Of Cakes and Christian Charity-A Contrarian View
Robert Oscar Lopez
If you decide to read this essay, and I hope you will, please be charitable. I believe very strongly in the conservative movement and despite my occasional bitterness, I respect conservatives who have fought for what they believe in.
The case of the cake-maker before the Supreme Court is bugging me. I have followed it as best I can. From what I can tell, if we "win" the case, we will be justifying the Obergefell decision and vindicating Anthony Kennedy by telling the world that all we really wanted was some little safe spaces where we don't have to deal with homosexuality's toxic destruction of our social order. If we "lose" the case, I can't see how the loss will make our world any worse than it is right now. The narrow, expedient argument that was required to get the wedding cake case to the Supreme Court basically threw almost everyone being oppressed by the LGBT agenda under the bus. In typical right-wing style, the built-in preference for business owners ("job creators") and disinterest in workers ("Trump voters") led to a skewed approach to religious liberty.
There is some recent history I should share for the sake of context. To protect the right of a handful of Christian colleges to fire employees who come out as gay, conservatives backed away from protecting faculty rights, which could have ostensibly been strengthened so that the other 98% of colleges couldn't fire employees who come out as anti-gay Christians. We see the same dynamic unfolding once more. The claim that it is all about artistry and free speech for independent business owners dealing with religious ceremonies leaves out:
--workers, such as everyone who has a boss and has to do what the boss says ("Trump voters")
--people who don't classify their job as artistic expression
--teachers, actors, printers, translators, cameramen, and anyone else who is involved in "expression" but can't claim that they are perfectly in the "creative" position because someone else employs them
--people whose objection to the LGBT agenda goes beyond just weddings and actually encompasses the very reality of sodomy and its sinful destruction of society. In other words, all the people who can't really start sentences by saying "I'm not antigay but---" because they are, well, antigay."
--people who will be stuck having to deal with liberal Christians making stupid arguments like the "gay centurion and his gay slave" argument, and who will therefore be told that the liberal Christian beliefs gave liberal Christians the right to deny service to (and blacklist and de-platform) orthodox Christians.
--basically just about everyone except around 100 people who know really famous conservative writers.
I'm getting the sense that we are burning the village to save the village here. Or not even. We're letting the village burn so that the one artsy dude who lucked out and got picked for pro bono legal representation can be saved.
If we "lose" the cake case, future challenges to Obergefell can cite the fact that Kennedy's decision was wrong (it promised to protect religious liberty), ergo the entire decision was written as bad jurisprudence. At any rate, it will be clear, if we "lose" the cake case, that we have to overturn Obergefell because the problem is we have to fight to eradicate homosexuality from our society and we have to eradicate gay marriage so same-sex-attracted people know that the real path to happiness is to be delivered from their sin and led to celibacy or the divinely designed happiness of true marriage between a man and a woman.
The NeverTrumps who argued with me may recall that I usually resist strategic stop-loss arguments, which was why I disagreed with conservatives who thought a Hillary Clinton win in 2016 would somehow spur the movement to greater effectiveness. But in the case of the wedding cake, I find myself almost cheering for our side to "lose." I am as certain as I can be that we have to fight to overturn Obergefell, remove homosexuals from protected-class status, and make sure reparative therapy is no longer banned anywhere. This is a big, important war. I fear that little skirmishes that don't get us close to winning the war may just lull us into a false sense of security. Having spent so much time around gay activists, I wouldn't even put it past them to feign outrage over the wedding-cake case to create the illusion that winning at the Supreme Court is a big threat to homosexuals. They would much rather be dealing with cake makers refusing to serve their weddings than with America legally forbidding them to marry, even though the latter is really the more correct recourse for the good of everyone in society. Are we being railroaded by a ring of pool sharks? Certainly people like John Corvino and Mark Joseph Stearn are smart enough to know that their side has all of us over a barrel in almost every aspect of our lives. Losing a few cakes might be worth it to them to keep totalitarian control over a country they've taken hostage.
I worry that making much ado about nothing is a waste of time but worse than a wasteful hobby. It may be draining resources and attention that we need to direct toward ending Obergefell. I am an enthusiastic supporter of Roy Moore because he is one of very few public figures who actually resisted Obergefell as if this was the main goal (as it should be). Moore actually sacrificed his position as judge to refuse to implement Obergefell. That's the real courage we need. And unfortunately I see a lot of conservatives refusing to back Moore while they are making a big deal about the wedding cakes.
If Jack Phillips and the Alliance Defending Freedom succeed, I will rejoice at some good news in the battle over religion and politics. But nobody really believed that the cake issue was incredibly important in and of itself; its importance lay from the beginning in larger metaphors. The gay couple did not really need this cake. It would have not harmed Jack Phillips very much to make a cake and then tell the gay couple he would pray for their deliverance from their terrible decision to devote their lives to sodomy and their eternal fates to separation from God. On both sides there is a little bit of theatricality here. Usually that wouldn't bother me but there seems too much at stake to play games right now.
