By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) - With its ivy-covered entrance and Teddy Bear bouquets, Arlene’s Flowers seems an unlikely spot to trigger a culture-war skirmish.
Until recently, the Richland, Washington, shop was better known for its artistic arrangements than its stance on same-sex marriage.
But in March, Barronelle Stutzman, the shop’s 68-year-old proprietress, refused to provide wedding flowers for a longtime customer who was marrying his partner. Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in December.
An ardent evangelical, Stutzman said she agonized over the decision but couldn’t support a wedding that her faith forbids.
“I was not discriminating at all,” she said. “I never told him he couldn’t get married. I gave him recommendations for other flower shops.”
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson disagreed, and filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers. The ACLU also sued on behalf of the customer, Robert Ingersoll, who has said Stutzman’s refusal “really hurt, because it was someone I knew.”
Among conservative Christians, Stutzman has become a byword - part cautionary tale and part cause celebre.
Websites call her a freedom fighter. Tributes fill Arlene’s Facebook page. Donations to her legal defense fund pour in from as far away as Texas and Arkansas.
“For some reason, her case has made a lot of people of faith worry,” said Stutzman’s lawyer, Dale Schowengerdt of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group.
Those anxieties have only increased, conservative Christians say, since the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and opened the door to gay marriage in California.
Taking a line from Justice Antonin Scalia's sharp dissent, Southern Baptist scholar Albert Mohler said it’s only a matter of time "before the other shoe drops" – and the high court legalizes same-sex marriage from coast to coast.
“Christians will have to think hard — and fast — about these issues and our proper response,” Mohler wrote on Wednesday.
“We will have to learn an entire new set of missional skills as we seek to remain faithful to Christ in this fast-changing culture.”
His fellow Southern Baptist Russell Moore put the matter more succinctly.
“Same-sex marriage is coming to your community.”
`The debate is over'
Well before the Supreme Court’s rulings, many conservative Christians said they saw the writing - or the poll numbers - on the wall.
Survey after survey shows increasing support for same-sex marriage, especially among young Americans. That includes many religious believers.
Most Catholics and mainline Protestants, not to mention many Jews, support same-sex relationships, according to surveys. The bells of Washington National Cathedral pealed in celebration on Thursday.
Even among those who oppose gay marriage, many think it’s a losing battle.
Seventy percent of white evangelicals believe that legal recognition for gay nuptials is inevitable, according to a June poll by the Pew Research Center, though just 22 percent favor it.
“The gay marriage debate is over,” said Jonathan Merritt, an evangelical writer on faith and culture. “Statistically, all the numbers move in one direction.”
Young Christians have grown up in a far more diverse culture than their forebears, Merritt noted, and many have befriended gays and lesbians.
Pew found that more than 90 percent of Americans overall personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, a 30 percent increase since 1993.
“It’s far easier to wage war against an agenda than it is to battle a friend,” Merritt said.
At the same time, many conservative young Christians say they’re weary of the culture wars, and of seeing their communities labeled “judgmental.”
When Christian researchers at the Barna Group asked Americans aged 16-29 what words best describe Christianity, the top response was “anti-homosexual.” That was true of more than 90 percent of non-Christians and 80 percent of churchgoers, according to Barna.
Tired of being told the country is slouching toward Gomorrah, many young Christians have simply tuned out the angry prophets of earlier generations, evangelical leaders say.
“The shrill angry voices of retrenchment are no longer getting a broad hearing either in the culture at large or in the evangelical community,” Merritt said.
But the battle over same-sex marriage is far from over, said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
“I don’t believe most Christians are going to give up the fight,” said Brown, who is Catholic. He said his movement includes many young evangelical and Orthodox Christians.
“And they are more energized than ever.”
Love thy gay neighbors
Energized or not, conservative Christians must prepare for the moral dilemmas posed by the country’s growing acceptance of same-sex marriage, said Moore, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“Is Your Church Ready for the Marriage Revolution?” Moore asked, while promoting a special session on homosexuality at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Houston in June.
