Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Would Jesus Bake a Gay Wedding Cake?

The Supreme Court of the United States listened to arguments today from a case formally known as Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, was approached by two gay men, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, and asked if he would make them a wedding cake. When Mr. Phillips declined, he was sued.

Phillips said that he was glad to sell them any other product from his shop regardless of their sexual orientation. But he would not make them a wedding cake since it would be a romantic endorsement of something that as a Christian he did not believe was morally right. Marriage was created by God to be a life-long covenant between a man and a woman. Phillips is an artist, and he did not want to use his artistic expression to present a message he didn't believe.

When the two men took legal action against Phillips, the state of Colorado agreed that he had violated the state's anti-discrimination ordinance -- this was in 2012, before gay marriage was even legal in Colorado. Nonetheless, the state brought legal action against Phillips which was upheld by the lower courts. In an article published yesterday in USA Today, Phillips said that since being sued, he has received "hate mail, obscene calls, and death threats." So much for love and tolerance.

Praise God the Supreme Court has decided to take the cake... er, case... and already Justice Kennedy, likely the deciding voice, has said that Colorado has been "neither tolerant nor respectful" of Mr. Phillips' religious beliefs. This is not just about freedom of religion, but also freedom of speech: Can the United States government force a person to express a message that person does not believe?

I became familiar with Mr. Phillips this past summer when a video was circulating featuring him and his lawyer answering questions on The View, the morning talk-show that has become a bastion of integrity and fairness (I'm being wildly sarcastic). The question Mr. Phillips was asked that made the video so popular was whether Jesus would make a cake for a gay wedding. Comedienne Joy Behar said He would, Mr. Phillips said He wouldn't.

If I were on The View, this is how I would have responded to their line of questioning. This is not a knock on Mr. Phillips' responses. My answers would be a little different than his because a) I'm a pastor, and b) I'm not being sued (which could change tomorrow in our current cultural climate). The following are actual quotes presented by the ladies in that interview. Their comments are in bold and my responses follow.

From left to right: Joy Behar, Sunny Hostin, Paula Faris, Jack Phillips, Kristen Waggoner (Phillips' lawyer), and Sara Haines. Forgive me but I could not identify the woman on the end, so she will be called simply "Host."

Host: I understand the concern people have about government dictating to private businesses what their business should look like. But on this religious freedom argument, I struggle. It violates your religious freedom to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, for example. Do you then, when straight couples come in, do you ask them if they've had a child out of wedlock, for example, if they participate in premarital sex, if they -- (audience applauds). Because, where do you draw the line then? Because that all could be deemed sinful, or sinful to someone who's religious as well.

That's a common argument when addressing cases of this kind, but it doesn't apply. Who is coming into a cake shop saying, "Hey, I'm having premarital sex. Could you bake me a cake?" In this particular case, two men have specifically asked for a wedding cake to celebrate something that Mr. Phillips doesn't consider moral.

I'm sure that if he was asked to participate in anything else he believed would be an endorsement of that behavior, he would decline. Mr. Phillips has said so: if someone asked him to bake a cake for an adult-themed party or Halloween or a KKK celebration, he would have refused in those scenarios as well. He has been consistent in his convictions.

Joy Behar: What exactly is your belief that prevents you from making that cake? What is it?

As Mr. Phillips expressed, he believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, as God created it to be. The Bible clearly teaches it.

Behar: But there are other things in the Bible I'm sure you don't believe.

No. I believe every word in the Bible, and I teach all of it. As a pastor, I go word for word through the Scriptures to help the hearers understand what God has said through His prophets and apostles.

Sara Haines: Well that actually brings me to my question, because one thing that's always confused me about this is that in the Bible it says many things if you read it.

Thank you, I have.

Haines: I was raised in the church, and it says do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman. But it also says don't judge others. We're not the final judgment. It also says love thy neighbor. There are a lot of messages in there. How do you reconcile in your own spirituality which ones to go with, because in my mind, whether you believe in it or not, you should definitely not marry a man (laugh). But if someone else does, it's not my place to judge them because God will ultimately judge them (audience applause).

First of all, the Bible doesn't say not to judge at all. In John 7:24, Jesus said, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." You're making judgments now regarding Mr. Phillips. Secondly, God created marriage, and He said it is to be between a man and a woman. Jesus made this point also in Matthew 19:4-6. Whoever is having sex outside of that definition of marriage is guilty of sexual immorality.

We read in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that those who practice homosexuality or sexual immorality of any kind will be excluded from the kingdom of God. Revelation 21:8 says they will be cast into the lake of fire. God has already said what that ultimate judgment will be. So out of love for my neighbor, I do not want to encourage him in sin that will exclude him from the kingdom of God. Jesus died to forgive sin such as this, not so someone would persist in sin such as this. Wouldn't you agree it is actually unloving to encourage someone in behavior that will harm them?

Host: There are artistic endeavors that have no relation to same-sex couples at all that you decide -- I just want to be clear about that, because these other things that you do not (indiscernable). They're not related to gay marriage, or...

Okay.

Paula Faris: I have a question for you, too, kind of bouncing off of Sara's question. I know that you're a Christ-follower, and Jesus was even criticized by some of His followers for hanging out with the lowest of the low; the tax collectors and the sinners. Did you ever ask yourself: What would Jesus do in this particular situation? Instead of denying them, do you think maybe Jesus would have said 'I don't accept this, but I'm going to love you anyway'? Do you think that maybe would have had a more powerful testimony?

Jesus would not have encouraged someone in behavior that positioned them under the wrath of God on judgment day. He told the sinners to go and sin no more. Your question accuses Mr. Phillips of being unloving by refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple. On the contrary, he told them they could buy anything from his shop regardless of their sexual orientation. But he could not encourage behavior the Bible says is destructive.

