RFRA and the Urban/Rural Divide

The recent RFRA law has been an awakening for many Hoosiers, certainly for me. We had been lulled into complacency by a string of moderately moderate Republicans. It’s pretty certain Mitch Daniels wouldn’t have signed such a terrible piece of legislature. Our Republican mayor here in Indy wants nothing to do with it. I’m pretty sure if Pence could go back in time he wouldn’t sign it again. He’s too much of a politician to walk into this firestorm twice. Right now it’s hard to find anyone willing to defend it. How did this happen?

Yeah, sure, a bunch of zealots wanted a reason to not make gay wedding cake, that may be true. But lots of crazy ideas never make it to the Governor’s desk. But this one did. Here’s why- Indiana's legislature is mostly rural but our population is mostly urban. We are ruled by rural. Especially now with Republican majorities in the statehouse. Here’s the Indiana senate and house wikipedia pages. Some good ol’ Gerrymandering going on here to make sure Republican’s retain control. When 80% of the senate and 70% of the house is controlled by Republicans in a state that went for Obama in 2008, you know something is up. Most of the urban districts are extended into rural areas to make sure they don't turn "blue". Here's the Indiana senate map. Some nice slicing and dicing of urban areas going on. Also, a recent post on the 2010 redistricting that heavily tilted towards Republicans.

It's no secret that rural people tend to be more conservative. Personally I think it’s good to have people on all sides of the issue.  On the positive side- conservatives value individual liberties and an open market. On the other side- there is more than a little religious zealotry and fear of progress.

So, overall, this brings us balance. The progressives/liberals pull us forward. The conservatives hold us back. My mother once told me “the extremes reveal the middle.” But right now the balance is out of whack. That’s how we got RFRA.

But I see the reasons for concern. Our culture is changing very quickly and change is scary. It’s human to want to protect what you know and love.

I think we sometimes forget how quickly the tide has turned on homosexuality. This is a very recent thing. It was ok just a few years ago to say “that’s so gay” about stuff that was dumb. 

I grew up in a mostly rural community, southside of South Bend. I had lots of friends that lived on or around farms. Everyone I knew was a Christian. It was a given that being gay was about the worst thing you could be. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that my thinking changed- when I actually got to know some of these “gays” and they were great people. Nothing about their lives seemed fake. 

The reality is that there still exists a group of people that don’t seek or want that exposure. In the back of their mind they might be afraid that becoming a friend with an LGBT person might change their thinking. That’s totally valid, because it probably will! 

But here's something us city folk need to admit- we embrace change too willingly, unquestioning. Especially technology. Looking at our screens, not each other. Tech zombies. We get caught up in progress, believing every step forward is a good one. But we know that’s not always the case. We are balanced by the rural communities that tend to question progress. Let’s admit it, they are sometimes right. 

Unfortunately the urban/rural tension is being acerbated by the accelerated pace of progress. While some of the urban communities explore, some of the rural communities retreat- frustrated by the rate of change. I am speaking in generalities of course. 

As our connectivity increases, our collective social development speeds up. New standards are made. What was once considered acceptable is now considered hateful. Sure, we may be racing ahead of our rural counterparts. Shouldn’t that mean we are even more understanding when they aren’t on the same page as us?

In the heat of this debate I keep reflecting on my own experience and remembering that there are things we all do now that will shock our grandchildren. For instance- pollute, eat meat, etc. We can’t get so self righteous as to lose our human empathy for those that may be fearful of change. We have our own irrational fears and we are far from perfect. 

So let’s remember to “judge not, lest you be judged” and “love one another”. Instead of hating those that wish to discriminate, let’s show them love and seek to understand. Let's remind them of how Jesus lived. He welcomed all.