Vows are tricky, and sometimes difficult to adhere to. Vows should be taken seriously, and entered into with a sober mind knowing full well that there will be times where a vow can be spread out on the table of ethics to be confronted and explored. As a cleric and a Christian, I have taken two vows, one of them found within our (The Episcopal Church’s) Baptismal Covenant, and the other vow affirmed and agreed to at my ordination as Deacon. My Baptismal Vows I affirm each time a person enters into communion with the Church. We are asked this question, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” The response is, “I will, with God’s help.” A similar, yet different vow occurs during ordination when the bishop asks the ordinand, “Will you look for Christ in all others, being ready to help and serve those in need?” The response is similar, yet different, “I will.”

And then came Arizona.

The bill (SB1062) allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination. It also allows the business or person to seek an injunction once they show their actions are based on a sincere religious belief and the claim places a burden on the exercise of their religion. (Christian Science Monitor)

It’s very difficult to look for Christ in all persons when those claiming to be followers of Christ site religion as a means to deny others services or goods. Anyone with a smattering of biblical knowledge would probably know that Jesus was forever getting into trouble breaking religious rules of his day, eating with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. I would venture to say that most people would know that Jesus championed the dignity of the poor, the outcast, and the persecuted. Few, however, might understand that Jesus was executed by the State as a subversive.

whitetradeonlyI’m sure many, after hearing news concerning this legislation, saw a connection between persecution of a group of people in Arizona, and the Jim Crow laws supporting race segregation. James B. Bennett. Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, sites white supremacist theological works of Charles Carroll, who asserted time and again that people of color were not people and had no souls. Admittedly, the Arizona law does not dehumanize in it’s language, but at the same time, elements of racial segregation were based, in part, upon theological rhetoric. Of course, if the bill is signed into law, it could cause GLBT people to open their own stores, and services to fulfill a need thereby creating de facto segregation.

Similar correlations can be seen in history, especially found in Nazi Germany when Jews were the chosen enemy of their day; thethe-boycott-game scapegoat as a means to restructure Germany into a fascist state.  Friends, and neighbors of Jewish merchants were asked to boycott stores. At the same time at universities, and other areas of public works,  Jews were fired as a means to pump up nationalism. No, I am not suggesting that legislators in Arizona are fascist, or white supremacists. What I find interesting are handshakes with history in which people will use one group as a reason to focus power over others with a seemingly righteous sense of authority.

We already have “Religious Freedom” in the United States designed to prevent what transpired in Arizona Legislation Bill 1062. The founders of our country did NOT want a state religion as was the case in many cities in Europe, and especially true in Brittan. By promoting this law, the elected officials in Arizona have said that they wish to establish Theocratic policy of state. By accepting this poorly written law, the Governor could then be seen as promoting what might be termed Religious Supremacy; a reaction almost void of Jesus’ teachings.

In Matthew’s telling of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” What remains to be seen is whether Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona will harvest bad fruit, or create a garden filled with compassion, and justice where all are welcome, and all are offered a place to rest, and grow in the shadow of God’s welcoming sunshine of grace.

So….how do I answer my own ethical and moral dilemma with Arizona, vowing to attempt to see Christ in all persons? I see the events unfolding in Arizona much like a parable by Jesus where he pitted ridiculous circumstances together in order to challenge us as a people to know God as loving, and not vindictive or cruel.  The Parable of the Unjust Legislators challenges us to recommit ourselves to understand, “Liberty and Justice for All.” The challenge parable offers us a chance to embrace the notion that all people should be afforded the chance to buy a pair of shoes for their children, or plan a private wedding, or take their family on a vacation, or drive to a restaurant for a meal. The challenge parable might teach us, once again, that God’s providence works in spite of human folly and error.