Scripture. Abraham brings home strangers, apparently to be around for a meal as well. He asks
Sarah to bake cakes for them. (I think what consisted of a “cake” in that time is vastly different
from our modern concept of cake, but that is not the point... just sayin’.)
Sarah bakes the cakes. Period. She didn’t ask for the strangers’ credentials or “papers”
or make sure they followed the same religious practices as she did or any other criteria. She
just baked the cakes. It was a simple act of hospitality.
Much is being made about the Supreme Court decision concerning a bakeshop refusing
to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple because of the baker’s religious beliefs. Seems
many want to be clear that it is a narrow ruling and that discrimination against LGBTQ folks is
serious and illegal. That is of course the legal aspects and all that entails.
The real point is getting lost in all of the hype. As much as anything else, the baker’s
refusal to bake the wedding cake was not an act of hospitality, rather inhospitality. He did what
Sarah did not do: he imposed his own religious beliefs on someone. The baker discriminated
against two people. He passed judgement using criteria that should not matter in such a
transaction. Baking cakes, buying and selling cakes, buying and selling anything doesn’t call for
the imposition of religious criteria unless you are following strict religious dietary laws: think
orthodox Jewish people and kosher food. Even in that instance I doubt anyone would think
about discrimination. Hospitality would be more important.
Jesus’ hospitality was radical. The man would talk to anyone, eat with anyone, socialize
with anyone, and visit whomever He pleased. He did not stand on ceremony or appearances.
And despite what some of our Christian kindred want us to believe, these encounters were not
all the time about sinners and redemption. Sometimes it was just ordinary socialization among
friends and strangers alike. Yet, the model he personified was the basis for salvation because it
centered on how we treat each other. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
This is another opportunity for us to practice radical hospitality. For everyone who gets
denied a cake based on the religious beliefs of the baker, let us be the bakeshop where all that
matters is our hospitality and not anything about who might walk through our doors.
Those better schooled than I have said this Supreme Court decision about cakes was
based on a procedural error by a government agency and not intended to indicate that
discrimination against LGBTQ folks was legal. Some of our kindred in other faiths are not
interpreting that ruling the same way and hail so-called religious freedom to discriminate in the
name of Jesus. I am not convinced the radical love and hospitality Jesus practiced and expects
of us is in line with such discrimination.
There is a petition in the Solemn Collects for Good Friday where we pray for those who
in the name of Christ have persecuted others. I cringe every time we pray that collect. I would
like to think that we, as Episcopalians, are different from those who claim the right to
discriminate in the name of Jesus. I hope we are. Yet in the eyes of the “average” person we are
lumped in with those who do discriminate. Our voices of inclusion continue to get drowned out
by those who would exclude. Our work still lies before us to change that perception.
In a few weeks we will have a chance to be clear about the radical love of Jesus in issues
of cake baking and matrimony. I pray that we will use that chance to right some wrongs and to
bring more of God’s children in touch with the Jesus of radical love and hospitality. I hope we
can give our kindred in eight dioceses reason to bake wedding cakes. It’s time. It is time dear
bishops of our church. It is time dear deputies of our church. Let us not squander that time and
lose yet another opportunity to share the love of Jesus.
Contact your deputies to General Convention. Contact your bishop(s). Make sure they
know you want everyone to be able to bake cakes, similar to those baked by Sarah, but for
Continue to pray daily for the General Convention of our church and all who make
decisions that affect us.
Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow