Mutual respect and understanding a must

Mutual respect and understanding a must

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Credit: Helena Richardson
Credit: Helena Richardson

Credit: Helena Richardson

Why can’t we all just get along? Obviously, this idealistic concept can never be a reality. People have fought, robbed and murdered each other since man’s inception. Sometimes, though, a particular event will incite an especially vigorous shaking of my head, and I think to myself, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

In January 2013, a lesbian couple commissioned a wedding cake at a bakery in Gresham, Oregon, only to be refused service because of their sexual orientation. A co-owner reportedly told the couple that their marriage was “an abomination unto the lord” before turning them away.

That’s bold, to say the least, even hateful, to throw in the face of two perfectly willing customers. The couple filed a discrimination complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries who, in February, announced they were ruling against the bakery; the couple could potentially be awarded up to $150,000 in damages by the owners of the anti-gay establishment.

Discrimination under the guise of free speech or freedom of religion is unacceptable.

I grew up in a Christian environment and have witnessed this first hand. I understand that, because of certain beliefs, there are those who may not agree with someone’s lifestyle. Though homosexuality is no more a choice than heterosexuality, everyone has a right to believe what they choose and live his or her life in a manner they see fit, provided doing so doesn’t encroach on the rights of anyone else.

Those rights, however, do not make it okay to openly defy state law and discriminate against two innocent human beings by spewing whatever vitriol they grew up being told to believe.

Imagine if these owners had refused to serve an African-American couple, saying they didn’t serve their kind, that they were an abomination. How would the public have responded? Would there be such an outcry? Would anyone be arguing for and defending the bakery and the owners’ right to refuse service? No.

The Bible is very clear about how Christians should treat people: the way Jesus did, with love and compassion. Jesus, the friend of sinners, would not have turned this couple away.

Instead he’d probably have baked the cake and wished the couple well, not condemned them for being different. That’s what the Bible teaches, and the Bible is what these bakery owners claim to have built their worldview around.

I’m not denouncing anyone for their beliefs. I’m pointing out the absurdity of their actions, yes, but not telling anyone what they should do or how to live their lives. I’m just asking the question, why can’t we all just get along?

The gay couple left the bakery and promptly received their share of publicity, making the rounds to various news stations and soaking up their fifteen minutes of fame. Another bakery even made their wedding cake for free. What was supposed to be a happy time for the women became a petty game of pointing fingers and arguing through the media.

Instead of moving on with their lives and allowing the bakery owners to do the same after having to shut their doors due to the negative exposure, they’ve pursued the situation in a malicious attempt to ruin the livelihood of those who had wronged them.

My first response to this whole situation was that of vindication. Discrimination in any form is wrong and, as I saw it, the bad guys lost this battle. But as I continued seeing the reactions of others around me, as I argued in favor of the couple, I had a realization: some people really don’t know any differently. These belief systems were established long before we were all born.

While I may not agree with someone’s worldview, I must acknowledge that many factors go into shaping people’s outlooks. It’s equally harmful to make a ruckus, to point the finger right back and be outrageous or inflammatory.

Until people can open their minds and attempt to understand others, no matter how different their beliefs may be, this cycle of malice and hate will only continue. Life is short. We should celebrate our differences, respect one another and, as the cliche goes, live and let live.

Why can’t we all just get along?