Comment Of The Day #4: “Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought”

Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day, the fourth on the post about the Great Cake Controversy ,responds to #3, by Extradimensional Cephalopod.

The four COTD’s cover a great deal of legal and ethical territory and if not the full spectrum of positions on this difficult topic. Ryan’s three predecessors can be read here:

After you read #4, I’ll ask you which of the COTDs come closest to your own opinion. If the answer is “none of them,” by all means try for #5!

Here is  Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day on the post Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought:

EC,

I hate to answer for the baker, so I hope you don’ mind if I respond with how I would answer.

What if I walked into the shop and asked for a wedding cake for no reason at all? Nobody’s getting married; I just want the cake. Is it against his religion to make that style of cake for anything other than weddings?

It would not be against my religion, no.

One thing I want to point out about your line of inquiry here is that you are divorcing the mechanical action of making a cake from the purpose of making a cake. A cake is a cake, and apart from any purpose, it remains a cake with no further meaning than a configuration of confectionery molecules. But the purpose for making the cake defines the context. If you wanted me to bake you a cake so you could bury it in your backyard, I wouldn’t have any religious objections to that, but I would certainly object to having the fruits of my labor just thrown away. Just as I would object if you wanted me to write you a book so could use the pages of the book as toilet paper.

The purpose of making a wedding cake is for it to be displayed and consumed at a wedding. If you aren’t going to use the cake for a wedding, ontologically speaking, could it even be a wedding cake?

Do I have to show him a marriage license?

I wouldn’t require that. My general standpoint would be to take people at their word. That being said, if I knew you and you were known for pranks, were opposed to marriage in general, and nothing I knew about your recent activities hinted at a wedding, I might want some actual proof that a wedding was occurring.

I’m an atheist; will he refuse to acknowledge my marriage because you can’t have marriage without a god? Does only the Christian deity count for a “real” marriage?

Since I’m Catholic, I’ll just toss out what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage. Marriage is universal. Historically, marriage permeates pretty much every culture. Marriage is an institution that has, for the most part, united a man and his wife to the children they bear together. Marriage does not require a profession of faith, because it is a foundational institution of mankind. That is why eating, drinking, and shelter don’t require a profession of faith. They are also foundational aspects of the human condition. So, there is no objection to two atheists marrying.

Where the religious context comes into view is with the nature of that marriage. Catholics profess that Jesus elevated the institution of marriage to a sacrament. This means that a valid marriage between baptized individuals cannot be dissolved save by the death of one of the two parties. But that does not mean every marriage is sacramental. If one of the two parties is not baptized, the marriage is still a valid marriage, but it is not a sacramental marriage. Thus it could be dissolved, and either party would be free to re-marry.

A funny oddity of terminology crops up in Catholic teaching. Since a valid, sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved, but since parties can licitly separate for serious reasons (abuse, abandonment, adultery, addiction), a Catholic can be married and divorced at the same time…

I would argue that the artistic quality of the cake has nothing to do with who is getting married, or if there’s even a marriage at all–at least, as far as religion is concerned.

I agree with you to a certain extent, here. The artistic quality is its own concern. It is the teleological purpose of the cake that is the true contention. So that raises a question: if I bake a cake that I do not intend to be used at a wedding, but looks just like a cake that I do intend to be used at a wedding, is it a wedding cake? To use some technical terms, there is the essence of a thing, and there are the accidents of a thing. The essence of a thing is what is essential to a thing being that thing; accidents are just features that particular thing has that are not essential to a thing being that thing. The essence of a chair is something to sit on. Accidents of a chair are having one leg, or three, or four, having a back, not having a back, etc. So what is the essence of a wedding cake, and what are the accidents of a wedding cake? I think the only essential difference between a wedding cake and a non-wedding cake is the intent for which the cake is made. The only part I waffle on is the cake-topper…

On a separate note, I assert that religion ultimately must be subordinate to the law of the land.

I’m uncomfortable with how you phrase this, so let me toss out what I think about this, and let me know if it does or doesn’t conform with what you’re thinking.

Speaking again only for the Catholic faith, holding to my religion means that I recognize as the highest authority the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent necessary being who, I profess, created all things visible and invisible. But that God bestows authority upon mankind. Parents have authority over their children. Governments have authority over their territories, etc. Thus we have “render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” But we admit that human authority is fallible. If human authority conflicts with what God decrees, it must be God that is obey, for he is the ultimate authority.

