When it comes time to get married, I’m going to have to shop around for wedding cakes. I can’t just go to the nearest bakery and commission one. It will have to be specially crafted so that I can eat it and enjoy it. Trust me, on my wedding day I will not be skimpy out on cake, and plan to shove some straight into my husband’s face.
Luckily for me, I probably won’t run into a Christian baker who will refuse my cake request. They would have to be pretty specialized in their skill. Also, most of the people who cook gluten free/vegan do tend to fall to the liberal side. Plus my friend Pam has already been commissioned for the task, and I have a feeling there may be a few cupcakes thrown in as well.
The cake conundrum got me thinking. Why is it such a big deal for a Christian to bake a cake for a gay wedding? It really is just a business transaction. You get money for services rendered. I worked in retail before, I sold products and what people did with it was their business not mine. Even the Constitution has set forth the principle of separation of church and state.
But then I remembered from my 26 years of being in the Church, that you aren’t suppose to separate the different aspects of your life. Jesus wants to be involved in all of it. So maybe I can see how baking the cake would seem like a stamp of approval. There might be a moral qualm here that I just haven’t been open to yet, since it isn’t one for me.
I remember a lesson in high school when we were talking about The Great Gatsby. When Daisy is picking at the chicken with Tom, it is clear that she picked him over Gatsby. Even though it wasn’t a lavish meal, just the small act of eating cold chicken together sealed Gatsby’s fate. My English teacher explained that eating together in literature has a huge significance. It really is a stamp of approval on a person or issue. How much more could baking a cake for someone you don’t agree with come across? You aren’t only eating it; you are the one providing the food for the feast. When you look at it this way, it makes complete sense. A conservative Christian probably shouldn’t bake a cake for a gay wedding.
However, this is not how it is supposed to be.
Growing up, I was always told to imitate Jesus. “What would Jesus do?” Four words that are forever printed in my mind. When I look at the Bible I see Jesus attending a wedding where he turned water into wine. He dined at Zaccheus’s house. He ate with the sinners and tax collectors. He fed 5,000 people, with no evidence of who was and wasn’t a sinner. By doing this, you could say he threw his lot in with them. The Pharisees constantly made remarks about this. Jesus was seen as lesser for even dealing with the low-life scum of the day.
Sadly, that isn’t the road most Christians take. Instead, if someone is different they run away. They don’t eat with them, they don’t bake their cakes. And if they do, the conversation always revolves around the homosexuality issue. It’s never about how are they doing as a person, or how life is in general, or the hundreds of other issues the Bible brings up. No, it’s always about that one issue and how they are wrong and going to hell.
I really doubt all Jesus talked about to the people he ate with was how they were horrible people, living in sin and going to hell. I have a feeling it was about who they were and life in general. I have a feeling Jesus wanted to get to the core of the person, know them as a close friend, and really show he cared about them.
It wasn’t that easy for me to gain the trust and approval of my Christian friends at times. Growing up, I always knew I was different. Usually it was in a good way. I was the person who would dress up crazy. I would talk to the new people. I would approach the stranger. When there were 5 Matt’s in leadership in the youth group, I got Crazy Matt as my nickname. I could always be counted on for a good laugh or stunt. However, when you are different, and don’t even fully know how or why, other people pick up on it. And they don’t always want you around.
I remember when The 5 Love Languages was a big deal. By a huge margin my love language was “quality time.” If I could be joined at the hip with someone, I would. I just love being in relationship and around people. So many people said they could just se me sitting there curled up in Jesus’ lap. In all honesty that sounds like the perfect day. Just chilling with your best friend all day long, no agenda, just time together.
Yet, it became very clear, very quickly: I was different and I would never fully fit in. I wouldn’t be getting that quality time with my Christian friends. The day this sank in was when a huge group of youth group leaders were out mini golfing. They decided to call me and tell me how awesome and cool I was. But they couldn’t talk long, they had to go back to mini golfing, and it didn’t cross a single person’s mind to invite me. The message was loud and clear: “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US.”
From that day forward, it was true. I would never fully be accepted in the Christian community. I was different. I was gay. And nobody wanted to deal with that. It made straight guys uncomfortable, because clearly they were insanely hot and I was going to hit on them. If only one of them had even been close to my type. I couldn’t be myself. I always had to pretend. If I really was myself, I was at risk for having an intervention with the laying on of hands and the demons being cast out of me.
I will add this side note, I do have a few Christian friends I met in college who bucked the norm. We don’t agree on everything, but we don’t let that stop us from being friends, having meaningful conversations, spurring each other in our relationship with the Lord, and enjoying a good meal together. But sadly, this isn’t the norm.
When I finally ventured out of my Christian bubble and made friends with the “secular heathens,” a whole new world opened up to me. They were real. They were genuine. They didn’t have to pretend to be something they weren’t just so they could keep their leadership position or keep their friends. Instead, if they thought I was cool, I was invited to hang out and have fun. Not just once, but every time. They became actual, true, real friends. They didn’t run at the first sign of hardship. They stuck with me. They did everything right. The church said these people would leave me and hurt me; instead, they embodied what true friendship was more than my Christian friends.
What was I suppose to do? Walk back into a hurtful and oppressive environment? One where it was all right to be mean to people and you could get away with it? One where you could lie to my face and not put action to your words, yet you were still going to heaven because you weren’t gay? Or I could go off with people who were true and genuine, people who were my friends.
Even with different ideas on faith, no one was there trying to tell any of us we were wrong or ending up in hell. Instead, we could just be friends, and if spirituality did come up, well, it was some of the most honest conversations I’ve had. All I knew, was in that environment, the message had changed: “you CAN sit with us.” The food and drink was being served up lavishly here.
Now I get it. Baking the cake isn’t a good idea. You really are supporting something you are against. But I also realized, I don’t want your cake. I don’t want what you are serving. If you can act mean, and only talk to me about a few verses in the Bible, I don’t want that. The Jesus I read about went out and reached the people who needed it the most. By showing them love and compassion, he changed their entire life. If you’re going to bake my cake with hatred, lying, gossiping, and just an overall mean spirit, I don’t want it. I’ll take the cake baked with love from Pam.
If that is how you want to act and call yourself a Christian, then I can’t come to your church. Not right now. I still need to heal. My walls are larger than Jericho’s. One day I will walk back into church, and one day I will be a leader again, but until I find that safe space, I’m going be here with my handful of friends who are walking through life with me and pressing me on towards God. My faith has never disappeared; it just comes through a different medium than it did before — with people who don’t mind sharing their cake with me.
photo credit: veganbaking.net via Flickr, cc
MATTHEW DAVID HAYS is a budding writer, currently living in Michigan. Matt loves to stay active and keep his mind engaged. You can usually find him at the local yoga studio or at happy hour.
Check out his blog at MatthewDavidHays.