it probably will.
I’ll say one more thing here. As regular readers know, I do not like Donald Trump and do not like the glee with which so many of my fellow conservatives view his trashing of longstanding rules and conventions of political behavior. Trump is tearing things down, but what will be left after he’s done that? Having said that, when I contemplate a system and a society that is willing to pour everything it has into crushing a little old Southern Baptist lady who arranges flowers for a living, I find that I have very little enthusiasm for defending that system. A society that would do this to a Barronnelle Stutzman is a corrupt and unjust society. At times like this, it is hard not to adopt a “let the dead bury the dead” attitude toward the whole.
This is the woman the State of Washington, the ACLU, Rob Ingersoll, and Curt Freed are seeking to destroy. If they will do this to someone like her…: