So you won’t bake a cake for a gay wedding

In Lutheran theology, we separate Church as the Kingdom of the Right and State as the Kingdom of the Left. The Church is governed by the Word of God, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ its foundation and motivation. Each country is governed by its particular circumstances, citizens, history, and the like, with its own laws its foundation and motivation.

For Christians in the USA, it can be challenging to keep the Right and Left from encroaching on each other. In this essay, I am working toward the discussing of upcoming proposed legislation in Indiana, where “sexual orientation, gender identity” are being considered as additions to the state’s civil rights statute of protected groups. To set the table, I return to when I was a pastor.

At times, I had members suggest to me that I promote to the congregation the boycotting of certain businesses—in particular, Disney World, for its gay days, and J C Penney, for hiring Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson. It was argued that these company’s actions flew in the face of the Christian faith and thus we must not associate with them.

Certainly, Christians will decide for themselves which businesses they patronize, just as every person makes decisions based on products and services, how they were treated in the past, and even on their opinion of the ownership.

While some aspects of a company might be known to me, how many are not? I might even choose to employ a person who is a Christian—even a member of my congregation—but does that mean I know his biases and prejudices, how he treats people in private, and you-name-it that might offend me? Can I ever know whether he acknowledges all of his sins and repents of them? Not even close.

Reversing the equation, we all know of the businesses that want to have the choice as to whom they provide their services, as in the infamous bakery owners who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

I am sympathetic to anyone who holds to their personal standards, sound ethics, and moral religion. I admire people who have honorable standards and lament those who do not. As a traditional Christian, conservative in almost every way, I long have hoped that where a place did not prefer to offer services, people would choose not to force their patronage but find a business happy to serve them. Sadly, life does not play out so cleanly.

Now that Indiana is weighing the addition to its civil rights protections and, already, the Republicans—with whom I generally vote—have proposed a laundry list of exemptions and exceptions, and because I now have a horse in this race—for the first time in my life, I am in a minority which needs protection—and because I have a proper understanding of the two Kingdoms of this world, I have a strong opinion about this.

My answer is as simple as keeping proper to the Church that which belongs to it and to the State that which is proper to it.

But wait, there’s more, and it goes to the folks who boycott businesses with which they take religious or moral exception. It is easy to spot the obvious and take exception to it. That which is not obvious, however, is in the vast majority, and it works both ways.

For the potential patron: You might reject a company’s spokesperson, but what of the practices of which you are not aware, and likely will never be aware, that, if you knew of them, you would be horrified. How many times has the door been flung open to the criminal, unethical practices of what were thought to be credible and commendable companies, their skeletons now out of the closet?

Are you going to do the due diligence, to assure that you always deal solely with righteous businesses? Is it even possible to do so—even remotely close to possible?

For the wary business owner: You might reject the one who could be the next customer, who outwardly lives in opposition to your religion or ethics, but what of the people whom you will serve without flinching, whose sins and prejudices, and anything else you might consider vile, offend you just as much as the thing you can see?

But, a traditional Christian might argue, LGBT people do not acknowledge their sin and repent. Ah, I would reply, do you know the heart of every person, which sins he acknowledges, which sins to which he remains blind?

What percent of your customers agree with your religion and stack up to your morals? If you insist on taking the high ground with those with whom your differences are seen by the eye, are you not also obliged to do the same with everyone?

Are you going to do the due diligence, to assure that you always deal solely with righteous people? Is it even possible to do so—even remotely close to possible?

Would anything get accomplished in the USA, by both businesses and individuals, if each citizen held everyone to its standards? Would YOU be denied services—no, make that HOW OFTEN would you be denied services because the Christian couldn’t abide by the Jew, or the African American by the Asian, or the gay by the straight, or the till-death-do-they-part couple by the divorced, or the virgin-till-marred by the never-wed parent, or the . . .

I am sensitive to those institutions which are founded by, run by, and serve their church bodies. When they offer services outside of Church, however, they now reside in State. It’s not right to live in the Left and insist on your right to be the Right.

I love the Church! I am thankful for the State! We can do this people; we can live in peace when we remember in which Kingdom we are acting at a given time. We can provide equal rights to all people who are living according to the law, without adding a thousand asterisked exemptions, and exceptions which, ultimately, are exclusions.

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8 thoughts on “So you won’t bake a cake for a gay wedding

  1. The line becomes blurred because the church entity often is a creature of the state, incorporated under the laws of the state, exempt from sales and property taxes because of state law, and required to file certain forms with various governmental agencies. The state authorizes its pastors to solemnize marriages. So, can the church whose pastor is authorized by the state and by God to solemnize marriages refuse to marry a specific couple who comes in with a marriage license, a license issued by the state? We hope that the Indiana legislature and governor recognize that there should be at least one exemption for the church from being required to render its services in the Kingdom of the Left to anyone who asks for them. Do we want to see our churches as the targets of lawsuits, just as the bakery which refused to provide a cake for a gay wedding was? I think not.

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  2. Thanks for this, Ken. When it comes to marriage, I find the rule terribly simple: I didn’t marry a couple if one or both people were not members, or if one or both were not members in good standing of another LCMS parish and there was agreement with their pastor for me to marry them. So, if a non-member couple – straight or gay – asks to be married, if a pastor – at least an LCMS one – abides by his vows, he will not marry the couple if they do not meet the standard, and that would be that at least one is a member. If the congregation does not admit homosexuals who are not repentant, end of story. As long as pastors carry out their vows fairly, toward all people, I don’t see how they can be forced to marry anyone.

    As for things like baking cakes and otherwise engaging folks in society where one’s conscience would be injured, my Facebook post provided loads of thoughts on the issue. I am taking them and composing another essay to think things through more thoroughly.

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  3. “For the wary business owner: You might reject the one who could be the next customer, who outwardly lives in opposition to your religion or ethics, but what of the people whom you will serve without flinching, whose sins and prejudices, and anything else you might consider vile, offend you just as much as the thing you can see?”

    I think the issue here is knowingly violating one’s conscience vs doing a service without knowing the details. Using the common example of baking a cake, baking a cake for a gay wedding would be showing a business’s support for homosexual marriage and if it is a Christian run business, then the Christian is supporting the marriage. But if they do not know the details of the wedding and are just simply baking a cake for it, are they violating their conscience and supporting the marriage? I think not.

    On a side note, I think a business should be able to be run however the business owner sees fit. If they do not want to hire black people, that’s their prerogative. If they don’t want to serve women. Fine. The boss throws eggs at his employees on Tuesday. Why not? The market has this fantastic way of regulating companies. The general population will not support a business has discriminatory practices and the business will likely not survive. Employees generally won’t put up with terrible treatment. We don’t need government rules and regulations to properly run a business, especially not in the information age. It doesn’t take long for a business to get shut down over mere opinions, let alone actual problems. The market will sort itself out. It does a really good job at that.

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  4. We have laws prohibiting the not hiring of people because of race, creed, and the like. I’m not sure about the throwing of eggs. 🙂

    My essay garnered heavy conversation on Facebook, much similar to your opening paragraph. Because of it, I posted a second essay, today, so I direct you to that.

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