“Scratch an evangelical and he’s sure to bleed a Pharisee” (Peter King 1969)
I read a news item today about a Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The case went to court and the judge ruled in favour of the cake shop owner but the case will apparently be appealed. The baker said that she refused the couple because what they wanted went against her “sincerely held beliefs about marriage”.
There seems to be a lot of such cases where bakers refuse to serve same-sex couples both in the USA and here in Australia. Church leaders are worried and are asking their congregations to pray for the bakers because there is concern that they will be forced by law to go against their Christian beliefs and make wedding cakes for same-sex couples. This is a legitimate concern; the state has no business interfering with the lives of its citizens. But equally, neither do citizens have the right to tell other citizens how they should live. Christian bakers have the right to refuse to serve a customer, but it needs to be for solid reasons. If the grounds for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay or lesbian couple are that it goes against their “sincerely held beliefs about marriage”, they need to think again and consider the implications of this. And they need to be consistent in their stand.
If Christian bakers are to be consistent in their businesses and want to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay or lesbian couple, may I suggest they also ask heterosexual couples who want a wedding cake if they are currently living together in a sexual relationship with each other; or whether they have been previously married and divorced; or whether they are cousins; or whether they are in an “open marriage/relationship”; or if they’re “swingers”?
A bakery or cake shop is a business and what the customer does in their private life or what they want the cake for is none of the baker’s concern. They are there to sell cakes to whoever comes through the door – the customer’s lifestyle or behaviours or whatever else have nothing to do with the baker. Rather, they should greet their customers, whether gay or straight, with courtesy and without question, without judgment, and without condemnation in their hearts. This would be a huge load off the shoulders of the bakers and allow them to be concerned about their own lives and the lives of their families; and also release them from the dread of wondering when the next same-sex couple will be entering the shop and the consequent stress of conflict and refusal.
“For what have I to do with judging those outside [the church]? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside” (1 Cor 5:12 NRSV).