When the history of early 21st century faith is written, like every era, it will be filled will tales of persecution, courage, and betrayals. Forced migrations, racial profiling, and caged children separated by thousands of miles from their parents will be prominently featured, but one act of faith-based defiance will stand above them all — the Christian baker refusing services to a same-sex wedding.
It is the perfect example of faith in action in our era.
We, or future readers, can put it alongside the hallowed biblical stories and parables that framed Christianity from the very beginning.
I can visualize our Christian baker story held up to the story of the woman caught in adultery. (How ONE person could be “caught in adultery” has puzzled scholars for centuries.)
As with that story, there is a clear-cut moral transgression and an appeal to God’s law to enforce it.
If you think about it, virtually every gospel story has the same plot line: the “religious” people are about to enforce God’s law (as they understand it) and Jesus steps in to clarify or even divert that interpretation of the law — often putting himself at great risk and, almost always, makes the “enforcers of the law” look like heartless, legalistic bureaucrats, if not blatant hypocrites.
In at least one case, he mourns their “hardness of heart” (Mark 3:5), or their lack of even the most basic of human decency.
Our current American Christian baker claims God’s will and his own moral high ground. But to what end?
Are unbelievers drawn irresistibly to the God he proclaims? Or are cynics even more convinced that “religion” justifies any act of cruelty, pettiness, or discrimination?
Jesus intervened, as I believe He would urge us to, with compassion, kindness, insight and healing, with restoration of the individual, relationship, or community in mind.
It is this kindness and generosity of spirit (or winsomeness) that truly draws us to God (Romans 2:4).
Our erstwhile Christian baker does not seem to have reconciliation or restoration on his mind. In fact, he seems to claim a righteousness that allows, or even demands, the right to shame its targets.
I can’t imagine unbelievers being drawn to the ”faith” this baker represents. But I can easily see why young people and unbelievers would be repulsed by the condemnation inherent in his public statements against those who not only did him no harm, but offered to hire his services.
It might not be as catchy as the “What would Jesus do?” (WWJD) bumper stickers or bracelets of several years ago, but “What would a Pharisee do?” has somehow become the rallying cry of 21st-century American Christianity.
When it comes to preparing a cake for a same-sex wedding, it is all too obvious what a Pharisee would do. We are still waiting for an example of what Jesus would do.