In less than a week's time, the latest chapter of the Star Wars saga will hit theaters in the U.S. — to the delight of many a fan. The previews have been circulating and conjecture is rising, just like it did two years ago when the public tried to guess what the cryptic bits of image and sound were trying to convey about the previous installment.
One line from the current trailer stuck out to me.
"This is not going to go the way you think," Mark Hamill says as the aged Luke Skywalker.
For better or worse, I'd say that could be the introduction for most of our experiences in life.
Take Masterpiece Bakery v. Colorado Civil Liberties Union for example. This is the now-famous case in which a baker refused to create a cake for a same-sex wedding celebration on religious grounds and is claiming his first amendment rights would be violated if the state forced him to do the job. The matter made it all the way to the Supreme Court as of Tuesday. Some are waiting with baited breath, hoping the court decision supports the conservative view of same-sex marriage. Others are waiting with white knuckles, hoping the decision doesn't open the floodgates for legally widespread discrimination.
I'll say it again. This is not going to go the way you think.
Now, let's say the court rules in the bakery's favor. At that point, all one need do to discriminate under the law is find a sliver of religiousness to support a bias and it may be deemed legal. The baker could potentially refuse to bake a wedding cake for a divorced person who is getting remarried by citing Luke 16:18. I've heard claims — though they're outlandish claims — that versus like 2 Corinthians 6:14 or Ephesians 5:7 oppose interracial marriages, so a baker could potentially base a refusal of service on the race of the customer. Heck, one could claim to be a devote follower of Martin Luther's writings and refuse service to Jews, citing Luther's 1543 work "On the Jews and Their Lies."
I'd be willing to wager the majority of those hoping Masterpiece Bakery comes out on top wouldn't be rooting for the sweetshop if the situation was anything like that. But there is a danger. If we legally support the baker's rights to free speech as a Christian, we must also support the possibility the same measure will be applied against a Christian. That is to say, a Muslim bakery could refuse to provide cakes for Christian weddings if they saw fit (full disclosure — one of the cakes for my wedding was baked by a Muslim), or a non-religious contractor could pull out of a project after finding out the home being built is for a Christian family.
But say the vote goes the other way. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, businesses will be required to serve any and all customers within the current confines of the law. There will be no bakeries with policies that cater to heterosexual couples only, just as there are no longer diners with signs reading, "We cater to white trade only" because both groups are recognized by the government and protected against discrimination. Some say the First Amendment will effectively be broken and the government's power over the individual increased — that the public is being forced to conform to the government's views regarding the LGBTQ community.
The issue at the core of such a verdict would be a juxtaposition of religious values and the country's legal realities. For some time, many in America have believed Christianity walked hand-in-hand with the legal system. After all, we still put our hands on bibles as we swear in new officials (despite what it says in Matthew 5:37). As such, I think we often see the lines between typical Christian values and American law as blurry.
But what is legal is not always moral and what is moral is not always legal. We must learn to separate the two and value what is good in both. And, in the case of religious business folk, we must be ready to prioritize that which is most important. The laws were written for all of us. Like a boomerang, any call for denying the individual's rights is a call to deny our own rights. The verdict will not be limited to bakers and same-sex couples. It will apply to all of us.
And even when the ruling's in, it's not set in stone. The Supreme Court ruled in 1943 no one was exempt from saluting the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance, including Jehovah's Witnesses. The initial ruling in Minersville School District v. Gobitis was said to have been in the interest of national cohesion. Then people began to burn the Kingdom Halls in which the Jehovah's Witnesses met, their religious leaders were ousted from the communities and their children were mistreated. Obviously, the cohesion the justices intended wasn't quite achieved.
The ruling was reversed three years later, with three of the same justices changing their opinion.
We can't know the ramifications of the Masterpiece Bakery case. In the legal system, what's good for the goose is good for the gander and the door we try to slam shut may very well swing back and hit us square in the nose.
This is not going to go the way you think.