On a cold, slushy, Minnesota winter night, I found myself squeezed into an average-sized Midwestern home with an anything-but-average group of people. Most of us had never met each other, but we all knew Carl and Angel Larsen.
This night's interaction with the Larsens was no anomaly; every time I am around them, I meet new people. They have a reputation in my community for making friends of nearly everyone they meet. As a result, their eight kids (two adopted) – who are all under the age of 15 – are more socially adept than many adults I know, putting me to shame in their ability to converse with strangers of all shapes and sizes.
If any family had an excuse to not be hospitable, it would be this busy, entrepreneurial family of ten. But, refusing to make excuses, the Larsens invite people into their lives as if there were no time to lose. Unlike many in my generation of passionate philosophers who preach their ideals loudly, drawing lines in the sand, this family lives their ideals: drawing people together.
I would say they are good at loving their neighbors, but that sounds like they love people who are just like them. The Larsens' interpretation of "neighbor" is far more inclusive than that. It includes the Saudi family who invites them to break the Ramadan fast in their home; the Chinese Buddhist who shares their love of sushi; the bisexual student who attends the local university; the atheist who comes over for a barbeque. They make friends without discrimination, and they delight in loving and learning to understand people who are vastly different than they are.
Carl and Angel are #RelationshipGoals. They are passionate about their marriage and their family. They believe in creating community and telling beautiful stories. And they want to use their filmmaking business, Telescope Media Group, to tell the beautiful story of biblical marriage to a culture that no longer recognizes its significance.
But the culture shuts them out. According to Minnesota law, if the Larsens use their artistry to celebrate marriage between a man and a woman, they must pour the same artistry and passion into sharing the stories of same-sex marriages. This form of “anti-discrimination” law is itself the worst form of discrimination—silencing viewpoints and compelling speech in a way that ironically stifles the diversity it claims to defend.
Throughout the ages, artists have told stories to the world, lending perspective to human existence. But if an artist is required to share all perspectives—or worse, only popular perspectives—his craft will not be art nor will it have perspective. To ask Carl and Angel, or any artist, to share all stories as if they believed in all things is to ask them to have no beliefs worth sharing; to ask them to live without conviction.
But this is not love, and this is not how communities are built. Instead, it is how communities are torn apart. The Larsens know days are better spent getting to know our neighbors for who they are than reviling or shutting them out for disagreeing with us. That is why the Larsens decided to challenge this law in court, to fight for the right of all people to live consistently with their beliefs.
And let's not forget—the biblical values that dictate Carl and Angel's views on marriage are the very same ones that cause them to love their neighbors with such abandon…even the ones who don't love them in return.