What does this mean when there are so many ideas of what God has decreed? It means that we need to do the best we can. While I live in the United States, I am subject to her laws. If at some point, I find myself caught between obeying the law of the United States or obeying what God has revealed through the Catholic Church, I will choose obedience to God. BUT! I will be prepared to accept the consequences of breaking the laws of the nation I live in. Suppose, for example, that the United States became so hostile to Catholics that they prohibited, on pain of death, attendance at the Mass. I would still attend Mass, and I would accept the consequence of breaking the law.

Part of why this notion rubs people wrong is that there is admittedly a distinct confusion of what God teaches. If you look at any particular point of doctrine, you can find two religions opposed on that point. Most of the time, you can find two Christian denominations opposed on that point. This is a great scandal, an embarrassment to Christianity, and a reason why the law of the land should not be expected to conform to every whim of doctrine out there. Thus I’ve always wondered myself how compatible with the rule of law the free exercise of religion really is. I am more than willing to accept a stipulation that religion may be exercised freely up to the degree that the law permits. If you want to exercise your religion in defiance of the law, you should be punished — and accept humbly — the punishment the law demands.

it allows any person to use their belief that their crimes are mandated by a higher power as a legal defense.

Have you ever seen the movie Frailty? It poses the case where a man believes he’s been given a list of “demons” by God, with the mandate to hunt them down and kill them. It really stirs up abhorrence in reaction, but it does make you stop an think about what people do when they truly believe they have a divine mandate. Your statement here made me think about it.

_______________________

 

36 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

36 responses to “Comment Of The Day #4: “Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought”

  1. Inquiring Mind

    I voted for Ejercito, and it’s not even a close call.

    Colorado has clearly set up a two-tiered system in terms of enforcing “public accommodations” laws. If you are a member of the Religious Right, the state asserts the right to compel you to express support/celebrate a same-sex marriage, claiming that your business is a “public accommodation.” The fact that the owner objected to the message was deemed irrelevant by government officials, who demanded fines and for the owner to re-educate his staff, and to provide reports on how he “complied” with their edicts.

    HOWEVER, when Acuzar bakery, run by a member of the LGBT community was asked to make a cake it found objectionable and refused, the same government officials claimed it was “free speech” and did not punish the bakery. The fact that Acuzar bakery, like Masterpiece Cakeshop, was a “public accommodation” supposedly “open to all,” did not matter.

    This double standard creates a First Amendment apartheid, where a favored “group” (the LGBT community) gets rights that are denied to a group to whom those in government dislike (the “Religious Right”/evangelicals). That cannot be allowed to stand. Do we want to normalize Lois Lerner-type actions in government agencies? What happens to our country if such a normalization occurs?

    The Windsor and Obergefell rulings have given the LGBT community and progressives a lot of power. It is now, I think, beyond dispute that they are using that power to weaponize the “public accommodation” portion of civil rights laws against the Religious Right. These are the same people who objected to President Trump’s “Muslim ban,” by the way…

    At what point, Jack, has it gone too far? How many double standards will we allow progressives to enact before enough is enough?

    • Pennagain

      I don’t think your mind is inquiring fairly on this one since you and M.E. have made an invidious comparison “He [Mr. Williams] requested that the cakes include deragatory language and imagery” [derogating all gay persons — including all gay Christians — as well as insulting the baker personally, concluding that “the Respondent would deny the request to any customer, regardless of creed.” The gay couple were asking for a wedding cake, not insulting the baker or his religion (which might or not be) Christianity, however the baker interpreted it.

      • Chris

        Thank you, Pennagin.

        I suppose IQ did not see my correction of his terrible comparison when he made it on the original thread. As I explained, there would be a “double standard” if, say, the courts had found that bakers could be compelled to write anti-Christian messages on cakes but not anti-gay messages, or if they could be compelled to bake cakes for gay weddings but not Christian weddings.

        As it stands, there is no double standard, and IQ’s claim of “First Amendment apartheid” is downright offensive; like many conservative Christians, he is desperate to be persecuted because he thinks it will give his side moral authority, and is thus manufacturing stories of Christians being oppressed in America.

        • Inquiring Mind

          Chris,

          You are trying to have it both ways. You want to claim “equality,” but at the same time, you are giving a favored group breaks and denying a disfavored group those same breaks.