Faris: So you don't believe that -- I just ask, what do you think Jesus would have done in that situation?

He would have told a sinner to repent before something worse happened to them, as He did in John 5:14.

Behar: Oh, come on. Jesus would have made the cake.

Faris: Jesus could turn water into wine. He could do whatever He wants to do.

Behar: You can believe the Bible and everything, but Jesus, that's a deal-breaker. Jesus is gonna make the cake. 

The devil told Jesus, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." Jesus replied, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." And what has come from the mouth of God is that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. Mr. Phillips is attempting to live in accordance with what God said.

Behar: Listen, I'm not judging what he did. I'm just speaking for Jesus right now. (Audience laughs and applauds.)

Jesus has spoken, and what He has said is in the Bible, which is the word of Christ.

Sunny Hostin: Let me ask you this, because we talked about this same issue yesterday on the show, and I can see both sides of this argument. When I put one hat on, when I put my legal hat on, I think it's a closer call than I think we're giving credit for. When I put my human hat on, I think, "Just make the cake." But let me ask you this. Lower courts have found [that Jack] broke the law, because there is an anti-discrimination law in Colorado. So lower courts have found that you discriminated against this couple, but you're taking this fight to the Supreme Court. Why not just make the cake?

If your argument is, "Why make a federal case out of this?" you need to ask that of Mr. Craig and Mr. Mullins. They're the ones who sued Mr. Phillips. Remember that this happened in a year in which gay marriage wasn't even legal. The state discriminated against Mr. Phillips, and so has everyone else who has threatened him and his family. As far as I can tell, he's been nothing but kind and respectful through this ordeal. Doesn't he deserve to have his case heard before the Supreme Court?

Hostin: Now, he's received death threats. [Has he] lost business because of this?

The court ruled that Mr. Phillips had to make wedding cakes for gay weddings. He had to. So Mr. Phillips stopped making wedding cakes, a significant portion of his business. Who's to say someone wouldn't try to bait him into refusing to bake a cake for another gay couple? He would face more lawsuits while this one is still pending.

Behar: You're losing business! It's a bad business decision!

I agree, it is a bad business decision -- made by the state of Colorado, not Mr. Phillips. This is a form of authoritarian oppression more akin to fascism.

Behar: But there's a large issue here. I mean, some people are saying you could set back the law. You know, the case would set back the law fifty years. Because anyone would say I have religious freedom to deny you my wares.

Denying a person their freedoms of speech and religion, which are expressly protected by the constitution, is usurping the law in this case. The right for two gay men to marry each other and demand a wedding cake be made for them is not a right guaranteed by the constitution. Over the last 60 years, sexual liberty has taken precedence over the basic fundamental rights protected by the constitution.

Hostin: It certainly is a close call, but let me tell you, we reached out to the couple's, the gay couple's attorneys. They declined to comment at this time. But on the day that the Supreme Court announced that it would be taking up this case, they said, "The law is squarely on David and Charlie's side because when businesses are open to the public, they're supposed to be open to everyone. While the right to one's religious beliefs is fundamental, a license to discriminate is not." (Audience applauds.) What's your response?

Well, Mr. Esseks of the ACLU, who issued the statement, is discriminating against Mr. Phillips. He believes his clients are right and Mr. Phillips is wrong to run his business based on his moral convictions. That's discrimination. Everyone discriminates. The NBA and the WNBA, the PGA and the LPGA -- these are discriminatory labels. The question here is whether or not the discrimination was legal.

Does Mr. Phillips have the right to refuse to participate in an activity that goes against his fundamental religious beliefs? The constitution says that he does. I hope the Supreme Court agrees. Again, I must reiterate this because the point seems to be getting lost: Mr. Phillips did not refuse business to anyone. He simply refused to make a specialty cake. They could still buy anything else they wanted from his shop.

Haines: That's evolved in a lot of those religions. Because my brother's gay and in our church, it's fine for him to get married. (Audience applauds.) And I was raised in the church, so there are a lot of God-fearing Christian gays who are accepted and loved and they are choosing to love someone else, and, so I do think that the Bible has not changed because it was written thousands of years ago and translated sixty-some times, so what we're reading even, if you studied the Bible is interesting enough. But faith has changed and it has evolved to accept people.

There is no such thing as a God-fearing Christian gay man. He would be choosing to be gay precisely because he does not fear God. It doesn't matter how religious convictions have evolved on the subject. Jesus said in Mark 13:31, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

Hostin: But is he allowed to have his faith? 

Haines: I totally agree with that, but I do feel it should be: I should know that when I go in, because when my brother walks in and can't buy a cake from him, I don't want to put my business there. It's my personal freedom. (Audience applauds her again, apparently able to make more sense of her than I can.)

Hostin: And what do you say to that? Because we discussed this. I know that we're running out of time, but we discussed this again yesterday. Would you be willing to put up a sign that says, you know, this is a Christian bakery, this is a Christian establishment, I will not make cakes for A, B, C, D.

Behar: He won't get any Jews buying cakes either, or Muslims, if you do that. You might be putting off other religions. 

Haines: I don't think a Jewish person would not buy a cake because he's Christian.

Behar: No, but if he said, "This is a Christian store," that could put people off.

Haines: Well he could list adult parties, Halloween, gay marriages, and just let everyone know: these are the things I do. 

John the Baptist was beheaded for having a biblical view of marriage, so I do understand the culture is always going to be against those who follow the teachings of Jesus. But I still hope that justice will prevail in this case on behalf of Mr. Phillips, and that is also for your benefit. May the Holy Spirit convict your hearts of sin and righteousness, and for your sake I hope you come to an understanding of who Jesus really is before the day of judgment comes.