Community Conversation: Christians don't have corner on the morality market

August 17, 2013 

I love that in America, we allow people to be different. We enjoy religious diversity and freedom in this country precisely because we require a secular basis for our laws. Attempts to get around that are regularly defeated in U.S. courts, with constitutional justification.

In the context of the Arlene’s Flowers issue, it is not only necessary but also wise to support a law that requires all businesses to treat customers of protected classes no differently than any other.

It is heartening that a majority of Washington voters agreed with the idea that our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family members deserve equal treatment, and authorized same-sex marriages. It’s likely a majority of the nation also agrees.

Most people now understand that gay children are born to straight parents every day, and that it is wrong to bully them. Bullying is never acceptable, even when vulnerable children have grown up and want flower arranging for their same-sex wedding.

I’m thankful that people with the same point of view as Community Conversation participants who supported the flower shop’s owner, Barronelle Stuztman, are a minority in our state. It was eye-opening to listen to their reasoning, as it failed at every level. They spoke a bit about individuals having the right to do what they want in this land of the free, but mostly they appeared to be concerned about Western civilization descending into a pit of amorality. In their interpretation of life, anything done that treats lesbians and gays with dignity puts their eternal souls at risk.

That is a rather paradoxical position to adopt as there are so many more references to the Golden Rule in their holy book that could carry more weight. Maybe more to the point, their expressed belief that morals are exclusively determined and justified by belief in the Bible is demonstrably in error.

These opponents to equality have an education and experience that is vastly different than mine. I don’t make the connection between an attribute you are born with, such as race, gender or sexual identity and “sin/damnation.” It is wrong for these groups to inflict their harmful practices on others, and that is exactly what they are asking us for permission to do. There were religiously justifications for “colored lunch counters” before the civil rights movement put a stop to it. I would not turn back the clock.

Does their slippery slope to amorality exist? Not at all.

Could there be a better measure of an era’s morality than the rate at which people of the era kill one another? Steven Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, makes the point effectively, that we are a much more peaceful world now, than at any other time in human history. He doesn’t attribute this to the Bible.

We live in a world that operates as a dynamic community, with ever-evolving values. It can hardly be argued that morals have not changed for the better since the Bible solemnized Bronze Age values on slavery, sexual practices and women’s rights.

That alone is sufficient to dismiss such claims of superiority, but evidence from recent research supports the hypothesis that babies as young as three months old discern right from wrong. This story was featured recently on 60 Minutes. That babies know right from wrong without reading from the Bible should come as no surprise, as billions of people around the world lead normal, moral lives without ever having seen a copy. It is hubris to argue differently.

Beyond letting go the unjustifiable moral judgments against our LGBT family members, let’s embrace the pluralist society that a nation of immigrants must be. We can only achieve this state of peace if we give up our need to enforce religious beliefs on others, be they Bible or Sharia-based, and chose to act so as not to harm others. Peace out.

Ivar Husa is an engineer, cartographer, craftsman and avid bird photographer

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