WRF Board Chairman Rick Perrin Discusses "Memories Pizza and the Residue of Easter"
A few days before Easter a reporter from TV 57 in South Bend, Indiana, walked into Memories Pizza in Walkerton, stuck a microphone and a camera in the face of the owner, Crystal O’Connor, and asked her opinion about Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The RFRA is supposed to shield religious minorities from being coerced to violate their consciences by doing something they believe is wrong to do.
Crystal O’Connor said Memories Pizza supported the law, thought it was a good thing. Then the reporter asked, “Have you ever catered a gay wedding?” Memories has never catered any wedding. The whole idea is absurd for a pizza place. But Crystal gamely replied that if asked, they would decline to cater a same sex wedding. As Christians, she said, it would be against their conscience since they believe marriage is between a man and a woman. She hastened to add that they do not discriminate. Period. They serve anyone who comes in who wants a pizza.
But as soon as the report was filed—so soon after that one must suspect a set-up—the hate reaction began. Tens of thousands of Facebook messages were posted. Memories’ Yelp page was trashed. Opponents unleashed death threats. A basketball coach somewhere in Indiana urged his team to join him in burning the pizza joint down. Phone calls clogged the lines, one after another. Memories Pizza shut its doors. It was impossible to do business. And perhaps, Crystal and her father Kevin feared, it was not safe.
There is a sign on the wall at the O’Connors’ shop that offers prayer for anyone who requests it. Crystal had decorated the old upright piano in the store for Easter. These were a mild but clear expression of their faith. To their detractors it was a blatant symbol of their evil nature. But on Good Friday the contributions started pouring in from all across America. The average contribution was about $30.00. Thousands upon thousands of people struck back against intolerance and lies by, in effect, ordering the equivalent of a couple of pizzas. By the day after Easter the contributions totaled $842,000. Memories Pizza—new and improved—will reopen.
Now here is the behind-the-scenes fact: A little investigation reveals that the initial blizzard of tens of thousands of hate-filled invectives originated from just ten to fifteen individuals. They had figured out a way to multiply their efforts so that it seemed all of America had reacted with rage at the supposed bigotry and discrimination of the O’Connors. They manipulated social media and the internet to make it seem that things have changed so much in this country that Christians and Christian morality are now roundly damned.
Once when Elisha, the Old Testament prophet, was surrounded by the entire Syrian army which had been dispatched to capture him, he told his servant to look up. ”Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And then the prophet prayed, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And when the servant looked again, he could see what Elisha already knew. The army of God, the angels and chariots of heaven, had taken up position and encircled the Syrian army.” (II Kings 6:15-19)
So it is here and now. There are perhaps six or seven million homosexuals in America. Over 250,000,000 Americans claim to be Christians. Let’s get some perspective. Enough of them responded to crush the attacks by a few against a small town pizza business who did nothing wrong, but had merely expressed the owners’ Christian faith.
To put it clearly, Christians are being accused these days of hatred and bigotry because we believe homosexual practice to be morally wrong. The reality is that Christians are not “against” homosexuals at all. We do not hate them or wish them ill. The entire point of Easter is that Jesus Christ died to pay for sins. And then he literally and bodily rose from the dead to prove that his payment was accepted by God. Christians believe that through faith in the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ, any person may be rescued from any kind of sin and evil in which he participates. Having been saved from it, Christians now choose not to associate with it. We act differently from other people. We give testimony by our actions that our Savior is a God of great love and mercy.
Jesus said, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him.” (John 3:17) As followers of Christ, we do not condemn homosexuals--or other sinners, for that matter. We, in the name of Jesus want to speak and act in such a way that others may discover that God can forgive them also. And that they themselves may be saved from whatever sin presently characterizes their lives. Ours is a message of hope and good will. We may not always express it well, or live consistently with what we profess. But there it is. Our message is one of hope, and the reality of love from a good God.
Yes, many may see our faith as a condemnation of their behavior. Or their sexual identity. Whatever. But it is not. Jesus called Christians to be light in the world. He said darkness hates the light because when light shines, darkness flees. Twenty-seven thousand Americans let their lights shine a little bit last week. And so there is one more place open today that serves good pizza!