A couple years back, I coached my son’s soccer team at the YMCA. It was a bit of a rag-tag bunch, thrown together for just that season, with, if I remember right, only four kids who had ever played …
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A couple years back, I coached my son’s soccer team at the YMCA. It was a bit of a rag-tag bunch, thrown together for just that season, with, if I remember right, only four kids who had ever played together before. And they were absolutely great kids! The whole team worked hard, played hard, tried to do everything I asked of them — it was great fun!
But, there was this one team (isn’t there always that “one team”?) in this league that had everything going for them — they had been together for a few years, they were a talented, competitive bunch, and they had some really good coaching. The first time we played them, they beat us 6 - nil (soccer term). That was nothing — they beat one team 12 – nil! They were good.
So, in preparation for our second match against them, I implemented a new strategy, a philosophy based on never extending ourselves and never leaving any holes in our defensive zone. It was a 100 percent defensive philosophy, and, frankly, I had absolutely no idea if it would work. But it did — the kids made it work by being smart and patient and hard-working. And the end result? A nil-nil tie.
Let me tell you something: I’m a very competitive person, sometimes unhealthily so, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to walk away with a tie in my life!
I believe that’s how religious conservatives should feel about this week’s Supreme Court ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
I’ve read the entire ruling, and, to be honest, I don’t think Masterpiece Cakeshop “won.” I also don’t think the LGBT community “won” or “lost.” I know who lost: the Colorado Commission on Civil Rights got fairly well spanked for their anti-religious bias. And, of course, the lawyers won, because this particular fight will go on. And on…
The ruling did not assert Free Exercise over Equal Protection; rather, it said that the Commission could not be casually dismissive of Religious Liberty arguments (which, of course, begs the question: if the Commission had come to the same ruling, just without the dismissive language, would the case have gone differently? Like, it’s okay to *be* anti-religious, just don’t show anybody that you’re anti-religious). Nor did the ruling leave an opening for discrimination against LGBT people; all four opinions were clear on that point.
But, considering how bad it could have been for religious conservatives — a sweeping ruling saying that personal religious beliefs have no business in the public sphere, so even churches must perform gay weddings — you can understand how there are some who are celebrating this week.
They got a tie, when they might have lost in a massive rout.
What gets lost in all of this is the continued Balkanization of our society and our communities. When everybody reflexively retreats to the “tribes,” there are only two options: win or lose. Justice Kennedy tried, I think, on several occasions in his majority opinion to remind us of how we should approach each other. He cited the expectation that the Cakeshop’s argument was supposed to be treated “neutrally and respectfully” by the CCCR.
Wouldn’t that be a wiser approach to living in this day and age? Neutrally and respectfully? Could the Cakeshop owner have served the gay couple “neutrally and respectfully” and still adhered to his faith? Are there no baking artisans who gladly and enthusiastically serve the LGBT community that this couple could have gone to? There were opportunities to avoid this battle.
But our country is increasingly becoming about enforcing orthodoxy—Orwell had many terms for it—on everyone and every thing around us. That’s great, if all we want are endless litigation and heterogenous communities run by Newsspeak and Ingsoc.
But if we want the America we used to read about, the one our Founders envisioned, we would do well to act with more neutrality and respect. Maybe we can play for a few more ties.
Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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