Many evangelical pastors have seen homosexuality as a distant culture-war battle that’s fought far from the doors of the churches, Moore said.
Now, it’s as close as their front pews.
“I think it’s not so much that churches haven’t wanted to talk about it,” he said, “but they haven’t recognized how much the culture has changed around them.”
The first step, said Moore, is learning to defend traditional marriage without demonizing gays and lesbians.
Walking through Washington’s Union Station last Thursday, Moore said he saw several lesbian couples kissing in celebration of the Supreme Court rulings.
“If we can’t empathize with what’s going on in their hearts and minds, we’re not going to be able to love and respect them.”
Then come a host of secondary questions: How should conservative pastors minister to same-sex couples? Should Christians attend same-sex weddings? Should florists like Barronelle Stutzman's agree to work with gay couples?
`Don't give in'
Florist Barronelle Stutzman.
In the 17 years she’s owned Arlene’s Flowers, Stutzman said, she’s worked with a number of gay colleagues.
“It really didn’t matter if they were gay, or blue or green, if they were creative and could do the job,” she said.
Stutzman suspects that some of her eight children privately don’t agree with her on homosexuality, even as they publicly support her decision.
Online, Stutzman has been called a bigot, and worse.
She said she’s lost at least two weddings because of her refusal to provide services for the same-sex marriage.
Conservative activists say her case is the first of what will surely be many more, as gay marriage spreads across the country.
As she gets ready to face a judge, the silver-haired florist offered some advice for fellow evangelicals.
“Don’t give in. If you have to go down for Christ, what better person to go down for?”
And I am sure Ms Stutzman would have an issue 50 years ago in selling to an interracial or black couple. It does not matter, a few more years and the old dinosaurs will die off and then Americans can move on to brighter future
iYes, people who can't learn in 2013 would likely have been the same people who couldn't learn in 1965, or in 1920 or in 1860.
I think we need to know who are bigots and not, because I can't condone your business. Jesus didn't say only spend time with those that you agree with and that you can easily love. Instead, he said and did just the opposite. It is amazing how Christians want to follow some of what Jesus said and did, but only if it is convenient for them.
You run your convenient store and I'll run mine.
"Join my new church "The Christian Buffet"! You can just pick and choose the Bible words you like to follow, and ignore all those pesky loving and forgiving words of Jesus. "
Another attempt to distort what Jesus said either out of ignorance or by design. Libs try desperately to paint Jesus as some kind of 60s reject. You need to believe that He was just running around having one big group love hug. Jesus did not compromise righteousness for acceptance. He called on people to turn away from their sinful lives. He loved everyone and because of that love He called them to repent. But not everyone heeded that call therefore although He loved them they chose to love something else rather than Him. "You are my friends if you follow my commandments". The word "if" is conditional. "If the world hates you remember that it hated me first". Why would the world hate Jesus? Because he draws a contrast between the free-for-all hedonism and living a righteous life.
Jesus was perfect so he could judge others, when you are perfect you can do the same.
Conservative Christians are going to be on the wrong side of history with this one.
And, over time, they are going to figure out that "oh, well, a certain small percentage of people are gay and it's no biggie".
In 100 years the Southern Baptist Convention will apologize for the former oppostion to gay rights just as they apologized 20 years ago for their former support of black slavery.
Libs just love the "wrong side of history" phrase. Makes you feel enlightened and special. Why wouldn't the culture which embraces the philosophy of anything goes, oppose anything? What side of history will you be on concerning polygamy, communal marriages and intra-family marriages? Where is the line in the sand for you?
"Libs just love the "wrong side of history" phrase"
If the shoe fits....
Most self-proclaimed "Christ"ians would more accurately be called Paulians, since they put more stock in the words of Paul than the actual teachings of Jesus "Christ".
