“Scratch an evangelical and he’s sure to bleed a Pharisee” (Peter King 1969)
I read a news item today (see link below) about a Christian baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple. The case went to court and the judge ruled in favour of the cake shop owner, Cathy Miller, but the case will apparently be appealed. Miller 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. Christians are being asked 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. There are various ways these cases can be fought in court but the religious defence is what galls me. The bakers are so hypocritical in their refusal to serve same-sex couples because, they say, homosexuality is a sin, and to bake a cake for the couple’s wedding would be taking part in it. They are blinkered and prejudiced against homosexuals and can’t see their own inconsistency and sin. Jesus said: “Judge not, that ye be not judged…And why beholdest thou the mote [small particle] that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye….Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matt 7:3, 50).
Homosexuality is not the only sin
In a damning catalogue of cruelty and abuse committed against homosexuals, and which is enough to make one weep, Daniel Helminiak, a Catholic priest who works with homosexual people, writes, “Thirty percent of teenage suicides are among homosexual youth. Proportionately, this figure is at least three to four times higher than for other adolescents [A study in Massachusetts found the rate of attempted suicides six times higher]…. Prejudice, downright loathing for homosexuals, is condoned in our society….Bible religion plays a major role in allowing those horrors to happen….Of course, bigotry will have its day, and it will claim to have God on its side – against Jews, against Muslims, against Blacks, against women, against gays. Thus it has always been” (Helminiak, D, 2000, p. 17).
For some reason many Christians think that homosexuality is the worst and vilest of sins. Their response to gay Christians is totally out of proportion to the attention the bible gives it. Probably the reason is that the bible says men having sex with men is abomination (Lev 18:22; 20:13); and death is the penalty for those guilty of it (Lev 20:13). But Jesus never even mentioned homosexuality; however, he did condemn hypocrisy in the very harshest terms; and he denounced several other sins, most of which Christians commit many times a day with never a thought or a blush.
What these Christians have missed is that there are other sins in Leviticus chapter 18 which are also labelled “abomination”: incest (Lev 18:6-18); sexual acts with a woman during her menstrual period (Lev 18:19); adultery (Lev 18:20); child sacrifice (Lev 18:21); sexual penetration between two males (Lev 18:22); bestiality (Lev 18:23); “For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled (Lev 18:27).
Even eating foods that God had called “unclean” would “make your souls abominable” (Lev 20:25). For example, how many Christians eat pork or rabbit, among many animals, which God prohibited and called “unclean”? But even more so, Christians freely eat crabs, lobsters, crayfish, yabbies, prawns, shrimps, langoustines, oysters, mussels, and “all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you” (Lev 11:10-12). And the assembled church leaders at the council of Jerusalem instructed Christians to “abstain from….blood” (Acts 15:20-21, 29). And yet Christians eat black pudding, a disgusting (to me) mix of blood and bran.
And the severest penalties were imposed upon things that we would regard as minor e.g. who would have thought that sexual relations with a woman during her period (Lev 20:18), would be considered as equally heinous to God as consulting mediums and wizards (Lev 20:6); and that the penalty for both was that the guilty would be excommunicated from the nation and executed, and the sacrifices would not be effectual for them (Lev 20:18; and 6, 27)? And one only has to read Deuteronomy ch. 22 to find an astonishingly wide range of offences against purity, some of which were punishable by death, from robbing bird’s nests, to wearing clothes made of two different fabrics to fornication, adultery, and rape.
Execution and excommunication were also imposed on those who gave their children to be sacrificed (Lev 20:2-5); those who cursed their father or mother (Lev 20:9); those who committed adultery (Lev 20:10); incest (Lev 20:11-12); men having sex with men (Lev 20:13); any man who married a woman and her mother (Lev 20:14); and bestiality (Lev 20:15-16).
I wonder how many weddings have prawns or lobster or oysters as part of the wedding breakfast; and I wonder how many Christian bakers would attend such a wedding and not give it a second thought, except perhaps anticipation for the nice food they’re about to eat. And I wonder how many Christian bakers would attend a wedding where there will be guest couples who live together as a family who aren’t formally married.
So for Christian bakers to refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple is the height of hypocrisy. If these Christian bakers and other evangelicals wish to denounce homosexuality so strongly, they ought to first look at what Jesus thought was important and then adjust their outlook and attitudes to be in conformity with his.
What Jesus really hates
Jesus really hated hypocrisy and condemned it in no uncertain terms. In Matthew chapter 23 he absolutely shreds the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy; and while some may object that the hypocrisy of the Pharisees was much more offensive than the way Christians treat gays and lesbians, just ask those gays and lesbians how they feel when they are singled out as being gross sinners simply because they are attracted to members of the same sex. The whole of Matthew chapter 23 has Jesus denouncing the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy; and 7 verses begin with Jesus saying, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”, and one verse with “Woe unto you ye blind guides…”.
Homosexuality is not once mentioned in this chapter. It doesn’t even get a mention in the Ten Commandments, whereas theft, covetousness, and Sabbath-breaking each has its own commandment. So why don’t Christian bakers refuse to make cakes for them? How many Christians cheat on their tax return forms? How many Christians covet this or that?
Jesus also insists that Christians forgive those who sin against them – this is very important to him even to the extent of being one of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:12). He says that if people won’t forgive those who sin against them, neither will he forgive their sins (Matt 6:14-15; 18:35).
And he insists that Christians love one another, making it a test of discipleship and love for him (Jn 15:12-15) and a commandment (Jn 13:34) because “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn 13:35).
So if Jesus never mentioned homosexuality even once but repeatedly denounced hypocrisy in the strongest terms, and insisted that Christians love one another and forgive one another, wouldn’t it be more consistent of bakers and cake shop owners to check every customer for hypocrisy?
If Christian bakers are to be consistent in their businesses, may I suggest they make a sign at or near the entrance which states that no wedding cake will be baked for them if they get drunk, are adulterers, liars, thieves, cheats, covetous, fornicators, or haters; and if they have lust in their hearts, or hatred, are angry at their brothers and/or sisters, are hypocritical and inconsistent in their Christian profession. Furthermore, the bakers themselves need to be living by the same standards to which they hold their customers. If all this is done, perhaps they could be excused for refusing to serve homosexuals. To do otherwise – to refuse to serve homosexuals because it goes against their “sincerely held beliefs about marriage” – is trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit. Instead, they should greet their homosexual customers with courtesy and without judgment or condemnation in their hearts.
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 has nothing to do with the baker.
The apostle Paul instructed the Corinthians (and thus all the churches throughout time as long as the world stand) regarding the church member who was guilty of incest: “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without [unbelievers]? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth” (1 Cor 5:12-13). In light of this, it is incumbent on Christian bakers to treat their gay customers in the same way as they treat their straight customers.
Helminiak, D. A., 2000, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, Alamo Square Press; Millennium Edition; for Kindle