          Equality means one of two choices:
          1. BOTH Acuzar Bakery and Masterpiece Cakeshop can reject making cakes that convey.
          2. BOTH Acuzar Bakery and Masterpiece Cakeshop are punished for rejecting designs they find offensive.

          But Colorado didn’t do that. They punished Masterpiece Cakeshop and gave Acuzar Bakery a pass. That’s disparate treatment, and that pattern has been established. Why the disparate treatment? Animus against Phillips because he is – or appears to be – a member of the “Religious Right.”

          Or, to put it bluntly, Masterpiece Cakeshop was treated differently because a member of the Religious Right turned away a LGBT couple. So was the person who requested the cake from Acuzar bakery – only this time, they allowed Acuzar to discriminate because it was a member of the Religious Right.

          So, the power of the state can be used to compel expression from a member of the Religious Right, but the LGBT community gets a pass.

          It’s the law being applied differently because of who the complainants and defendants are. How is that NOT creating a First Amendment apartheid?

          • Chris

            I don’t know when you lost the ability to read and write basic English, Inquiring Mind, but all of your questions have already been answered, and you’re repeating things that have already been demonstrated to be false.

            Equality means one of two choices:
            1. BOTH Acuzar Bakery and Masterpiece Cakeshop can reject making cakes that convey.

            Cakes that convey what? Did you forget to finish typing here?

            2. BOTH Acuzar Bakery and Masterpiece Cakeshop are punished for rejecting designs they find offensive.

            Masterpiece Cakeshop was not punished for rejecting a design they found offensive. Masterpiece was not asked to make a specific design for their cake at all. Jack has explained this numerous times, as have I. You are misrepresenting the case. I don’t know why you keep doing that when you have been shown that this did not happen.

            But Colorado didn’t do that. They punished Masterpiece Cakeshop and gave Acuzar Bakery a pass. That’s disparate treatment, and that pattern has been established. Why the disparate treatment? Animus against Phillips because he is – or appears to be – a member of the “Religious Right.”

            Again, there was no disparate treatment. Azucar (NOT “Acuzar”–you’ve been spelling it wrong this whole time) did not do what Masterpiece did, and Masterpiece was not asked to do what Azucar was asked to do. Azucar was asked to make a specific design that conveyed a bigoted message. Masterpiece was asked to provide the same service for gays as they do for everyone else.

            Why do you continue to argue that being required to perform the same service for all groups is the same as being required to perform a service that one simply does not perform?

            Or, to put it bluntly, Masterpiece Cakeshop was treated differently

            They were not.

            because a member of the Religious Right turned away a LGBT couple. So was the person who requested the cake from Acuzar bakery – only this time, they allowed Acuzar to discriminate because it was a member of the Religious Right.

            No, there was no discrimination. The customer was turned away because they asked for a service the baker was unwilling to perform, and would have been unwilling to perform for anyone.

            So, the power of the state can be used to compel expression from a member of the Religious Right, but the LGBT community gets a pass.

            I have explained to you exactly how you could prove such a bold claim.

            Find me a case where a member of the Religious Right was asked to write “Fuck Jesus” on a cake, and the court compelled them to do so. Alternately, find me a case where an LGBT baker refused to serve a wedding cake to a Christian couple, and the court found that they had the right to do so.

            Is there something about these analogies you do not understand, or disagree with? I ask because I have presented them to you multiple times, and you keep ignoring them. Why are you doing that? Are you so wedded to the idea that Christians are persecuted in America that you fail to see the logic in these analogies? If not, then what exactly is the problem with them?

            • If it’s a matter of “Compelled Speech”, then I think the burden is on you to demonstrate how different ways particular speech is manifested is sufficient to judge different cases of “Compelled Speech” differently, in spite of the protections found in the 1st Amendment being a near absolute in our culture.

              • Chris

                Being required to bake the same cake for a gay couple as one bakes for everyone else isn’t compelled speech.

                • Oh…did SCOTUS release it’s ruling?

                  • Chris

                    So by “the burden is on you,” you actually meant “Shut up and don’t express an opinion until SCOTUS rules?” How was I to know that?

                    • You sure are touchy these days.

                      No, I would merely expect you to make a better argument than a one liner like “same cake”. When we know that IF art is actually involved, it isn’t “same cake”.

