In the Line of Fire, by Michael Brown

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Os Hillman Got It Totally Wrong About the Christian-Owned Bakery in Oregon

Melissa and Aaron Klein
Melissa and Aaron Klein, who own Sweet Cakes by Melissa, closed their bakery after controversy over their refusal to make a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony. (sweetcakesweb.com)

As a regular contributor to the opinion column of Charisma News, I was surprised to read Os Hillman’s article, “Why Oregon Bakers Should Have Sold Wedding Cake to Gay Couple.” Now, to be clear, I wasn’t surprised to see the article posted on the website, since it’s a forum for discussion among Christians, and not all opinion columnists will agree. No problem there!

But, with all respect to Mr. Hillman, who is president of Marketplace Leaders, I was surprised by the arguments he used, which completely missed the point of why Melissa and Aaron Klein declined to bake a cake for a lesbian “wedding” ceremony. (For my take on the situation, see my article, “The Gay Bullies Strike Again.”)

He writes, “From where I sit, it seems pretty clear to me that the couple should have provided service to the gay couple. ... If you are operating a public business, discriminating against a group of people by refusing to sell a product to them for whatever reason seems to simply feed the gay movement with more ammunition to accuse Christians of bigotry. Chick-fil-A would never think of not selling their chicken to a gay person. That does not mean they cannot hold a personal or corporate view about a social issue. That is freedom of speech.”

But the Kleins had no problem selling their products to gay people, and so Hillman’s comparison with Chick-fil-A is irrelevant. The issue was baking a wedding cake for two lesbians and putting their names on that cake, in direct violation of the Klein’s Christian convictions—and to violate their consciences would be to sin against God (Rom. 14:23). How can this be God’s will?

Hillman argues, “If this gay couple walked into Jesus’ carpentry shop to buy a table, I cannot imagine He would not sell them a table. I believe He would view that couple with compassion, realizing that something is amiss in their need for love and intimacy that led them to make such a choice. He would build a bridge into their lives, much like He did with the Samaritan woman, in order to demonstrate God’s love to them in hopes they might open their hearts to another way. However, He would leave that choice to them as He does with all of us.”

Once again, though, Hillman misses the point. If two out-and-proud lesbians simply walked into the Kleins’ store and said, “We’d like buy one of your cakes,” then they would have been served—like everyone else—without discrimination and without faultfinding, just as Jesus would have theoretically sold a table to a gay couple. But do you believe Jesus would have sold crossbeams to the Romans to use when they crucified innocent Jews? (I’m not comparing a lesbian “wedding” ceremony to crucifying Jews; I’m simply illustrating a point.)

I do appreciate Hillman’s desire to build bridges into the homosexual community and not to give them further cause to call us bigots, but what he fails to realize (naively so?) is that unless we affirm their homosexuality, we will be classified as judgmental and bigoted. More importantly, he fails to see the gay activist elephant in the room, one that has become the principal threat to freedoms of speech, conscience and religion in America. Thus, he fails to see the much larger implications of cases like this that are springing up across the country at a frightening rate and which will ultimately challenge the rights of churches and individuals to hold to their religious convictions.

But if believers were to follow Hillman’s counsel, Christian parents would not speak out when gay activist educators pushed their agenda on elementary school kids, since that might offend and turn off the gay administrators and teachers (just to give one example of many). Is that a biblical stance?

And is there no line Hillman would draw? What if Planned Parenthood asked the Kleins to bake cakes for a fundraiser for a new abortion clinic, inscribed with the words, “My body, my choice”? Would Hillman encourage them to bake the cakes so as not to seem closed-minded to those who advocated killing babies in the womb?

Hillman writes, “Many Christians have a difficult time loving those in the gay community because they think that if they do, they are condoning the homosexual lifestyle,” but once more, he seriously misses the point.

Most Christians I know have no problem loving people in the gay community. In fact, many of my friends and colleagues have an especially strong sense of compassion for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. But either way, this was not the issue with Aaron and Melissa Klein. They were specifically asked to participate in a ceremony they felt was displeasing to God, and for them it was no different than being asked to bake cakes for an illegal activity—to do so would be to sin.

I absolutely concur with Os Hillman when he writes that when interacting with those who identify as gay, we should “consider how Jesus might relate to the person, and become Jesus to them.” In fact, this is how we should act toward all people. But there’s not an example anywhere in the New Testament of Jesus actively participating in a sinful activity—or condoning it. Instead, He reached out to the hurting and marginalized and transformed them by His love, setting an example for all of us.

So yes, by all means, let’s build bridges of love, compassion and kindness wherever and whenever possible. At the same time, let’s hold our ground and stand for righteousness. Otherwise, as I have warned repeatedly over the years, if we don’t stand up for what is right today, we’ll have to apologize to our kids and grandkids tomorrow.

Michael Brown is author of The Real Kosher Jesus and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

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