February 26, 2014

Weddings Cakes, Evangelicals, and Philistinism

In a recent Huffington Post article, Christianity Today’s Skye Jethani joined Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt to condemn conservative Christian appeals to religious liberty in declining such services as photography and cake baking to same-sex wedding ceremonies. Jethani, of course, entitled his piece “An Evangelical Case for Gay Wedding Cakes.” No doubt his word processor inquired, “You typed ‘evangelical.’ Did you mean to write ‘Mainline Protestant liberal’ instead?” One must wonder if Merritt & Co.’s conception of “A Faith of Our Own Beyond the Culture Wars” will encompass outright conversion to cultural nostrums regarding sexuality. Because, as we all know, Jesus asked His disciples to participate in and propagate the disorders of the age.

But I digress. While social media users are expressing their sense of betrayal, “traitor” is an erroneous label for this triumvirate. However, “Protestant liberal” does not seem out of the question.

For Skye Jethani, work—especially art and craftsmanship—is a morally neutral thing. In this view, the creations from small businesses are like so many other products and services today: uniform hunks of matter or a collection of digital bits that are simply sent out into the wider world and available for purchase with the universal of money. There is merit to this outlook when discussing systems of tremendous scale. Some simply get their hands dirty by participating in the wider world. The Catholic cashier at a corporate pharmacy is going to probably have to sell artificial birth control to a customer; a Pentecostal at a department store is going to sell clothing made in unsettling work conditions overseas. There are efforts to correct some systematic injustices, but in all honesty, washing one’s hands of such moral disorders in a globalist world tends to be a luxury for the rich.

But the craftsman has a different issue to consider: proximity. Immediately before him stands a couple, about to engage in a social evil, asking him to bless and sanctify the very event of cultural degeneracy with his talents and gifts. “Bless?” “Sanctify?” Yes! For every man’s work is an act of worship to God. While sacred ministry in a wedding liturgy is indeed quite different, there is an element within the Genesis mandate where humanity is responsible to make the wider creation glorify its Maker. In some sense, the product of a human being’s creation can be seen as an offering to God, which can also be a means of loving one’s neighbor.

In this perspective, using one’s gifts to directly further moral evil is a sacrilege of sorts. Should the photographer lay down his photographic offering before the feet of Eros? If he or she can legitimately refuse to engage in pornography, why not homosexual activity? One wonders if Jethani and others of the evangelical left—who are so eager to act “prophetically”—would be enthusiastic about bakers and photographers who see it as their prophetic duty to call out the rebellion against God that is same-sex marriage. This would spring out of a love of neighbor, but a very difficult kind of love. Napp Nazworth offered a fantastic question on this issue: “Should a baker be required to bake a Westboro Baptist ‘God Hates F**s’ cake if it’s against his religious beliefs?”

There are going to be different borders for diverse people. Some have stricter moral sensibilities or may receive differing guidance from their spiritual counselors on various matters. Nevertheless, it should be they, not the state, that decide where to draw the line. It’s not as if the world suffers a dearth of photographers or bakers. In fact, cultural pressures may steer the market to drive out Christian businesses and create a new glass ceiling based on faith.

But we haven’t reached that point yet—that is the burden for brethren overseas and not American Christians at the moment. Sadly, though, American evangelicals seem to have a new cohort of thought-leaders who believe that art doesn’t matter, or at least lacks a moral dimension. Despite all the talk to the contrary, maybe this group fails to escape a common charge leveled against evangelicals: being aesthetic Philistines. “Don’t protect the artists and their craft,” this cadre argues, “What really matters are wedding vows themselves.”

No, art matters, and the local artist merits our loyal protection and support.


7 Responses to Weddings Cakes, Evangelicals, and Philistinism

  1. Peter Oehrtman says:

    Super ungraceful.

  2. Peter Oehrtman says:

    Super Ungraceful

  3. Gabe says:

    This is an extremely sad situation. Not only do we have the government threatening to clamp down on those who uphold the sanctity of marriage as God proscribes it in His Word, but we have self-identified evangelicals attacking their brothers and sisters in Christ for trying to defend that view during a major shift in the definition of marriage.

    I wonder where Mr. Jethani would like this to end. Should pastors be forced to perform these “wedding” ceremonies? Should bakers be forced to make pornographic cakes (the things you learn while growing up in California), or messages with hateful messages? What if the Westboro Baptist Church were to order a “God Hates Fags” cake from a homosexual baker? Would he be forced to offer his services?

    Walmart will not produce pornographic or unseemly photographs dropped off at their photo department. Will that policy have to be rescinded?

    How will the government monitor compliance to this law? If a photographer have to submit his photographs to be determined if they “captured the moment” of this spectacle? Will government tasters be onhand to ensure that the quality was as expected? Personally, I would be leery of consuming anything prepared by someone who opposed what I was doing and was being forced to do it.

    It seems to me that the government is getting ready to extract its pinch of incense to Caesar at any cost. History has shown how that turns out.

  4. Greg Paley says:

    The culture war is not against all religions but against Christians in particular. It is common in large cities for Muslim cab drivers to avoid picking up people with dogs (that includes seeing-eye dogs) or alcoholic beverages (a six-pack of beer, a bottle of wine or whiskey). Are you hearing a big fuss over this, any cries of “Discrimination!” It may sound like small stuff, but in many cities the majority of airport cabbies are Muslims.

    Nope, the only purveyors of discrimination are the mean old Christians, the convenient scapegoats of the world. If you are an observant Muslim, you can adhere to your religious customs and refuse your services to a customer with a dog or with a bag containing a bottle of wine.

    • Marco Bell says:

      It must seem unfair to most Christians that they feel discriminated against by virtue of their position on some social issues, but haven’t there already been thousands of other religions worldwide, over the centuries that have experienced the same fate, or fear?

      And for the record… Gabe, Why would anyone have a “pornographic” cake at their wedding? Please!!

  5. Marco Bell says:

    Dear Gabe,

    I think you might be getting a bit overwrought about what might be expected from either the Government or society regarding various sundries that relate to ceremonies and such.
    And I realize, you might be exaggerating a bit for impact!

    The notion that the Government will dictate, or even inspect the outcome of a baker’s product, or a photographer’s image, seems to wreak of paranoia.

    What harm lies in the production of a commercial product for a legitimate event, if there may be a difference between the provider and the recipient?

    I have wrestled with this same conundrum when I was requested to provide my artistic services to the former Secretary of State (of Florida), Katherine Harris.
    She was constructing a mammoth estate on the bay front of Sarasota, Florida, and I had to decide whether to submit a bid for services, or decline for personal reasons.
    Well, I didn’t get the job, and that’s okay, but I didn’t see any reasonable reason why I shouldn’t accept her commission for the services, had I received the job?!

    I may hold different political views than she, but that’s no reason for me to withhold my talents from her employ.
    Her money is probably tainted with a Neo-Con stink, but I’ll gladly take it, if she desires my services.
    Yes, I am a “prostitute” of artistic talent.

    These are all things that require personal reflection, and I am not one to dictate which path to take, so either we should accept the fact that there will be moments of conflict, and just move on!

  6. Paul Zesewitz says:

    I find myself wondering where the term ‘liberal evangelical’ came from, because somehow, those two words do not go well together! I do not believe a person can be both at the same time because it would lead to spiritual confusion and corruption. Just saying.

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