I have no sympathy for a gay couple throwing a fit over a cake or an artiste furious about his cake-making motifs being abused. My lack of sympathy just comes from the fact that I got married once upon a time and remember the complete irrelevance of cake to the significance of the ceremony. Perhaps this is because I was a poor grad student marrying an immigrant and our combined income that year was about $13,000.
When I married (a woman!) in 2001, we went to City Hall like millions of Americans and said our vows before a justice of the peace. I was wearing a barong and my wife wore a blue business suit. The clerk reading our vows to us stood next to an ashtray that appeared to have half-smoked cigarettes in it. After this momentous ceremony, we went to Le Metro, an overpriced French restaurant, and ate crème brûlée. I even made it to my graduate Latin class that day (we were working on Ovid.) People got mad that we eloped and my Catholic priest (yes, another Catholic story, sorry) was furious that I was having sex with a woman without having had the church's blessing. When I was in the gay lifestyle, he wouldn't bat an eye as I recounted the gritty details, but sex with a woman was somehow enough to stir his indignation. He actually forbade me from having communion until we had a church wedding, which we did, six months later, complete with a reception at the VFW Hall on Franklin Street. We hung gauze over the bingo board and served our guests baked ziti. For cake, we paid a supermarket for one round cake with strawberry filling, which we decorated with icing. We had a sheet cake in the back that we pre-cut into 75 pieces for our guests.
If cake is crucial for your wedding, you are going to have a very troubled marriage. If cake is crucial for your Christianity, you need to spend more time in the Word.
Marriage is important because it is God's design for the creation of life and He created men and women to be together, the first covenant in Genesis. Cake is cake. My marriage to my wife would have been a beautiful moment of spiritual unity even if we hadn't had cake. I certainly would have been annoyed if the supermarket refused to sell us a cake because they had moral objections to my being ex-gay. But I felt the presence of God in my conjugal union and would have seen it as an insult to my bride if I let a disagreement over cake ruin our wedding day. Heck, I could've served potato chips.
The gay couples' bad faith in pursuing fines against Jack Phillips is obvious, but let's be real about the cake-making "artist" too. Your baked goods do not make or break someone else's spiritual ceremony. I would be much more sympathetic to Phillips if he stated that he would not provide a cake to the gay couple out of concern for the two men themselves. Since homosexuality is harmful and a life of committed sodomy is evil, he would be in his rights to say that he could not receive payment from someone to contribute to their harm. It would be like being paid to drive an underage girl to a date with a forty-five-year-old rapist. (Yes, I compared homosexuality to child abuse! I can compare it to bestiality and incest, too, if I want, because it is a free country!)
The argument from Phillips makes me uncomfortable, however, because he essentially argues from self-interest, saying that his conscience would be injured and his art would be betrayed by the degradation of two people whom he would rather let someone else bake a cake for. Phillips' position is all about not getting his hands dirty and retreating into a Christian silo of cleanliness and purity. This is the position that has often shut me out even after I was saved, because people wanted not to be tainted by someone like me with a complicated life and imperfect narratives to share. This is the same logic that we see behind the NeverTrumps telling people not to vote for Roy Moore in order to keep their consciences pure, even though this means Doug Jones would win the Senate seat and spread the evil gospel of abortion, trans ideology, and sodomy.
"Leave me out of it" is not a good route to take in the culture wars. We need to overturn Obergefell. If we cannot get it overturned by the courts we need massive civil disobedience against the LGBT lobby itself. There are some key hooks--such as loathsome sexual content in school curriculum and the issue of transgenderism--that might help us mobilize people for exactly such massive civil disobedience. It would have to be undertaken by people who want to save Nineveh, not who want to flee from it and be left alone. The problem has to be understood as sodomy and other violations of God's design, for these deviances harm all of society and we have no choice but to engage in the fight against them. Ideally we should feel deep sorrow and charity for the two men who would be so deluded and confused that they would hold a ceremony to celebrate the lifelong destruction of their bodies and the eternal separation of their souls from God. We should want to save such people. I was one of them, and I was saved because there were people who had faith in me and believed I could be saved. I do not get the feeling that the people rallying behind Jack Phillips believe gay people can be saved. Many of them actually condemn reparative therapy. Those who insist on not making wedding cakes for gay couples simply want other people's doom not to touch them. That may be Christian to some people, but to me it isn't a great manifestation of the gospels.
I teach people, write to people, and deal with people constantly who are determined to live homosexual lives. I provide services to them but I tell them the truth. If I were a cake-maker, what would I do? I would make them a cake and ask to deliver it in person. I would bring the cake to the wedding with a letter telling them that I pray they turn away from their plans. I would tell them that the cake could be free if they call off the wedding. And I would distribute copies of Romans 1 to people I spoke to. Then I would go home, and pray for God to protect me. And if the gays came after me to fine me or attack me for what I had said, then I could say in full confidence, "I speak the truth, and I speak as a free man, because I love you."