By Claire Ballor
The Christian bakers in Oregon who were recently faced with a fine for discriminating against a lesbian couple are old news, but the core of the issue is not. In fact, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Whether or not the court finds the bakery guilty of discrimination, and whether or not the law recognizes the couple’s decision to refuse service that they believed would have supported a same-sex marriage as an illegal action, the core of this issue runs deeper than a court decision.
Those upset with the court decision argue that these bakers and likeminded Christians should not be reprimanded for living according to their faith and conducting their businesses likewise, and they are right. However, I think the question that is central to this issue is how Christian businesses are supposed to conduct their business in light of their beliefs.
Society is changing; that is nothing new. But it is changing in a way that is challenging Christians to enter uncharted territory. Same-sex marriages are becoming more common and that is not going to change. Does this mean Christians should compromise their beliefs in order to be compatible with a changing society? No, but it does mean that they are going to have to adapt.
The most foundational outward extension of Christian faith is love, and this does not change, regardless of the direction society is moving. What kind of messages are Christians relaying if they refuse service to a same-sex couple?
Would the bakery in Oregon have refused service to a heterosexual couple that they knew was engaging in premarital sex? Would it have been right for them to refuse this couple as well because they knew their relationship was being conducted in a way that is against Christian beliefs? That too would be denying service so as not to promote a wedding that goes against Christian doctrine. What about providing a wedding cake for a couple of a different religion that the bakers do not believe in? Where do Christians draw the line with their judgments?
It is one thing to officiate a same-sex marriage, but it is another to simply bake a cake or alter a dress. No one can argue, at least not based on Christian teachings, that providing a cake, dance lessons, flowers, place settings or photography for a same-sex couple is a compromise of Christian beliefs.
Christians are not taught to judge, but to love, and in the world rapidly changing before us, Christians have to make a choice whether or not to live accordingly. It is more in line with Christian teaching to bake a cake for a same-sex couple than to turn them away. Irrespective of the legal stance on the issue, Christians should demonstrate the unconditional love that we are called to show to everyone regardless of sexuality, religious affiliation or morality.