                • If it’s artistic production, there’s no such thing as “same cake as everyone else” and each one is protected by speech, and if an artist doesn’t want to “speak”, he cannot be compelled.

                  • Chris

                    By that logic, a bakery could refuse to serve a wedding cake to Jews, or an interracial couple. That’s intolerable.

                    • Well, once the “interracial” couple argument comes out, I know you’re grasping. This has been dealt with extensively. The two are NOT analogous.

                      As for the Jewish couple angle, that’s assuming a slippery slope that is panicky at best.

                    • Chris

                      I don’t know what you’re talking about. If a baker can’t be compelled to “speak” by making a cake, then it doesn’t matter who he’s refusing to make the cake for: a gay couple, an interracial couple, a black man who just wants a cake for his birthday…the baker could refuse them all, regardless of whether they’re “analogous” to one another. That can’t be allowed.

  2. Pennagain

    I voted for Mrs. Q because her queer sense comes closest to mine. Given a second choice, however, I would have gone for EC’s wider arguments that speak to the current sociopolitical condition that creates cannon fodder out of each of these picky little pokes in the eye.

  3. Pennagain

    Last comment: In 1960, my first very own apartment out of college was a fifth floor walk-up in NYC’s upper East Side, between the fashionable art galleries and Spanish Harlem, in the midst of several square blocks known as a German-American bund area which had housed (and still did, for all I knew) a good-sized community of Nazi sympathizers. On my first visit back to my parents’ place I brought the best house-gift I could think of (that I could afford), a box of the most delectable sugar cookies in the whole wide world from a famous local bakery. When I handed the box proudly to my mother, she backed away in horror. “I’m not having anything from the Nazis in my home,” she said, firmly (she never shouted, but “firm” was a sign of strong dissaproval). Being newly independent, and too much like my mother, I replied in as even a voice as I could manage, “then you don’t have to eat them.” Whereupon I slipped the strings off the box, picked up a whole cookie (about the size of my hand) and bit into it, flinging crumbs for several feet around. Mom went for the carpet sweeper and informed me, again, ever more firmly (uh oh) that dinner would be ready in half an hour. Dad came in a few minutes later and caught on right away – the silence? – that something was wrong. I handed him the box. He looked at the label, reached in the box, broke off half a cookie and was licking the last crumbs off his fingers when Mom returned, said nothing (one degree worse than firmness) and took out the carpet sweeper again. I took refuge in the backyard. All was calm though a bit stiff when I returned. During dinner everyone wanted to know about the new apartment, so I gave them all the gory details, not wanting them to know how intensely I was glorying in all the discomforts and dangers of “my home.” Then my father asked about the neighborhood and that was a bit trickier after my mother’s reaction so I pussyfooted (now there’s a word I’m not supposed to use these days!) around until they were both staring at me, and then said, “Well, the cookies are a pain in the neck to get, you know.” When asked what I meant I told them the area had at least two bakeries to a block, all with grand opera-sized ladies who hated me. “What?” came indignant Mom. Well, I explained, they served everybody else first, and pretended they didn’t know what I wanted, bawled me out in German when I didn’t have exact change, and never invited me to sit down and have coffee like they did everybody else. While my mother sputtered how-dare-they’s, my dad was thinking. Finally he said, “did you ever try to speak German with them?” “Of course not,” I said. “You know grandpa didn’t want us to learn it. But I tried speaking Yiddi… oh, I get it: Jewish.” “Oh,” “Unh huh.”

    After dinner on that first visit to my old home, I got a lesson in German numbers, polite phrases of request, and the names of certain Austrian pastries while we all munched sugar (secret ingredient: lard, I think) cookies, and my dad informed the rest of us that the war was over and the bad feelings on both sides should never be passed on to our children. And besides, he said, as he accompanied me to the bus stop, next time you come, we will have the grandparents over, and you will bring the Linzer torte cookies. “Ja wohl, papa” I replied.

    (p.s. My dad had a bit of a time getting over my going to live in Japan ten years later — but mom got him past it. The key to dealing with prejudices in my family became “you’ll never get a sugar cookie that way!” . . . . And the bakery won’t get to sell any either.)

    • Love the story! Family copes… and sensible people can figure out a way to get along.

