I’m an Indiana boy at heart. Born, raised, educated. Though I may be embarrassed in this moment, overall I love this state. Hoosiers are hard-working people. Good people. In the wake of Governor Pence signing a "Religious Freedom Bill," I see many people want to #BoycottIndiana. Please don’t. At least not entirely.
When I was 22, I moved to New York City after leaving a staff position at a church here in Indiana. A year later, I came out as gay. After two and a half years in the city, I moved back to Indiana after getting a Master’s degree.
I’m openly gay and still consider myself Christian. It’s hard. Many people don't think that's even possible. I still struggle with reconciling both identities. Sometimes I wonder if I gave up too early, or if the Lord handed me over to my sinful desires (as many Christians think). All I know is I’m happier now. I no longer plan out how I’ll take my life as I lay my head down at night.
But as a gay Christian, I’m torn about this new Indiana law. I understand why so many people are praising the governor, and why so many are bashing him. Last week I was talking about the bill with my mother and we got in a heated debate after I called it “stupid.” But it got me thinking. Is it entirely stupid? Or just parts of it? As a gay man with Christian values living in Indiana, what do I think?
I want to preface the rest of this post by saying I'm speaking mostly about Christians wanting to be protected under this new bill. Some of what I'll say here is speaking to a Christian audience/ I'm playing Devil's Advocate a bit. So keep that in mind.
Do I think a church should be forced to conduct a same-sex marriage? No. They shouldn't have to. Should a baker have to put a picture of Jesus on a cake if they find it offensive? No, I don’t think so either. What people are concerned with about this "Religious Freedom Bill" is that it will allow business owners not to serve me an ice cream cone because I’m gay. Or that they'll post “No Gays Allowed” signs in sidewalk windows.
The bakery example is realistic. A bakery in Indianapolis refused to make a cake for a gay couple and got lots of backlash, as well as support. But I have to ask myself: Will business owners who refuse service to gays/ gay couples be consistent in who they won't offer services to?
Will Christian bakers ask parents if the child they're baking a cake for was born out of wedlock? Because that wouldn't line-up with Christian values. Or will they ask those buying a cake if they've had an impure thought recently? Or used the Lord’s name in vain? Will a Christian wedding photographer who won't photograph a gay wedding ask the heterosexual couples they work for if they sleep together before marriage? Because that's against the Christian faith, too.
The Bible says all sins are equal, so why is it that those who believe being gay is a sin seem to think it’s the worst sin? If people won't serve customers who don't live by the same rules of their religion: good luck staying in business. Jesus would be your only customer because He alone is sinless.
Boycotting businesses that do not serve everyone is one thing. But boycotting an entire state of people may be affecting some of the wrong people. Many businesses in Indiana are concerned how this will affect them even if they do serve everyone. Tanking Indiana’s economy would send a message to Gov. Pence, true. But I fear for the livelihoods of the hardworking, welcoming Hoosiers whom the #BoycottIndiana could effect.
I know all this backlash is new – the bill was just signed – and it may not amount to "No Gays Allowed" signs or doomsday for Indiana gays. It might, but it might not. I just fear boycotting my state as a whole isn't a great idea.
Let’s not boycott all businesses in Indiana, or try to bust the state’s economy overall. If you had plans to visit: come! There's lots to see and do. But let’s choose to spend our money at Indiana businesses welcoming to all customers.
There will always be people we want to call “stupid,” they'll call us "stupid," too. But let's not punish the neighbors of the "stupid" people, because they may not think along the same narrow lines.
Business owners: You may have the right not to serve me, but I have the right to spend my money at a business that will.