Doing Business

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a link to a remarkable article A Letter to Christians in Indiana, From Jesus.  It’s controversial and prompted likes and dislikes from friends. One friend commented that business people should be free to avoid doing business with people they dislike for religious reasons. Given the response, I think I need to explain the main reason I like this document.

The start with, it’s not something I normally read, much less forward. I try to preach the Gospel on a regular basis, but I would never go as far as ghostwriting for God or Christ, no matter how tempting it is at times. After reading it, I found it said something very well that’s important to me, which is why I forwarded it.

As far as the business aspect goes, I’m puzzled why the test cases ever came to court. If I were getting married and someone refused to do business with be because they thought I was doing something immoral, I’d shrug my shoulders and find someone who wanted my business. There are many ways to express dismay at this kind of rejection, given the number of review sites on the Internet, even going as far as calling for a boycott of the vendor in question. Should I be especially vindictive, I could create competition and use the business they refuse as a start for trying to out-compete them. I wouldn’t take someone to court, yet I wouldn’t be surprised to be sued one day for giving someone a funny look; ever since The People’s Court, our judicial system has been overused.

If I thought doing business with a section of the market would endanger my immortal soul, or put me in touch with horrendously immoral people I wanted to avoid, I’d get out of the business, no matter how much I loved it. Success isn’t worth selling your soul, or doing something that makes your stomach turn. If I were committed to baking wedding cakes, I’d try to sell as many as I could without regard to the reason, even if they were only used to push into other people’s faces. It’s not like they endorse a worldview or cause a hazard to someone else’s life or faith. My experience of wedding vendors is such that saying to the effect of: “I refuse to sell you my overpriced and unnecessary product/service because you offend my deeply held religious beliefs,” rather self-serving given the profit margin may be unjust (and a bit immoral) in the first place. I don’t think the Christian standard for business is “all the market will bear,” and Jesus made a rather dramatic commentary on overpriced services in the Temple with a whip of cords one day.

As far as being compelled to do business with people we may find unacceptable, an Internet meme reminded me of Matthew 5:38-48 (from the Sermon on the Mount) where Jesus tells his disciples to offer no resistance to evildoers. “…Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go two miles…” I fail to see how any of the right to religious freedom lives up to that standard. As Christians, we are called to love our enemies, pray for them, seek their good, and this teaching did much to convert the Roman Empire to Christianity. How we transform anyone through rejection or distancing ourselves is beyond me.

Legislators should steer clear of anything that smacks of legalizing a prejudice, however given all the crazy things they do and the essential services they do nothing about, I’m not surprised. In Missouri, the roads and bridges are in awful shape, and nothing probably will be done until people die, unfortunately. Judicial reform is long overdue, as are liability standards, however since Congress and the legislatures are all full of lawyers I’m not holding out hope. We should probably let pass how many state legislatures have been bought and sold already, and have no real interest in the Common Good (or most of the people in their state) in the first place. The Indiana law seems to be another bad one, that will probably get decided in court someday. The potential of legalizing a prejudice of any kind bothers me.

A Letter to Christians in Indiana, From Jesus spoke to me because of its main point. I do not think it’s ever acceptable to say: “I’m a Christian, and therefore I must reject you.” The article puts the case very well about who Jesus reached out to and who He condemned and why. Jesus also never commanded His disciples to stay out of contact with people, to create an inner world exclusively for themselves and shut the rest of the world out. Christianity didn’t convert an Empire through isolation and refusal to participate in public life, no matter who it brought them into contact with.

Using faith to justify prejudice is anathema. It doesn’t mean anything goes, it doesn’t make what’s wrong right, but it keeps us from making judgements ourselves (which the New Testament warns about frequently). Judgement belongs entirely to God and we are excluded from being judges ourselves in this life: it is a poison to the soul even to hate those who seem to disobey God’s commands. If we’re supposed to pray for our enemies and do good to those who persecute us, what’s the problem with doing business with them, provided we’re not selling them weapons?


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