      • Pennagain

        Thanks, Slick. I thought of submitting it as a fifth comment but it is not referent enough to ethical problems nor to the bakers’ dilemmas (“referent” just became an adjective … in my head) to be applicable to either situation. And I’m afraid the ending of the story wasn’t a matter of being sensible: “You’ll never get a sugar cookie that way!” very quickly became a challenge, a joke, and finally a tease, as in “no cookie for you, schlemiel.”

  4. JP

    There are a lot of good comments here, but I feel like nothing addresses the specific Christian aspect of the comment. So I decided to put to put some of my schoolings to good use and actually look at the text.

    First, let’s talk about homosexuality. There are numerous verses in the bible that refer to the negative nature of homosexuality. SYou can find the prohibitions against specific homosexual acts in Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20, among the many laws given to the ancient Jewish people. And in the New Testament, Romans 1 is the most specific act as far as Christians are concerned. So it is pretty clear that both in the New Testament, homosexuality is not something Jews and Christians support and is considered a sin.

    At this point, a lot of people specifically point to Jesus as never having mentioned sexuality. That is correct. However, it is a flawed argument. It is built upon two fallacies: the argument of silence and special pleading. I would further add that there are many things that Jesus did not specifically talk about, that moral and ethical people accept as wrong. My professor often told me that Jesus is the rule, and Paul was the clarification to a confused church. Those early apostles had to deal with a lot of issues that were more common to the Gentiles than their Jewish counterparts (homosexuality being one of them).

    Furthermore, Jesus does cover the topic of marriage. In Matthew 19, the Pharisees asked Him what He thought about divorce, hoping to trap Him into disagreeing with Moses and therefore finding reason for condemning Him.

    In His response about why divorce is a bad thing and a result of the hardness of human hearts, Jesus says, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Now, as someone who studied exegetics, I think to say this is Jesus support against gay marriage is a stretch because that is not what the text is talking about, but it does lead one to draw certain conclusions about how Jesus thought.

    However, Jesus was someone who stressed the importance of forgiveness. According to Jesus, there was only one sin that was unforgivable, and that was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Like the adulterous women in John 8, when asked where her accusers were, I imagine he would have said to the homosexual, “Neither I would condemn you.” But also, I imagine he would have said like he also said to the woman, “Go and sin no more.”

    A lot of this goes back to the golden rule. The question, in this case, is how do Christians reconcile with their religious beliefs while operating a business like a baker. There is nothing in the bible that refers to the support of gay marriage though, I have read a lot of articles that try to support or deny both ways.

    At this point, I want to talk about Paul’s letters to Roman and Cornith. At some point during the 1st century, there was the Claudius edict. This expelled all the Jews from Rome. This was not the first time this had happened, and the Jews were able to come back (This is actually how Paul meets Priscilla and Aquilla in Cornith). The problem was the church in Rome at the time of the edict was mostly Jewish Christians, and those Christians all returned to a church that was mostly gentile ones. Therefore, Paul spends most of his letter dealing with the issues of unity, sin, homosexuality, and some point, supporting their governments.

    Paul writes, “13 All of you must obey the government rulers. Everyone who rules was given the power to rule by God. And all those who rule now were given that power by God. 2 So anyone who is against the government is really against something God has commanded. Those who are against the government bring punishment on themselves. 3 People who do right don’t have to fear the rulers. But those who do wrong must fear them. Do you want to be free from fearing them? Then do only what is right, and they will praise you.

    4 Rulers are God’s servants to help you. But if you do wrong, you have reason to be afraid. They have the power to punish, and they will use it. They are God’s servants to punish those who do wrong. 5 So you must obey the government, not just because you might be punished, but because you know it is the right thing to do.

    6 And this is why you pay taxes too. Those rulers are working for God, and they give all their time to the work of ruling. 7 Give everyone what you owe them. If you owe them any kind of tax, then pay it. Show respect to those you should respect. And show honor to those you should honor.”

    So in the context of the baker, Romans 13 says we should obey the government’s anti-discrimination laws. This is further supported by the following verses which refer to loving one another. However, in this particular case, my professor is wrong: Paul is not so clear. He goes on further in the chapter for us to not be involved (interesting choice of words here) in any type of sexual sin.

