Christians Can Learn From Errors on the Left

By Tom Gilson Published on April 14, 2019

Iowa is “celebrating” the ten-year anniversary of a state Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage. A local news item there caught my eye for perpetuating a mistake about Christians and same-sex marriage that just won’t go away. Why? And can Christians learn anything from it?

ABC9 in Cedar Rapids featured Juli Hardin, a baker who’d been servicing same-sex weddings for years. “I don’t care what, if they are two brides or two grooms it doesn’t matter,” Hardin said. “They still deserve to have a beautiful wedding cake on their special day. … It’s difficult for me to fathom any small business that would turn away business regardless who it is.”

It was that last line that got me. Hardin can’t imagine turning away business, no matter who it is? I doubt that. Surely there are people she wouldn’t allow in her shop. What would she do with a skinhead shouting racist hate language? What if he wanted her to bake a cake quoting his hate?

I’m sure she’d say no. But it would be the man’s ethics she’d reject, not his identity. Which is exactly the way it’s been with merchants like Jack Phillip’s Masterpiece Cake Shop, or Barronelle Stutzman’s flower shop, Arlene’s Flowers.

Rejecting the Ethics, Not the Individual

Over and over (and over and over and over) again, Stutzman has repeated that she had served those customers often. She had never discriminated against “who it is” (to borrow Juli Hardin’s term). It had always been about the ethics of what she’d been asked to lend her creative support to. No one should be forced by the state to speak what they disagree with, and that includes artistic messaging.

The same goes for Jack Phillips. Both of them have explained and shown they serve all customers without discrimination. They have only refused to employ their artistic skills to support messages they think are wrong. 

They have said this consistently. And often. Still the message gets distorted.

It Still Gets Distorted — But Not for Reasons You Might Think

A headline at Vox last summer reads, “Colorado baker who refused to serve gay couple now wants to refuse to serve transgender person.” No, Phillips refused to serve a same-sex marriage and a transgender transition celebration.The Daily Beast wrote about “the Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.” No, he refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Wikipedia gets it wrong, too, writing of an ACLU-proposed settlement for Stutzman which would include “a promise to no longer refuse service to customers based on their sexual orientation.”

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So why won’t this go away? It’s easy to suppose someone’s driving an agenda for political purposes. It’s either that, or simple carelessness, criticizing without bothering to find out whether they actually did the thing you’re criticizing them for.

I was ready to say this distorted message was all the media’s fault, but when I did the research, I found that most major media have gotten it right, at least in the past twelve months. My strong impression was that it was different when these disputes first erupted, but I can’t prove it now.

Keep Loving Others and Loving the Truth

It’s easy to blame the media. We conservatives do it almost automatically, we’re so used to leftist media distortions. But I don’t have evidence for it in this case, so it would be irresponsible to go there this time. 

For there are people involved here. To be careless toward what they say is to be careless — literally not caring — about them as people. That’s wrong. To be reckless with the truth is equally wrong.

Distortions will continue. If you want to criticize the media, there will be other opportunities. If you want to find an intentional counter-Christian agenda to warn people against, that’s not hard to find.

But let’s let errors on the left serve as a caution to us on the right. We’re the ones who are called to love others, and to love the truth.

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