Ya got his head chopped off. That wasn't gud enuff fer ya??
Please, stop. Your attempt to gut Scripture to suit your own warped perspective is convoluted. You have latched onto the notion that if Jesus did not address an issue directly that He must not have had a position about it. Jesus commissioned Paul directly. All Scripture is God breathed, which means all Scripture originates from Jesus. Your attempt to discredit Paul or any other non-red letter Scripture is manipulative and forbidden. Either accept the totality of Scripture or simply start your own cult.
I consider it sacrilegious for people to claim that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. The Bible is full of contradictions (even between Paul and Jesus) and also full of inaccuracies.
Calling it "Inerrant" is bad enough, but calling such a less-than-perfect book "Inerrant Word of God" is downright insulting.
You're a Biblist if you think that way. You put more stock in a book of fairy tales than you do in the actual manifestations of God.
Who cares what you consider to be sacrilegious? Are you God? "The manifestations of God"? So whatever you consider to be a "manifestation" is validated and it doesn't fit into your worldview you simply dismiss it as not being of God. What arrogance. Why don't you simply start a church where you are worshiped that way you will have company.
reaper, no one cares what your religious beliefs are.
Sorry Reaper – you'd get the same answer from any decent course on biblical scholarship. YOU may have faith that Paul was an accurate representation of what Jesus believed, but based on the actual quotes atributed to him, they were diametrically opposed on several fronts.
Gay marriage, making it legal to buy weed, giving condoms out to young kids at school...... this place is all sorts of messed up.
FYI I'm no religious person, but it doesn't take one to see how bad the world is these days
Ya know, being gay isn't as bad as all that. Sometimes it's like everyone else thinking your hair is on fire when actually you're doing just fine.
Gay marriage is none of your dar n business,weed is much less harmful than booze and protecting teens from unwanted pregnancies and STDs is wrong-How?You probably didn't like being told to wear a seatbelt either.Good grief,some people have a twisted sense of priority.
Yeah, before you know it it'll be dogs and cats living together! Oh, the horror!
Jesus may well have been gay. He was certainly not pro-marriage or pro-family.
Do you guys simply make this stuff up or does someone make it up for you and you simply spew it?
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." (Matthew 10:34–39)
If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26)
Do you even bother to put anything in context or is that too inconvenient? You probably figure if you just keep throwing bombs of ignorance you will keep everyone else busy. God created marriage. Considered children to be a great blessing and gave instruction for how a family should function. Jesus is described as the bridegroom and the church His Bride in order to illustrate how much He loves those who follow Him. The passages you cite are intended to emphasize the need to make Christ the priority in your life even if it causes strife in your earthly relationships because ultimately it is the only way to truth and freedom. Healthy choices often have negative relational consequences especially in the short run.
There is no evidence for god; he is invisible and undetectable. Therefore, he is an idea. An idea does not "create" anything (like marriage). If there were evidence for god, we might be inclined to consider what he wants, but instead it's just people with no proof saying what they think their god in their imagination wants to
"Do you guys simply make this stuff up or does someone make it up for you and you simply spew it?"
No ...that's what the bible is used for.
God did not create marriage. There was marriage long before men created your particular god. There is marriage and has been marriage with or without religion.There also has been same $ex marriage in this land long before your christianity ever came here. Many native American tribes have had same $ex unions for many thousands of years, long before this land was ever called America.
Now the only way to keep an inheritance going is to marry yer firstborn son.
Why is someone a bigot if they don't believe in gay marriage? Why are they hateful, a right wing conservative or a religious zealot? Why do you think it's okay to FORCE and BULLY someone into doing something that's different from their convictions. The same thing happened with Chick-Fil-A. We cannot force our opinions on others. As a business owner she was wrong, but should she have all these hateful attacks thrown at her. I'm a liberal democrat, I have gay people in my family that I love to death, but I don't believe in gay marriage. There are other things that I don't agree with, but I accept the differences in others and don't expect them to conform to my ways.
