Here’s the story in a nutshell. The state of Indiana passed that they called a “religious reform bill” whose wording was apparently vague enough that some folks believed it would allow a business to legally refuse to service customers whose lifestyles offended their religious sensibilities. Of course, in 21st Century America what that actually means is that Christian businesses could refuse to provide services to homosexuals and Muslims.
Nobody seemed to know whether the bill actually did say that, including Gov. Mike Pense of Indiana who signed the bill. No matter. The Internet erupted and many large corporations threatened to boycott the state.
As all of this was happening, a reporter from Channel 57, an ABC affiliate in South Bend, Indiana asked the owners of a tiny pizza parlor in Walkerton, Indiana (population 2,144) what they thought of all this. The owners, being Christians, said, “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no.” This was a response to a completely hypothetical question. No gay couple has ever asked Memories Pizza to cater their wedding.
The Huffington Post picked up on this and reported that the pizza place “publicly vow(ed)” to “reject gay weddings.” This entirely inaccurate description of what actually transpired was seized upon by countless folks all around the Interwebs. The pizza shop’s Yelp page was spammed with eight pages negative reviews, most of them quite obviously from people who had never been there. Their phone rang off the hook with fake orders. Someone on Twitter threatened to burn the shop down. The folks at Memories Pizza temporarily closed their restaurant.
Then someone called Lawrence Billy Jones III, a contributor for the conservative news platform The Blaze, set up a GoFundMe program to support the pizza shop and, in a single day, raised over $800,000 to aid them in their struggle. The folks at Memories Pizza said that this was evidence that God had blessed them for never abandoning their Lord and Savior.
I try to keep politics out of this blog. I’m basically liberal-ish. I definitely support the legalization of same-sex marriage. I do not support laws that would allow businesses to refuse to serve people because they disagree with their lifestyles. But I’m also a realist. The US economy is in terrible shape right now. If a gay couple really wanted someone to sell them pizzas for their wedding, they’d certainly be able to find a pizza joint who’d be happy to take their money.
What happened here has nothing to do with that. Rather it’s an example of how people on all sides of the political spectrum are equally ridiculous.
I had believed that being tolerant of other people’s ways of life was a by-product of open-minded understanding. I support gay marriage and I also support the folks at Memories Pizza’s right to refuse to cater gay weddings. Both for the same reason. I do not understand the pizza shop’s attitude at all. It seems to be the very opposite of Christ’s ideal of serving everyone equally. But whatever. It’s really a non-issue. If the gas company refused service to homosexuals that would be an issue. But that’s not what we’re talking about.
It’s incredibly disappointing to see adult members of the conservative right willingly donating to such an obviously media-created non-issue. Even if there had been no GoFundMe campaign, Memories Pizza would have been just fine in the three days it would have taken for everyone involved to completely forget the whole thing ever even happened.
But to me, as a semi-leftish leaning person, it is much more disappointing to see adult members of the supposedly “liberal” left acting like junior high bullies. I looked at Memories Pizza’s Yelp page a couple days ago and most of what was posted there was disgustingly juvenile (see the example image I used to illustrate this piece).
If we liberals are representing ourselves as the tolerant and intelligent ones, then we need to actually be the tolerant and intelligent ones.
Bigotry against bigots is still bigotry.
Hatred directed at haters is still hatred.
Intolerance for the intolerant is still intolerance.
This doesn’t mean we must be complacent in the face of injustice. But if the only options you can come up with are a) spamming some little pizza place’s Yelp page or b) being complacent about Indiana’s (probably) unjust legislation, then you’re not very smart.
In any case, the state of Indiana has now amended the bill in question so that it can no longer be used to justify refusing service to those whose lifestyles offend your religious sensibilities.
This whole mess just serves as a reminder of how difficult it is to do what is truly ethical. We quickly revert to our deeply ingrained habitual responses. We’ve grown up learning to hate, to bully, to be bigoted, to be intolerant. Perhaps we mature a tiny bit and learn, for example, that gay people are just people like us. But it’s amazing how quickly we forget the real lesson and simply redirect our hatred, bigotry and intolerance at new targets.
We gotta work on that.
April 24-26, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY ZEN & YOGA RETREAT
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If you haven’t given all your cash to Memories Pizza, feel free to make a donation to this blog. I guarantee I can use it a lot more than them!