The Gayest Wedding Cake
A Response to “An Open Letter to Christian Bakers in Indiana”
I recently read “An Open Letter to Christian Bakers in Indiana” by Russell Johnson. I appreciated it for several reasons, not least of which was its emphasis on showing Christ’s love to our gay friends, neighbors, and relatives. Christ did not shy away from engaging sinners in conversation, sharing meals with them, and allowing them personal access. I have seen signs in the past several years that more and more Christians are seeing the importance of developing and investing in personal friendships with those who are living outside of the bounds of God’s law, and I am so happy to see this trend.
Yet, how to love in practice is where my disagreement with the article begins. Mr. Johnson stated in his second paragraph, “As you may remember, Jesus’s first miracle was at a wedding party. He provided wine for a bunch of people who were already drunk. Not exactly where you’d expect a Messiah to begin, but His mom told him to, and it’s not wise to argue with a Jewish mother.” From this account of the wedding in Cana, I would begin to wonder whether Jesus, my sinless Savior, was (for some strange reason) facilitating sin. After all, the same God who turned water into wine also inspired these words, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) That seems slightly contradictory. I do not believe that Jesus facilitated sin, though. Simply put, the text does not indicate that anyone was drunk at that wedding, and we really do not have license to add creative detail to Scripture.
I do applaud the author for making it clear that we do not have to condone a sinful lifestyle to love sinners. I couldn’t agree more. Still, for Christ to provide more booze to a crowd of drunks would be like him finishing up his conversation with the woman at the well with a cheerful “You’ve had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband. You need to know that you are living a sinful lifestyle. But since you haven’t come to that realization yet, here’s some condoms so you don’t catch anything nasty, or God forbid, a baby.” Yes, Christ loved sinners in their mess and didn’t back away from them in disgust. But is baking the “biggest, tastiest, gayest” wedding cake for the glory of God really an expression of love? I have my doubts. You see, I did that once.
Several years ago, I worked at a small family-owned bakery, which had a stellar reputation in the area. Our work was excellent, and people came from hours away just to buy our cakes, fine European pastries, and all manner of fattening things. I worked there from 2003 to 2011, and I learned incredible life lessons as a store clerk, cleaning lady, dishwasher, mopper, and wedding cake consultant. The experience I am about to relate is one of them.
One day, a couple of guys came into the bakery for a wedding cake consultation. I bustled around, got them some samples of cake, and began with the first two questions.
“Who is the groom?”
One of the gentlemen gave me his name.
“And the bride?”
There was a slight pause and then one of them explained, “This is a somewhat unconventional wedding. There are two grooms.”
Calmly, I took their names down while I pondered this new piece of information.
“So, it has finally happened,” I thought to myself.
Mind you, though I was relatively young and inexperienced, I had not spent the last several years living in a cloister. In fact, same-sex couples abounded in my neighborhood. There were the two lesbians across the street. When they moved in, it was passion city in the front yard and I beheld necking, the likes of which I had not seen in heterosexual couples unless you count the silver screen. (Admittedly, there are some pretty good arguments to avoid watching such things on the silver screen, heterosexual or not. But I do not have time to chase that rabbit trail.) It was what it was, and it was quite an education. There was a lesbian couple to our left, a couple that walked their dogs past our house nearly every day and stopped in to chat with us. There was the little girl whose two moms faithfully brought her to our house for piano lessons with my dad. And there was also my lesbian great aunt in the family. I point all of this out to show you that I hadn’t been living in a bubble, and that, though this experience gave me reason to pause, these two gentlemen weren’t triggering my gag reflex.
Foremost in my mind was the fact that the Scriptures clearly indicate that marriage is to be a living, breathing illustration of Christ and the church. The Scriptures also clearly indicate that only one man and one woman are to play the parts of Christ and his church, respectively within each marriage. These gentlemen, whether they realized it or not, were trying to enter into that illustration, and it would prove to be an illusion. Was I, by helping them order that cake, facilitating them in furthering that illusion?
My mind spinning with questions, I talked to my boss, who was also a Christian. His conclusion was that it was a business transaction. We didn’t have to agree with what they believed to make the cake. I nodded, went back to the table, and proceeded to be the most polite, respectful, and solicitous wedding cake consultant the world has ever seen. I bent over backwards to customize their cake. And it wasn’t just an act. I genuinely liked them and wanted them to like me. I mean, who wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I hope people, especially gay people, really can’t stand me today?” The guys thought I was great.
All the while, though, I kept thinking to myself, “Is this right? Should I be doing this? Should I say something? But what, on earth, could I say at this point?”
As I sit here writing, a thought comes to me about what I might have said, if I’d had the presence of mind to say it.
I could have said, “I know I’m very young and you guys have been around a lot longer and have more experience than me, so I hope you won’t think I’m presumptuous. But I think God would like me to say something to you. It’s this: I’m not a very good person. Actually, if you could see some of the thoughts that float into my head and rest there, they might make your hair curl. But in spite of all that, God has given me a great gift. He has given me his love and his forgiveness. And I just wanted you to know that you can have it, too. If you’re like me, you’ve probably looked inside yourself and realized there’s something really wrong that you cannot fix. It’s called sin. But Jesus came to die for us, so that we could be healed and live denying that sin and doing right instead. I just wanted to tell you that.”
But I didn’t say that. Instead, I sent them out the door with the understanding that at the appointed time, we would deliver the biggest, tastiest, gayest wedding cake to their reception, resplendent in pink inverted triangles. I left them right where they were, satisfied and comfortable, with not one mention of the Person who could give them rest for their souls–rest that no marriage, real or imagined, could ever provide. Contrary to what some of the readers commented underneath Mr. Johnson’s article, taking that cake order was not inconvenient or uncomfortable. It was quite the opposite. I didn’t once have to sacrifice my comfort or convenience for their good. I didn’t sacrifice anything for them because what I did was not love. It was self-love, and it saved me a whole lot of grief and hassle.
You will have to wrestle with this. You will have to decide whether capitulating to a loved one’s wants and desires is actually loving them. You will have to decide where you have crossed the line between Christ’s love and helping your loved ones build a thicker, stronger wall between themselves and God. We may all come to different conclusions on the matter, but trite, easy, sloppy answers to hard conundrums will not do.