How can someone not believe in gay marriage? It happens. It's a proven fact.
Or did you mean you don't support it? I mean that's quite obvious that you don't support it, but I doubt if anyone is interested in your support. Feel free to avoid "supporting" gay marriage.
Or did you mean you proactively campaign for outlawing gay marriage? Then, you would definitely be a bigot.
If you wish to prevent gays from marrying you are by definiton forcing them to conform to your ways.
Making Chik-fil-A's stands and policies known and choosing not to give them one's money was bullying? How on earth do you think change occurs?
CensorRed – You don't know who's interested in my support. I live in MA where gay marriage is legal. Re-read my post, hopefully you'll comprehend the point I was making.
emintey – I didn't say I wished to prevent gay marriage; I said I didn't believe in gay marriage.
Saraswati – Did it change the convictions of the owner of Chick-fil-A? No, It just brought him more business.
@politicallyincorrect, The point was never to change his convictions, which would be highly unlikely. The point is a) to influence company policy, which it did, and 2) to influence the public discourse in a way that impacts society as a whole, which I have no doubt it did.
It is a fantasy world to think that opinions are based soley on individuals seeking out topics debated in rational discourse. What we care about and examine and question is primarily influenced by what catches the public eye, and this one of the most important reasons that marriage laws have changed. Certainly a changing understanding of human psychology is important, but without Ellen and Will and Grace and well promoted news stories and public awareness campaigns of this kind we would never have got to where we are now, and for many of us our lives and happiness depend on being here.
Thou shall comply .........
Dear GOD, the wicked and evil heathens on the Supreem Court has taken religion out of your hands and unleashed hoardes of demons and devils in our midst. We are truly at a Crossroads of history when YOU will soon appear on a white steed to lead the rightous and the good to the Promised Land. Please DEAR GOD strike down the evil gays with your lightening and thunder and propell them back to HELL from where they came. By you name we pray.
Another loving Christian?
TTTTTTTTTRRRRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!! Foolish one. We live in a secular country and I am glad to watch your religious influence disappear from the government.
AMEN to that!
It must be fun being you,with all that fire and brimstone rattling around in your head.I can honestly say,that if I had only a fraction of your thoughts,I would walk out and put a bullet in my head.Perhaps you might consider joining the WBC as they would,no doubt,welcome your point of view.
Oh, I think I get it now. When the SCOTUS ruled in favor of Citizens United, and the end of the Voters Rights Act, the left was to just suck it up and move on. But on issues involving the right and the "Church" it's more like "We answer only to a Higher (if imaginary) Power, and can do as we wish.
I am glad they shut down the Voter's Right Act. Why should I have to pay for a voter ID card to vote? That is my right to do so.
"As she gets ready to face a judge, the silver-haired florist offered some advice for fellow evangelicals.
“Don’t give in. If you have to go down for Christ, what better person to go down for?”"
But Christ said nothing about gay marriage. He did say quite a bit about judging others, though.
Next the Teavangelicals will claim that can refuse to serve black people because it offends their "religion."
Get it right-
They will only refuse to serve them is their owner is of a different color, or faith.
Christians are irrelevant in a progressive society. It may take more time before they are outnumbered. Unfortunately the ignorant breed more.
The religious certainly breed more, leading Rowthorn and others to argue that any genes for religiosity will spread faster than those for secular thought.
All people have a right to believe what they want as long as it does not interfere with someone elses rights. I have to wonder, though, just what is the religious right afraid of when it comes to recognizing a persons wish to marry? You would think that they would be glad that a persons wants to commit to a relationship. Instead, their own beliefs want to deny a person the right to marriage. This God thing has gone way too far. After all, The Church, religion, its all based on what some people have been using for centuries against the feeble minded. Their fear of Death. All the wars, the killing of innocent people, all in the name of God. Such incredible BS, the biggest scam in the world is the Church.
