It turns out that I wasn’t the only one to note the problems with Bake for them two, which had a number of my friends purring approval and, as I admitted, getting an initial approval from me. Some of the other caveats are pretty harsh:
“If asked to pinch incense to the emperor, offer a blood sacrifice to the gods as well! Matt. 5:41!” – Too clever by half exegetes
— Nathan Duffy (@TheIllegit) April 8, 2015
But this one, from an organization formally committed to opposing SSM to the bitter end (via a Declaration I subscribed), had worthy moments, starting with acknowledging (mansplaining?) a good impulse behind the bad exegesis:
Kantrowitz, a free-lance editor and part-time nanny, penned a blog that went viral, competing with the reach of those of us who do religious liberty for a living. That’s noteworthy for two reasons:
First, and foremost, it tells me Christians are desperate to communicate love to LGBT people. Indeed, many Christians are willing to ignore biblical principles they know to be true to avoid the appearance of judgment or rejection. This reality stands in stark contrast to the popular misconception of Christians as ignorant bigots. As influential activists in the LGBT movement further this misconception, Christians grow more fearful of embodying the caricature. The result is a spiral of silence among Christians, and historic gains for LGBT activists.
The spiral of silence is evidence of the second lesson: the widespread failure of pastors and other church leaders to properly equip everyday Christians to respond to the culture wars.
In the first half of the next sentence, though, I personally think he goes off the rails:
Christians don’t know what the Bible says, and lack heroes who model both grace and truth.
Maybe I’m reading too much into “don’t know what the Bible says.” In my experience, Bible proof-texts are ever on their lips, be it “go the second mile” or some clobber verse. The first has cultural purchase because it sounds nice when applied to wedding cakes; the latter is almost always worse than a failure in public discourse.
The Declaration I subscribed cited more than the Bible:
We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person.
Then comes the real surprise. “Go the second mile” wasn’t even “nice” when uttered. Kantrowitz’s proof-text is at least as out-of-context as any clobber verse:
Now, finally, we come to Matthew 5: 41. Does this section apply to the current clash over religious freedom and LGBT rights, and, if so, how?
Here is the section in full:
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48)
… At the time of Jesus, Roman citizens held immense power over Jews, who had few rights. Jesus is instructing believers how to respond to coercive acts in an systemically unjust system. He is not affirming that system. This is similar to the instruction Paul offers slaves to obey their earthly masters (Ephesians 6). Such an admonition is not an endorsement of the slavery system, but a guide to faithful living in the midst of a broken cultural reality.
Furthermore, Jesus’ instruction is a means to preserve one’s dignity in a situation where humanity is being denied. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, to turn to him the other also is a display of power. If someone sues you for your tunic, to willingly offer your cloak also relocates the false pretense of power embodied in an unjust system to the shoulders of the one whose dignity is grounded in something else entirely.
Matthew 5 is a subversive text ….
I assume Bake for them two will become the squishy Christian clobber verse against troglodytes like me. But for my money, more in the original spirit of “go the second mile” is this Note from Creator Cakes:
Though we’ve never been asked to service a same-sex wedding, and though it looks increasingly that we someday will, we want to notify our customers of a policy that Creator Cakes will pursue. We’ve decided that if asked, we will provide a cake at a same-sex wedding ceremony. But we will take every dollar from that sale and donate it to an organization fighting to protect and advance religious liberty—organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom, Manhattan Declaration, or the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
No organization, company or person should be compelled to participate in events or speech that conflict with their convictions. This is a basic freedom we thought was afforded under our constitution. But our culture is beginning to turn its back on its rich legacy of protecting dissenting viewpoints. If Caesar insists that bakers must be made to bake cakes or else close up shop, we’re going to see to it that Caesar’s edicts get undermined by channeling resources designed to fight Caesar.
So, we will serve same-sex wedding services. We will do so unhappily and with a bothered conscience. But if we must do so with a bothered conscience, we reserve the right as a condition of the marketplace to bother others’ consciences as well. If we are coerced into baking for events we disagree with, we will return the favor and use the funds of those we disagree with to fund the organizations they disagree with. If you are unhappy with this new policy or it conflicts with your own convictions about marriage, we invite you to take your business elsewhere.
Care to fault my exegesis on that?
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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)