    Corinthians is where I believe Christian’s find their support for their actions. Up until about 150BCE Cornith was a rather small town that exploded. That brought in a lot of trade and a lot of prostitution. Here a lot of the Jews left for the city when kicked they were kicked out of Rome. In a passage on eating meat offered to idols, Paul tells them that if they know it is sacrificed this way, then they should reframe from eating it. But if they do not know, then they are ok. Since prostitution was common in the city of Corinth, Paul tells the women there to not cut there hair short or wear a covering. He goes into this passage on it being her glory, but this issue is quite specific to the church here as it is believed this was the mark of a prostitute. Mind you none of this has anything to do with the business of selling the cake, but it may hold the answer (at least one that I think could work).

    Before addressing it I would like to offer my personal thoughts on the issue. As a Christian and someone who has dedicated a lot of time to studying the Bible, I am often amused why we constantly try to hold non-Christians to Christian standards. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5 “What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13God will judge those outside.” Christians know that people who are not Christians (as according to the bible) all have the same judgment. According to the Bible, those that are not Christians will suffer judgment if there a murderer, thief, or just a person who never accepted Christ. The world is dead to its sin. I may not be able to stop it, but perhaps I can help save them. I hardly see it has participating in the issue because the only sure fire way to make sure we’re not participating in any issue is to live in a bubble.

    However, it is understood that we should not go against our conscious. This is why Paul tells the church he became all things to all people, lest he causes another to fall. It’s also why he gives them plausible deniability. Paul tells them to eat the meat, as long as you don’t know it was used as a sacrifice to idols, in which case don’t. Paul will not eat it because he wants to stand tall for the weaker brother. Perhaps the solution for the baker is to sell the cake in a way that reduces the knowledge of where it is coming from (I’m not even sure how these issues are addressed). Or take Paul’s approach to just not sell it at all.

    Of course, there are problems with this particular issue. The people who are going to make sure you know they are gay. People like Mrs. Q who claim both Christianity and LGBT (who in my opinion had the best COTD).

    Frankly, I don’t really see an outcome where you can hold your moral convictions, still apply the golden rule, and continue doing what you’re doing. I’m not the baker, but if I were, I would just never sell any wedding cake. It may be mean less money (which is what I think this case really is about) but he will still get to do what he loves while holding on to his beliefs.

    • I dismiss this argument out of hand.

      2000 year old biases are now called ignorance. They can be justified as of their time, but pretending nothing has changed since then is indefensible and willfully obtuse. The taboos against homosexuality were a matter of common sense when procreation was essential to a tribe’s survival. Before there was psychological research and knowledge of brain chemistry, ignorance about homosexuality was excusable, and even natural. 2000 years is a long time. There is no excuse for pretending that it isn’t, that human beings haven’t learned, that knowledge hasn’t expanded, and that ancient texts are not often dangerously and cruelly out of date.

      • Chris

        I actually liked JP’s comment, Jack, enough that I was about to nominate it as COTD before you dismissed it.

        I do have questions for JP, though.

        What do you make of the similar proscriptions against eating pork and shellfish in Leviticus, which are described in similar terms as the proscription against homosexuality, yet are rejected by virtually all modern Christians?

        Similarly, what do you make of Paul’s command that women remain silent and wear head coverings in church, and that women should never be in a position of authority over a man?

        It has always struck me as strange that Christians use these books to prove that homosexuality is a sin when, if they just read a few lines further, they ban other behavior which almost no Christians see as sinful. Why can’t homosexuality be seen as something that was banned for a specific audience, not all mankind? Paul was writing to specific communities, and the Old Testament was about Jewish law. It seems obvious to me, as someone raised Christian, that there is no firm Biblical basis for homosexuality being sinful, if these are the best examples a thoughtful person like yourself could find.

        • It was a well-written comment that was still simply an appeal to authority, was it not? That’s not reasoning or argument, and this blog is about ethics (what’s right?) not morality (what does God say is right?) And your last paragraph correctly flags how intellectually dishonest such arguments are.

          • Given that, what did you like about it? “God says so” isn’t an ethical argument.

            • Chris

              I think there were some ethics in there. JP was articulating a struggle among Christians over how Christians should behave in their dealings with the outside world. I think I appreciated the struggle more than anything else–it’s clear JP has spent some time wrestling with this issue and is truly trying to do his best. There wasn’t a drop of arrogance or “I know this is the way” in his comment, which I found refreshing from an evangelical Christian.