I think the solution is simple for these people who don't like gay marriage, don't marry a gay person.
In regards to this florist who refused to serve the gay couple, for me it's a civil rights matter., a business should not discriminate against a gay couple any more than they should discriminate regarding race, though I'm not sure where that stands legally.. Once again the Southern Baptist Convention stands on the wrong side as they did on the issue of slavery in the 1800's.
Don't forget that during Lincoln's presidency it was the democratic party that was against abolishing slavery and the republican party that was for it.
And your point is?
this is NOT about gay marriage.. its about control . Once this gay marriage thing is worked out like civil rights and slavery, they will pick another issue to push on others to claim to be in control...
Read Caesar's Messiah. by Joseph Atwill. the christian myth is all about control of the masses. so they can have control of the wealth... They pick hot button topics to gain support and then wealth from those they can herd into their group.. then this topic is cleared.. they will go digging for another to rally the troops to keep the support.. its ALL ABOUT MONEY and control..
The formula was set by the Roman Flavian family.... the original Italian Mafia family...
that was because it was before the republican party was taken over by the christians...Read Robert Green Ingersoll.s bio and others on Secular Web site historical library. The then republican party wanted Ingersoll to run for their candidate for president with the stipulation that he would not mention a word about is objection to the christian myth...He was very anti christian.
but since he refused.. to keep quite about his views on the myth, he turned down their offer. He would have been a major game changer for this country and its path to equality would have been far more advanced then it is now.
The republicn party has taken up the up Roman idea to use mythology as the foundation of government.. and well it is loosing...Now that the discovery of the real history of the christian myth is now known.. it is just a matter of time when the whole christian myth will collapse and a new era of none mythic belief will blossom.
The Age of Supernatural Stupidity will end finally for humanity.
Nobody is asking or forcing churches to marry gay couples if they don't want to. This just means gay couples are allowed to marry. If you're not gay, it doesn't affect you. So shut up and go feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the poor and visit those in prison, like Jesus ACTUALLY said you should do.
Right, churches dont and shouldnt have to marry gay couples, commerce however is another matter.
Greed, and the churches have never been forced to perform marriages of which they disapprove so the whole argument is just fear mongering on the part of the Christian right leadership. Have Catholics been forced to marry divorced people? Perform ceremonies for atheists? The whole argument is absurd.
REALLY. Do you live around HERE? Last I heard, when a church pastor refused to marry a gay couple, because HIS beliefs, he was sued and lost. R U PEOPLE 4 real?
Cristian, please provide a reference for this alleged incident.
Show me the x=example cristian, I dont believe it.
Or a case # from county/state court ?
apparently cristian is not "4 real" as he is unable to back up his statement with any facts, which is sadly very Cristian...
I think this must have been what cristian is ranting about on page 25 when he posted seemingly randomly (showing an ironic inepti.tude with the reply button...not that that doesn't occassionally stump us all, but just saying...):
"Apparently you have a PC.......if u have an ounce of brain in your head you could do some research. Have you heard of GOOGLE? Or do u only search stuff compatible with gay beliefs???
Here I'll make it easy 4 u. I'll post ONE link if the censors aren't goin to strike it down. Go read and see how you can justify that? I'm sure U will find a way though. And that's only ONE story out of many."
Then to make it even more comical, he never posted any link...
cristian's reference to the "censors" striking things down makes it triply funny:
This is the time for the God conceptualized by the likes of Fred Phelps and the WBC to "put up or shut up". If legalizing gay marriage is that much of a "sin" then I'd expect it to rain blood for 40 days and nights and every firstborn son under 18 dies, or something like that.
Follow the fath of Jesus* SON OF GOD
The "fath" of Jesus, huh? What's a "fath"?
Yet another woefully undereducated Bible-thumper.
So everyone should be Jewish?
"I was not discriminating at all."
Yes. Yes you were.
You are just to stupid to realize it.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.