Getting married is a huge production. There are so many details to consider! For example, first you have to find someone who wants to be married to you. This step alone can be very time-consuming. Then you have to book a venue, send out invitations, and double-check that the person still wants to be married to you. And now, on top of all that, you ALSO have to take time to meet with potential bakeries to see if they will sanction your union with a cake.
This is a new development in our culture. It used to be that when you went to a wedding, you admired the cake, you ate a slice of it, and that was the extent of your cake-related thoughts. But now evidently it is the trend to ask which bakery furnished the cake, and to construe that business transaction as a seal of approval on the marriage. It has led to conversations such as this:
“This marriage isn’t going to last. They’re too young, and they’ve only known each other a few months.”
“Right? I love them, but this is a mistake. Honestly, I’m surprised they were able to find a bakery that would condone it.”
“Which bakery was it, anyway? If they would grant their blessing to such an obviously misguided marriage, how can I trust them to make cream puffs?”
And like this:
“Did you hear James and Susan split up?”
“No! They’ve only been married a year!”
“Yep. He was having an affair! It had been going on since before the wedding!”
“What?? How did that slip past the bakery?!”
And like this:
“That’s an awesome cake, bro! Where did you guys get it?”
“Oh, dude, we such had a hard time finding a bakery that would do our wedding — you know, since I’ve been divorced before, and Cindy is an atheist.”
Or at least I assume conversations like this have been taking place, given how important it suddenly is for bakers to sign off on the legitimacy of a wedding before making a cake for it. In the old days (i.e., like, five years ago), the only “message” you were sending by making a cake for a wedding was that you were a business owner who accepted money in exchange for goods and services. But now that gays are getting married (to each other, I mean; they’ve been marrying hapless straight people for years), suddenly it matters WHICH weddings you bake cakes for.
Now, I don’t want to talk about whether Christian businesspersons should have the right to refuse service to customers whose sexual identity they don’t approve of. That’s a complicated issue, and I’ll leave it to be sorted out by our great American system of courts, laws, and Facebook posts.
And for the most part, the incidents that have been in the news aren’t of businesses refusing to even let gays walk in the door, but rather turning down a particular job for a particularly gay event. It’s not that they won’t take gay money for anything — these bakeries would presumably serve a gay customer who came in just wanting a cookie, or whatever gays eat — it’s gay weddings, specifically. They are opposed to gay marriage, and they don’t want to appear to condone it by supplying the event with their deadly, fattening sugar products.
Even that Indiana pizza place that got yelled at (and then got $800,000) said of course they’d have no problem serving gays who came into the restaurant. They just wouldn’t cater a gay wedding, that’s all, not that anyone asked them to, or ever would. (By the way, I, too, will not bring pizza to a gay wedding. Can I have $800,000?)
But the people who don’t want to do business with gays AT ALL are out there, like the kook in Michigan who said he wouldn’t serve gay customers at his auto repair shop, or the various landlords who’ve said they don’t want to rent apartments to gay couples. These people always cite Christianity as the reason for their stance, and that’s what baffles me — both as a Mormon and as a gay, but mostly right now as a Mormon. Regardless of whether we Christians have the RIGHT to refuse service to gay customers, why would we WANT to? Where in Christianity are we getting that idea?
I ask because the gentleman Christianity was named after was actually pretty well-known for having the opposite view. He associated with all manner of sinners (a category that, it’s worth mentioning, includes every person He ever met), and when people criticized Him for it, He shut them down. So if your religious beliefs prohibit you from doing business with gay people, that’s fine — but your religion is not Christianity, and you should stop saying it is.
As for the Christians who don’t shun gays generally but are uncomfortable with being hired to have anything to do with a gay wedding: I get it. I understand the feeling that if you believe something is immoral, you shouldn’t have any contact with it. That’s why I’m not friends with anyone who wears pajama pants in public, and why I don’t click on TMZ links. But for these bakeries and such, it’s not like you have to GO to the wedding. You don’t have to actually WITNESS the horrific spectacle of two adults pledging their love to one another in front of their friends and families, nor are you compelled to join the happy couple on the honeymoon. In short, nobody’s asking for your blessing. They just want a friggin’ cake. And they’ll pay you for it!
It all comes down to that familiar question seen on a million bumper stickers: How’s my driving? No, not that one. What would Jesus do? Jesus did not run a bakery, but He and His foster dad, Joseph, were carpenters. Picture their little shop: Joseph & Son Tables ‘n’ Things. Imagine a couple of guys come in — let’s make it worse, they’re both Samaritans, too — and they want Jesus to make them a bed for the home they’re establishing together.
I know this is all hypothetical, and I don’t claim to be an expert on What Jesus Would Do. But I just can’t picture Him turning them away. If He would save the life of a woman caught in adultery and tell the men who want to stone her to mind their own business; if He would have dinner in the homes of tax collectors, among the most hated people in Israel, and tell those who had a problem with it that He was here for EVERYONE, not just saints; if He would associate with prostitutes and lepers and beggars, and treat them all as equals, regardless of their social or moral status — I just don’t see Him telling the gay Samaritans, “No, sorry, I’m not going to sell you a bed, because I disapprove of your lifestyle.”
They didn’t come to him for spiritual counsel, after all. His opinion of their private lives is irrelevant. More to the point, selling them the bed would not be construed by any reasonable person as an endorsement of their activities. Joseph & Son Tables ‘n’ Things has “beds” listed on the price sheet. It’s something they make. This is a business transaction. The only people who would hassle Jesus about it would be the nit-picking, holier-than-thou Pharisees — the ones He was always chiding for being hypocritical busybodies who find fault in everything. (Let me also be the thousandth person to remind you that Jesus’ recorded statements against hypocritical busybodies outnumber His recorded statements against homosexuals by a ratio of a million to zero.)
Let me put it this way. If you — a church-going, God-fearing Christian — bake a cake for a gay wedding, the only people who are going to think that this makes you a bad Christian … are bad Christians.
Good Christians — by which I mean people who sincerely try to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ — will be OK with it. They will see it as a nice gesture of shared humanity, a reminder that we can all live together and get along even though we don’t agree. And if they do have a problem with it, they’ll remember that it’s not their place to judge you. Because they’re good Christians.
Of course, the number of Christian business-owners whose products and services are sometimes hired for weddings is relatively small. This specific issue isn’t going to come up very often. But the general principle applies to everything. And that principle — the core of Christianity, really — is this: be faithful, but don’t be a jerk about it.
If you wanted to buy something, and the seller said he wouldn’t do business with you because he didn’t like Christians — well, even if he had the RIGHT to do that, wouldn’t you be happier if he didn’t? Wouldn’t you prefer he keep his personal views out of it and just accept your business? And if that’s how you would prefer to be done unto, maybe you should do unto others the same way? I’m just spitballing here.
Baking a cake for a gay wedding (and you can extrapolate this as necessary into other situations) doesn’t send the message that you think gay marriage is A-OK. The only message it sends is that the people requesting it are your spiritual siblings who deserve the friendly compassion and respect that Jesus said we’re supposed to give everyone. That’s all. Let’s not be so zealous in standing up for truth and righteousness that we come across as judgmental scolds. That is not the way to convert people. Let’s save the scorn for those who really deserve it, when we see them at the grocery store in their pajama pants.