Not long ago, a baker in Oregon refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Following on the heels of this, a pizzeria in Indiana stated it would refuse to cater a same-sex wedding. As much as I love pizza, I’ve never had a pizza so good that it made me think, “Man, I should have this pizza at my wedding,” except maybe the Philosopher’s Pie from Mellow Mushroom. That is an amazing pizza. But I digress. Both business owners claimed that their “deeply held religious beliefs” prompted the refusal. Well, for the baker that is. The pizza owner would refuse service if a gay person in Indiana just happened to walk through the door and demand a five-tier wedding pizza. I’m not even sure what that would look like, but as a pizza lover I would guess it looks awesome.
Now, with Georgia poised to revisit its own version of a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” bill, the debate over religion vs. discrimination has resurfaced.
A friend of mine, also a Christian, said to me, “Jesus loves everyone, but he wouldn’t bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. He would bake a regular cake for them, but not a wedding cake.”
“Why not?” I replied, after filing her comment under “Some of the Most Ridiculous Things I’ve Ever Heard.”
“Because Jesus wouldn’t condone their sin.” This seems to be the wall at which we often stop. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to explain translation errors to someone with “deeply held religious beliefs,” but this is the point where people stop considering what you have to say. Once you cross into the realm of questioning those beliefs, even if they are misguided, you become the enemy for trying to lure them off the straight and narrow. Regardless, the problem with this conversation that I hear many people having is that it misses the point entirely.
The problem isn’t whether or not Jesus would bake a cake for a gay couple. The problem is the motivation. “Deeply held religious beliefs.” The list of things Jesus wasn’t super keen on is short, but among those things we can most assuredly find religion.
Jesus often broke Mosaic law to make his point. He touched lepers. He broke bread with sinners. He healed on the Sabbath. He did not make his disciples wash their hands before eating. And my personal favorite, he claimed equality with God. So, assuming that Leviticus is translated correctly (and I’ve seen plenty of evidence to the contrary), why wouldn’t Jesus flout a law designed to marginalize people as he had done so many times before? When confronted, his replies, without fail, point to the person as the priority, not the law.
There is an important distinction here between religion and faith. Religion is concerned with rules. Faith is concerned with God. Ironically, faith is what frees us from religion. If we watch Jesus prioritize people over religious law and we fail to do the same, we have removed him from the equation. Once we have removed Him, all we have left are our “deeply held religious beliefs.”