          • JP

            My intention was not to appeal to authority or to sway anyone one way or another (in fact I was trying very hard to avoid that perception). My intention was to provide a biblical understanding of how Christians deal with homosexuality, what the Bible says about homosexuality, and some personal thoughts on the baker case. There is an odd duality between being an American and having free speech versus being a Christian. The early church did not have free speech and I believe they would have seen the bakers position as a hindrance to the gospel.

            I understand this is an ethics blog and as such you have no obligation to write about morality which can often be at odds with ethics. I read your blog daily as a compliment to my own work and believe it has greatly shaped my understanding of how Christians should move forward in the world.

            I have more thoughts on the issue, but I did not want to talk about the morality of homosexuality at all, I think my confusion was providing background into the issue.

        • Depends on the nature of the particular commandments found in the Old Testament.

          Some are clearly dietary *regulations* which Christ no longer held as binding (Mark 7:19).

          Others were expansions on case law and interpretations of the base regulation which revealed the spirit of the particular base laws.

          Others were conduct oriented, like most laws. As far as we can tell, the conduct oriented laws are still see as *morally* binding on individuals.

          That’s how you can see value in one particular Levitical passage while not seeing value in a particular Levitical passage mere verses away.

          Additionally, Christians will point to New Testament “commandments” from Christ and the Apostles that DO touch on sexual relations.

        • JP

          Chris,

          I’m glad you liked it. I was rather surprised by Jack’s reaction because it was not my intention to appeal to authority. Without going into specifics, I think Tex’s comment is similar to what I would have written in regards to the OT.

          As far as the others, a lot of it depends on the person/Christian. The Bible is very clear that (referenced more than 10 times in the NT) repentance and baptism are necessary for the forgiveness of sins, but many churches today teach that it isn’t necessary.

          In terms of homosexuality, there are 4-6 passages that reference it. More if depending on how someone interprets sexual immorality.I am confident it is not in reference specific audiences specific audiences because it can be found in the OT, NT, early church writings, and church father writings.

          So, if you’re asking me on behalf of Christians, I cannot answer this question. Put for personal reference:

          Headcovers: I think its cultural (My professor who did his dissertation on the subject does not. His wife wears a head covering in church). I know this is going to bring up more questions, but I’ve rather not write another 5000 words today. A lot of it has to do with Prostitution, Cornith, the style of the letter, Christian behavior, and the issues surrounding its context.

          Women having authority: Only with respect to the church as the context of the passages they are used in.

          Like I said, I don’t know why Christians try to force non-Christians to follow Christian principles.

          Perhaps you can help me understand something (and I ask this honestly). If someone like you doesn’t believe in God, why does it matter if its a sin at all? I can see why it matters when Christians treat you like you have the plague, but that shouldn’t be the way it is. If we’re just talking morality, it shouldn’t. If we’re talking treatment, well…I think there was a reason Jesus choose to emphasize the golden rule.

          • Chris

            . If someone like you doesn’t believe in God, why does it matter if its a sin at all?

            Because it’s a harmful belief. The notion that homosexuality is sinful has destroyed families. You mat say that families who reject their gay kids just aren’t following the golden rule, but these are people who genuinely believe that their children are destined to Hell because of who they love…that’s going to cause harm no matter how nice they are about it.

            And of course Christians aren’t the only religion that teaches this, but it’s the culture I grew up in, so I tend to criticize it more than, say, Islam, which I know less about and which is less common in my society. And it’s not just the homosexuality issue; my mom thinks I’m going to Hell if I don’t re-accept Christ and if I marry my atheist girlfriend. She’s told me this. We’re still close, but it’s hurtful that she believes this. I have a whole other problem with the doctrine of Hell for nonbelievers, but that’s a different subject.

            • JP

              This is an argument I have not considered, but I think has validity. My secretary has a daughter who is homosexual. She has talked about it considerably, but still maintains a relationship with her daughter. I can tell it puts an enormous strain on their relationship.

              Of course, it is a two-way street. In China, I have met many who were outcasted by family members for professing belief (most of them coming from families with no beliefs).

              I

              • Chris

                Both are wrong. There is nothing wrong with being Christian, and nothing wrong with being gay. There is something wrong with parents whose love is not unconditional.

                • THIS! Chris, this is the nut, the core, the kernel of Christianity: Shun the sin, love the sinner. Who are we, to judge another’s heart? This is where I find that MOST Christian churches have historically missed the mark.

