"Can I tell you something?" he asked me.
How awkward was it, you ask? Look no further.
He went on to give a nod to the controversy surrounding the Arizona bill that Governor Brewer recently vetoed, and similar stories (look at the collective "meh" our society gave to Ellen Page's coming out last week), and the way they saturate so much of our current media. People are sick of hearing about it, he said, and the LGBT community reacts with such ferocity to such minor affronts, it's no wonder that something like the Ugandan situation should hardly merit a blip on their radar.**
Frankly, I kind of agree with him. From what little I can discern of what the Arizona bill actually says, as opposed to what people say about it (and even the link I've provided is partisan -- though, it seems, sound enough -- and doesn't help you find the bill's text easily), I honestly agree with Matt Walsh's view. It may well be that the language of the proposed bill was too broad, but the principle that people should be free to operate their businesses according to their consciences surely stands: private businesses are by definition not departments or extensions of the government, and the First Amendment applies to them as much as to anybody else. You don't charge a Jewish deli with religious bigotry because they won't cater Saturday's pork roast. Likewise, if, say, a gay couple want wedding pictures from a Christian (or Moslem, or Jewish) photographer, and he declines to provide this non-vital good or service, the photographer is within his rights, and the gay couple is perfectly free to find another photographer. The photographer may well also be a jerk about it, either forthrightly or in the privacy of his mind, but there are no laws against jerkdom, nor should there be.
That is the price of a free society. Some people believe that gay marriage, for example, is wrong, and therefore decline to imply otherwise by providing for its trappings; I don't know that I consider such a stand necessary, but other people's consciences are not my business (thanks be to God). However, I am fairly certain that no one's conscience binds them to receive non-vital goods and services from any specific person or business; and I have absolutely no sympathy with the perspective that being inconvenienced by having to find another business to patronize, is an evil commensurate with legally forcing someone else to choose between their principles and their livelihood.
You may, if you like, argue that the price of a free society is not worth paying. But let us at least be clear who is arguing in favor of what.
The fact that this bill, or the off-the-cuff words of the star of Duck Dynasty (who is of no importance whatsoever and never claimed to be), can cause a media sensation, while there has been approximately no reporting on the Ugandan tragedy -- except, as far as I can see, from a small handful of gay Christian blogs like this one, whose interest is topical and long-standing -- is an appalling commentary on the narcissism and frivolity of our nation. It would be pathetic if it weren't so ridiculous, and ridiculous if it weren't so pathetic. That Jim Crow laws have even been brought up in the same context as the Arizona bill is an outrageous insult to the plight that has afflicted blacks in this country, and should have shamed those who mentioned it into silence. Kidnapping, torture, slavery, and disfranchisement are in a different category from even the most intense distress that faces a wedding planner.
Slightly worse than checking the second page of Google search results.
My pastor friend (as I knew, and as he took the trouble of saying for clarity's sake) didn't mean by his remarks that the cruelty of the Ugandan bill was genuinely unimportant; his point was that the childish caterwauling over the Arizona bill, et al., was one of the things that made people, Christians included, unresponsive. The LGBT community has had a hand in making people sick of hearing about this through its own lack of perspective: not the only hand, and it's happened for understandable reasons, but a hand nonetheless. All the more reason to be intellectually and morally rigorous with ourselves first, and only after that start being rigorous with other people.
As for the Christian response, or rather, the lack of it -- I don't know that I can trust myself to write rationally. But I will say that no matter how tired one is of hearing of the afflictions of others, they are important in and of themselves. We are not omnipotent, and must accept that we cannot fix everything or help everyone. But what we must not do is be complacent. What we must not do is regard Uganda, or anything, as merely somebody else's problem.
Pictured: a real place that is not in America.
For Christians, there is no "somebody else." We know all others only through Christ, the Second Adam; we all coinhere with one another in Him, and He is the principle and the Person who interanimates us, all and each; for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. John Donne said it well, in his Meditation XVII, which I have been intoxicated with today:
Perchance hee for whom this Bell tolls, may be so ill, as that he knowes not it tolls for him; And perchance I may thinke my selfe so much better than I am, as that they who are about mee, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The Church is Catholike, universall, so are all her Actions; All that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concernes mee; for that child is thereby connected to that Head which is my Head too, and engraffed into that body, whereof I am a member. And when she buries a Man, that action concernes me: All mankinde is of one Author, and is one volume; when one Man dies, one Chapter is not torne out of the booke, but translated into a better language; and every Chapter must be so translated; God emploies several translators; some peeces are translated by age, some by sicknesse, some by warre, some by justice; but Gods hand is in every translation; and his hand shall binde up all our scattered leaves againe, for that Librarie where every booke shall lie open to one another ...
If we understand aright the dignitie of this Bell that tolls for our evening prayer, wee would be glad to make it ours, by rising early, in that application, that it might bee ours, as wel as his, whose indeed it is. The Bell doth toll for him that thinkes it doth; and though it intermit againe, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, hee is united to God. ...
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. ... [I]f by this consideration of anothers danger, I take mine owne into contemplation, and so secure my selfe, by making my recourse to God, who is our onely securitie.
At inde The Bell rings out, and tells
Mortuus es, Sonitu celeri, me in him, that I am dead.
*A verb form of cantankerous that I made up today.
**Go ahead, make the joke, get it out of your system.
***From Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, a series of reflections Donne wrote while seriously ill. I've preserved the spelling and use of italics according to the collection I own (which has followed the manuscripts very closely) -- I object to emending authors' work when it isn't strictly necessary, though I have gone as far as to introduce paragraph breaks for the sake of readability. The second paragraph I've quoted, which is perhaps a somewhat dense "Metaphysical" conceit, is using the imagery of a bell summoning us to evening prayers as a symbol of death and of the life beyond death; it is something like, and unlike, Keats' famous lines: Now more than ever seems it rich to die, To cease upon the midnight with no pain. The likeness is plain enough; the unlikeness is that Keats was referring to a purely aesthetic experience (total aesthetic satiation upon hearing a nightingale sing), whereas Donne was looking to the coinherence with God and with mankind-in-God that awaits on the other side. The English lines at the bottom right are a very loose translation of the Latin epigram at the bottom left.