THE US EQUALITY ACT – A time to be insalted!
A Word of Encouragement to the Church of America
by Rev Richard Baird – head of Church and Culture
The House Democrats joined by three Republicans on Thursday, 25 February 2021, approved the Equality Act, which aims to expand anti-discrimination laws to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The bill passed 224-206 and was touted by Democrats as a historic stride toward fairness.
The Equality Act would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.
The Equality Act would amend existing civil rights law—including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government—to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sex.
WHAT WILL IT MEAN FOR THE CHURCH?
Christian Headlines (https://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/things-christians-should-know-about-the-equality-act.html) explores 4 things Christians should know about the Equality Act
IT ENDANGERS CHURCH CULTURE
Among the many things the Equality Act endangers, the church is one of them. If the Equality Act passes, Churches will no longer be able to hire someone based on their beliefs. What this means is that a church could not deny hiring someone because they are an Atheist or because they live a life contradictory to the church’s beliefs.
This also means that churches, like all other institutions, will not be allowed to segregate restrooms or locker rooms based on sex, a move that could increase the risk to young girls and women in public or shared restrooms in all venues.
According to Focus on the Family, if the Equality Act passes, the same will be true for other organizations as well, including adoption agencies, wedding venues, florists, bakers and photographers.
- IT ENCOURAGES THE SUPPRESSION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
According to The Hill, the Equality Act moves to elevate the protection of LGBT people over people of faith. If enacted, the Equality Act will prevent religious people from denying a service, employment, housing or public accommodations among other things, to LGBT persons, despite the fact that homosexuality contradicts their religious beliefs.
Alliance Defending Freedom’s Sarah Kramer summed up the effects of the act on religious people by putting it simply. In a statement on the ADF website Kramer wrote, “Essentially, the Equality Act gives people of faith an ultimatum: Change your faith-based practices or face government punishment.”
IT WILL OBLITERATE WOMEN’S RIGHTS
While the LGBT community might feel like there is something to celebrate with the Equality Act, feminists – both radical and liberal – are speaking out against the legislation. The Equality Act is seeking to make “gender identity” a covered category under the Civil Rights Act. By doing this, the protected category of “sex” is being eliminated. This means that all of the strides women have made in society to advance women’s rights and protections, are going out the window.
IT WILL AFFECT YOUR KIDS
Not only will the Equality Act allow male students to enter female restrooms, but it will also hinder parents’ authority over their children.
OUR ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE CHURCH OF AMERICA
As a disclaimer we would like to make it clear that we do not endorse this act and that we salute those who are seeking legal ways to oppose this law. We believe that it is the vulnerable who will be harmed through this legislation, and that the ideology behind it needs to be challenged.
However, the Church needs to respond in such a way that honours our Lord, and that we do NOT resort to playground tactics of name calling and demonising. There is no doubt that this law will introduce many challenges to the church and will require wisdom and much prayer. I (Richard) think that what Roe vs Rade was to abortion and it’s subsequent effect on culture, this Equality Act will have a similar impact in terms of LGTBQ+ and culture. To our brothers and sisters in America: how you respond will speak far more powerfully than with what you respond.
It’s a tough issue to deal with. There is no denying that historically the Church has dealt with members of the LGTBQ+ community in distinctly unchristian ways. We also recognise that if Christians want to have rights, then those with different ideological views also need to have rights.
But what do you do when rights collide?
There are no easy answers to difficult questions, but here, according to Scripture, is what we encourage our brothers and sisters in America to do. Know that we love and appreciate you, and we are praying that you will be given wisdom from above in fulfilment of God’s promise to give to all who ask (James 1:5&6).
Brothers and sisters, we encourage you …
To be faithful.
As followers of a crucified Christ, let us remember that our mandate is to share our faith over and above defending it. Let us not forget that, as Landa Cope so aptly put it, that we are not the Jews in Jerusalem but the believers in Babylon. Our calling is to be light in the midst of darkness. We do not curse darkness nor demand light, but seek to provide light when darkness enters.
In his devotional Salt and Light, author Chris Tiegreen puts it this way, “We are meant to be present and active without being ostentatious, effective without being overbearing, and influential without seeking power.”
We encourage you as followers of Christ to BE witnesses and DECLARE redemption – more so than ever before! We pray that through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit you shall indeed introduce Christ to a broken world, regardless of safety, security or comfort. Our early church heroes are watching (Hebrews 12:1), and when they faced laws that sent them to prison (far worse than what we would encounter), they simply stuck to their mandate and shared the good news. They didn’t oppose the law, they didn’t demonise their leaders and they had no concern about their own safety. Remember how Paul kept on admonishing the Church to live a holy life representative of a loving Saviour and at the same time kept on preaching redemption and forgiveness of sins to the unbelievers? May God grant you the same capacity!
Whilst safety concerns are legitimate, especially with respect to vulnerable children (the web is saturated with articles on Christians expressing safety concerns in the light of this Act), we pray that God will enable you to place redemptive concerns first, knowing that you can indeed trust Him to look after you in the manner He sees best. Be inspired by the example of the early church in Acts 4:23-31 and know that we serve the same God. He shall enable you through the trial; that is His promise.
For the early church persecution was normal Christianity. They witnessed it on the cross, they experienced it when they preached, and they taught it in their fellowships. Jesus said it, they believed it and that settled it.
2. To see the individual behind the ideology
If we truly believe this, as a unique Christian confession, that we are created Imago Dei – in the image of God – then it surely means that we were created to image God – to reflect Him and to carry with us something of His divine, forgiving, merciful, humble, serving and gracious character.
But we are not just to reflect God, but also recognizing Him in every human being we encounter, especially those who believe differently, live differently and think differently.
340 million Christians worldwide currently experience high levels of persecution as a normal way of life. It is the natural consequence of a faithful life. Amazingly, the most common prayer requests you will hear from the persecuted church is to pray for their persecutors! The persecutors are caught in false ideas and need to be rescued by seeing the light of Christ. To pray for the persecutors is to pray to a God who can change a Saul into a Paul.
We encourage you to pray for those who oppose you, to see the soul behind the concept. Retaliate with love: God will show you how! This leads us to our third encouragement to you:
3. Be in-salt-ing
- Insalting: the action of selflessly spreading the flavour of Christ
- Insalted: the blessing of receiving the flavour of Christ
In Acts 8:3 the words that that Jesus spoke when He declared that His followers are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth.), came true: Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
Salt is a useless commodity if it remains in a container. It still has flavour in itself but it does not produce any flavour outside the container. Salt is only of value if it is scattered, absorbed and dissolved- and it does so selflessly. Christians can only produce flavour once it is scattered – and maybe this act will allow the Church to be scattered like salt and flavour the community with a new Christ awareness
In Acts 2:4 the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately and sacrificially poured themselves out to provide flavour to their local communities. They had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus and with this supreme example of the selfless love displayed on the cross, they knew what it meant to be salt. They did not demonise Herod, villainise the Romans, storm buildings, criticise their oppressors or even see themselves as victims of an evil empire. They didn’t engage in conspiracy theories, protests or complaints. They simply penetrated the society and continued to BE the salt of the earth as Jesus proclaimed– and thousands were added to the Kingdom.
They brought flavour at their own expense. This is what salt does. Nothing more, nothing less
Brothers and sisters in America: we pray for and we pray with you. We pray that you will be granted wisdom to use your democratic rights to the fullest extent possible to fight this ideology, and we also pray that you will be faithful, that you will see the lost souls behind the ideologies, and that you will be insalting.
We love and appreciate you – you are not alone!