Bills to allow people to refuse service to gay couples on religious grounds have popped up in several states, and led Christians to debate a pressing theological question: Would Jesus bake a cake for a gay wedding? It's the 'angels on the head of a pin' question of our times. The debate started last week when Kirsten Powers, a Daily Beast and USA Today columnist, Fox News contributor, and a Christian, argued that laws protecting a person's religious freedom to discriminate against gay people were a modern day Jim Crow. "Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws," she wrote in USA Today. Her argument did not go over well with many conservatives.
Powers' column upset many religious people and writers at conservative outlets like The National Review, Fox News and the Heritage Foundation. But it was her argument as a whole that people disagreed with. Jesus called on his followers to be servants to all, Powers wrote. She also argued that providing a service to a customer isn't exactly giving "celebrating their wedding union." It's a business transaction. She spoke with several pastors who agreed with her, including one who found it "offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the Kansas law." Powers ended with: "Maybe they should just ask themselves, 'What would Jesus do?' I think he'd bake the cake."
But maybe he wouldn't bake the cake. Erick Erickson, writing at Red State on Friday, argued that Jesus would bake a gay person a cake in most situations. He'd bake anyone a cake:
Jesus Christ would absolutely bake a cake for a gay person. He’d bake a cake for a straight person. He’d bake a cake for a girl, a boy, a person who isn’t sure what they are, a black person, a white person — Jesus would bake that cake if it, in some way large or small, drew that person closer to Him.
That last bit is the caveat. Erickson argues that some Christians wouldn't mind catering a same-sex wedding and others, who "try to glorify God through their work" think it would be a sin. The problem is that gay rights activists and others think it's OK for the state to force people to not discriminate. So, no, Jesus would not bake a wedding cake:
You might think Jesus would bake a cake for a gay wedding. I think you are wrong. I do not think Jesus Christ would participate in the ratification of a sin — and a marriage between two people of the same sex is a sin. Are you really going to tell the millions of Christians in the United States who think otherwise that not only are they wrong, but the state should be able to force your opinion of what Jesus would do on them?
Matt Barber of Barbwire — a religious news site covering things like "gay fascism" and how the Bible does not support slavery — compared Powers' argument to a Bible story where Jesus tells an adulteress "neither do I condemn you ... now go and sin no more." Barber says, following Powers logic, "Christ would say, 'You know what, you got four, five of these guys ... I'll tell you what. I'm going to build the bed so you can have your orgy.'" The fact that Barber compares a marriage between a gay couple to an orgy (and compared adultery to an orgy) implies that he thinks Jesus would not bake the cake.
And yet Powers persisted. On Sunday she argued on The Daily Beast that conservative Christians were selectively enforcing which weddings weren't biblical. "If you refuse to photograph one unbiblical wedding, you should refuse to photograph them all," Powers writes. "Before agreeing to provide a good or service for a wedding, Christian vendors must verify that both future spouses have had genuine conversion experiences and are 'equally yoked' (2 Corinthians 6:14) or they will be complicit with joining righteousness with unrighteousness. They must confirm that neither spouse has been unbiblically divorced (Matthew 19)."
This new piece sparked even more debate. Conservative site PJ Media argued that, by invoking Jim Crow earlier on, Powers intended to "bully and coerce those of us who disagree with her, to silence us into submission ... Powers is using her position in media to persecute Christians." Powers responded with a link to one of her own stories covering actual Christian persecution.
What most interesting about this debate however isn't who should bake wedding cakes, but the arguments conservative Christians use to discredit believers who disagree with them. The Christian Post, responding to her USA Today story, said Powers' article was "typical of the journey of adults coming to faith," implying that she's an amateur Christian. Some have gone straight for the validity of her faith overall, while other have come to her defense:
The great Jesus cake debate will continue. But it's the laws that will determine whether Christian bakers should be able to discriminate against gay couples, not Christian consensus.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.