Religious Freedom & the Sculptors of Sirmium

Elsewhere I’ve written about a very unfortunate unintended consequence of anti-discrimination laws: They take away much of our freedom of association and with it much of our freedom of speech, because in mixed company, people must watch what they say.

The furor over Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) demonstrates another very unfortunate unintended consequence of anti-discrimination laws: They make people stupid. After all, intelligence is all about discrimination — being able to tell the difference between things. Anti-discrimination laws force people to ignore obvious differences between categories of people, so the more such laws we pass, the stupider people get.

As if to prove my point, this week the enemies of RFRA argued that the act was wrong because it allowed people to discriminate against gays, and discriminating against gays is the same as discriminating against blacks, since being black is no different than acting gay. Both should therefore be treated exactly the same, they said.

Never mind that at least three of the world’s major religions condemn acting gay as unnatural and immoral, while not one (that I know of) says the same about being black.

Never mind that the First Amendment guarantees us the “free exercise” of religion, which for Christians has always meant not participating in public acts that cause others to stumble by making it appear that we condone immorality.

That’s why the early martyrs accepted death rather than eat meat sacrificed to idols. They knew such meat wouldn’t hurt them, but they also knew what eating it to save their lives would mean to others: It would mean they didn’t really believe in the resurrection and its promise of reward for faithfulness and punishment for sin; it would mean they really only believed, like everyone else, in their own skin and would sin to save it.

Gays put Christians to the same test when they insist that Christians participate in their nuptials as hired servants — bakers, caterers, photographers, wedding planners, and even officiants. Why would gays do that, except to make the point that sodomy is not something anyone may object to? And if Christians go along, isn’t the gay point made?

What’s next? What about Christian craftsmen who refuse to make idols for pagan customers? Or Christian publishers who refuse to publish attacks on Christianity? That’s essentially what gays are demanding. Since we’re not allowed to discriminate, if gays have a right to force Christians to participate in their wickedness, so do Jews, Muslims, atheists, and Satanists.

What should Christians do in such situations? What did they do in times past?

In A.D. 305, five sculptors — Claudius, Nicostratos, Simpronianus, Castorius, and Simplicius — were imprisoned for being Christians at a quarry near Sirmium (modern Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia), where they were put to work fashioning ornaments for the emperor Diocletian’s retirement villa at Salona (near Split, Croatia). Diocletian visited the quarry and was so impressed with their work that he ordered a statue of Asclepius, the Greco-Roman god of healing.

The sculptors had already created many decorative images from pagan mythology, but the statue was clearly intended as an idol, so as Christians they refused to work on it. After a brief trial, Diocletian sentenced them to death. They were sealed alive in lead coffins and thrown into the river. May their memory be eternal!

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4 Responses to Religious Freedom & the Sculptors of Sirmium

  1. e6ahck says:

    It’s gotten so silly out there that prancing out of the closet is a good sin, while being a hateful bigot and not trusting in the religion of global warming — I mean climate change — doom one’s soul to perdition

  2. Michael Bauman says:

    Great article Deacon.

  3. Luke says:

    Fr. Patrick, well said.

  4. My experience is of great hostility aimed at people by gays, who feel justified to punish the evil people who do not agree with them. They are extremely vicious in pursuit of what they call bigots, done in an utterly lawless manner. They will begin insisting those who oppose them, take their punishment as they did to me. I also feel Obama shares this vile sentiment. If he stays in the UN security council, after his last term, this is where he will rear his ugly countenance …I fled to a different city, as guided by the scripture.

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