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On Charlotte’s Non-Discrimination Proposal

Tonight the City Council of Charlotte, NC is voting on proposed updates to it’s non-discrimination ordinance. This proposal has brought more heat and spotlight on the city council than anytime it’s current members can recall.

To be honest, finding the actual proposal anywhere online was more difficult than you would expect.Both supporters and opponents of the proposal tell you about the proposal using trumped up language to villanize the other group. Depending on who you read, supporters of the proposal are heroes, or pedophiles, or regular old liberals and opponents are sensible, or fear mongerers, or regular old conservatives.  Thankfully city council posts their meeting agendas online. Here is what tonight’s meeting agenda says about the effect of the proposed ordinance:

 The proposed ordinance as drafted would: − Add marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the list of protected characteristics in the commercial non-discrimination and passenger vehicle for hire ordinance as well as the list of protected characteristics that the Community Relations Committee is authorized to make recommendations for legislation or other actions to eliminate or reduce discrimination and to approve or disapprove plans to eliminate discrimination through the conciliation process; and − With regard to the public accommodation ordinance, add “sex” and the five new characteristics to the general prohibition of discrimination and delete the current separate section dealing with discrimination based on sex in restaurants, hotels and motels.  As proposed, the ordinance would be effective April 1, 2015.

 

if you want to follow the supporters they are rallying around #cltequality and opponents appear to be rallying around #dontdoitcharlotte. And both sides appear headed for rallies in the same location…city hall…at the same time 4pm.

So here I sit, a guy about to move to Charlotte in 3 months…to help people know and experience the love of Jesus. And there is a hate-bath about to boil over this afternoon. I can’t speak for either side because I don’t live there nor do I yet know the people of Charlotte very well. But most of us looking in from outside of the queen city know this is not a charlotte specific issue. Charlotte is simply where the spotlight is shining right now. Here are a couple of guiding thoughts I’m trying to let guide how I process this:

  • Pictures of Evangelicals angrily shouting into microphones never helps their cause. I just cant get over how toxic hate is to the gospel message. Hate hardens the hearts of those it inhabits and it builds cavernous distances from those it attacks. Hate never resolves anything. I’m not suggesting opponents should stand down from their cause. I am saying evangelicals are called to promote truth with love. To my evangelical friends: you cannot control what your opponents do with what you say, you can only control what you say & how you say it. So when you gather at city hall today to oppose this ordinance, be sure to look into the eyes of those who are on the other side of this one. This is one of those extremely difficult moments where you as followers of Christ must love your “enemy” with a deep deep love. It might even help to extend a handshake or two across the picket-line. Because yes you disagree, but the other side is made up of people just like you. People with stories and hopes and baggage and friendships. I hope I am not trivializing something so difficult as speaking truth in love. Rarely is such a posture received well and I don’t want you to think I naively believe this will turn into your kindergarten recreation of  the first thanksgiving between the pilgrims and native americans…but you’d be surprised what a few hundred bo-berry biscuits & some sweet tea could do at 5pm on a monday as a peace offering!!
  • The gospel has social implications. I do believe Christians should be the best citizens they can be at the local, state, and federal level. For example, the basic christian truth that all people are made in God’s image is what drives all of the charity work done by churches and christian organizations around the world. At our (christians) core is a belief that Jesus offers hope to us, and to all men. Yes we believe that hope is bigger than this world, but at the same time that hope is made visible through the way we love. I believe we all have a worldview and I believe at the end of the day the gospel creates a worldview that answers the deepest longings of the human heart. however I do not believe Christians should fight for a christian Theocracy as that is anathema to Jesus’ own instruction to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. But I do believe Christians in America are within their bounds to peaceably seek to protect their religious freedoms and promote the general welfare of their neighbors. Contrary to some beliefs, I do not believe Christianity is something you can just keep in your home & in your church. I think when rightly practiced the best thing for a society is a group of servant christians loving and caring for it’s community.
  • Polarizing the opposition as “Dr. Evil” is childish. I sincerely mean this one though I have not actually seen this Mike Myers character brought into the discussion…yet. But both sides are assuming the worst in their public press. Let me jump for a second into the small portion of the proposal acting like a lightning rod: Calling this proposal a “bathroom bill” that assumes Transgender people are looking for a way to legalize pedophilia is beyond harsh. However, assuming all opponents of this proposal fear a conspiracy by transgender pedophiles is an equally ignorant stance. Both sides bring good values to the table and we must remember that and, in civility, figure out a way forward. Christians the burden of love is on you here. On both sides of this are non-christians that we cannot expect to act like Jesus because they do not share our worldview. Regardless of which way you fall on this issue, may you give off the “aroma of christ” as you make your voice heard.
  • We need more relationships & conversations. This one isn’t new with me for sure. In fact I may be the 1 millionth person to say it. But I hope it is true of me in Charlotte. I believe social media, news outlets, and rallies like todays can only dig trenches where we need to build bridges. And I’m not so sure government-sanctioned discussions in flourescent lit conference rooms are the answer. I’m thinking living rooms and coffee houses and picnic tables and other disarming third places are where we will be able to really talk. To share some of those hopes and fears and friendships and maybe, come to a place where we understand one another.
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