                  Let me elaborate:

                  We are ALL sinners. No sin is greater than another, to God. My little lie is as damning as a serial killer’s murders. Without redemption, nothing one can do will gain acceptance. Without grace, there is no redemption.

                  In fact, my bad treatment of another because of their sin is also a sin, an often missed point.

    • My purpose is better understanding and so I try to stand outside and above of the issue and simply to see it with greater clarity.

      JP wote: “Before addressing it I would like to offer my personal thoughts on the issue. As a Christian and someone who has dedicated a lot of time to studying the Bible, I am often amused why we constantly try to hold non-Christians to Christian standards. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5 “What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13God will judge those outside.” Christians know that people who are not Christians (as according to the bible) all have the same judgment. According to the Bible, those that are not Christians will suffer judgment if there a murderer, thief, or just a person who never accepted Christ. The world is dead to its sin. I may not be able to stop it, but perhaps I can help save them. I hardly see it has participating in the issue because the only sure fire way to make sure we’re not participating in any issue is to live in a bubble.”

      I thought your piece was interesting and informative. I would assume that your perspective is Protestant overall or perhaps non-denominational? It is true that in Paul’s writing he is speaking to a group separate from the culture at large. It would be, based on his words, proper to let the culture go its own way and to retreat into a private practice of principles.

      But in fact what happened with Greco-Christian philosophy is that it caught on within intellectual circles, and then among those who had power and influence within social structures. It was later when the Christian culture and ethical system began to present itself as a better option that the Christian empire in the Frankish and Germanic world developed. It still was an island but an island that grew. And what was developed were total social systems constructed around the Medieval worldview with the Christian revelation at the core. Between the uears 400-1000 AD the groundwork of European Christian culture was established. It was a total system, not simply a smallish group living, as it were, among barbarians. I have noticed that not many people understand how fundamental this Christian seed and matrix has been, and still is, to Europe (and thus to America).

      The essential issue when it comes to homosexuality vis-a-vis Christian revelation is: Will the Christian view necessarily modernize to encompass homosexuals and homosexual unions? Or, will it happen that some defined value, that expressed through and in the Revelation, gain ascendency again and reassert itself?

      But there are many other, and really more meaningful questions to be asked. The core of the question is: If any ‘Revelation’ of any sort will be understood and allowed as an issue of perception itself. (As it happens, bit by bit, belief in a supernatural divinity is now becoming, and seen through majority eyes, as evidence of mental derangement.)

      That is, will processes that have begun in former centuries essentially establish a worldview that is, in essence, atheistic? The essential issue is in this, it seems to me.

      To speak of ‘metaphysical shifts’ therefor is a primary issue of concern. We now live in and exist within a specific zone within the giant shift from a perceptual system that recognizes divinity and certain terms (or laws) that define our existence, to one where no such terms are rules are even seen as existing! These are metaphysical questions, and the battle is metaphysical.

      On one hand we can call out a vision which sees liberation from restrictive and outdated modes of perception as opening up into newer and better vistas and thus as liberation; but in another view we see a specifically materialistic metaphysics, and an atheistic mind-frame, gaining ground and being incorporated into educational indoctrination of the young and also into governance. This can be seen as a Huxleyan Brave New World of engineered perception in accord with ‘science’ and scientism. When social engineering becomes perfected, of course, society will take on a dystopic shade.

      Thus it is within this liminal zone of vast shift that these issues and problems manifest themselves.

      • JP

        My background is restorational or non-denominational.

        I can tell based on your response that you have spent a lot of time studying this subject. The early church grew quite quickly, but its traction did not come until it found a strong (and powerful) leader to spread its influence to the world roughly 315AD (which I think helps explains a lot of what you wrote). I think of this time period as a mini-reformation.

        “The essential issue when it comes to homosexuality vis-a-vis Christian revelation is: Will the Christian view necessarily modernize to encompass homosexuals and homosexual unions? Or, will it happen that some defined value, that expressed through and in the Revelation, gain ascendency again and reassert itself?”

        I honestly don’t know. Adultery as becoming more and more acceptable in the church and there are a lot more references to it than to homosexuality and baptism combined. I worry about the church taking on cultural issues, but it is nothing new. Like most organisms, the church is constantly evolving.

  5. Well done and congratulations!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s