We really do love you!
I saw this article the other day from The Oregonian website about Sweet Cakes by Melissa, the bakery that had recently been fined $135,000 for refusing to bake the cake for a same-sex wedding. It seems they decided to design and make special cakes to send to 10 LGBT organizations on the west coast as “an expression of love.” You can see the cakes on the linked website but I took the message on them for the title of this post.
My first thought was that this was a sweet (pun intended) idea. After having antagonized huge numbers of LGBT people with their stand it was a gesture of caring; sort of one step short of an apology for hurting them. Further into the article I read that they also included a copy of the movie “Audacity” by Ray Comfort. My initial reaction was “Uh-Oh.” This was strengthened by the quote from the movie’s website that was given, saying it “delivers an unexpected, eye-opening look at the controversial topic of homosexuality.” Hoping against hope, I went to the website and watched the trailer.
As it turns out it the film is a typical Christian “message film.” In essence, a young Christian man, unsure of what to say to a friend whose sister is about to be married to her same-sex partner, doesn’t say anything at all. Later he has a vivid dream about an elevator where you can open the door and step into an empty shaft and plummet to the basement. He puts up a warning note but it is taken down by a sinister figure obviously portraying Satan. In the dream he sees his friend and her sister fall to their deaths. On awakening he sees this as a sign from God that he should not have let Satan hinder him from delivering his anti-gay message that might save them from hell.
What do you think the chances are that, on receiving the cakes and the DVD, the recipients would say “Thank you! I never realized we were going to hell!”? Do you think that the love-cake, which stood a chance of opening a dialogue, was enhanced by the film? I did an internet search on the subject and turned up dozens of outraged articles, comments and blog posts. All this leaves me wondering what their point was.
Many others wondered as well. I saw several references to the fact that, through an internet fund raising effort, the bakery had received over $350,000 in donations from like-minded Christians turning the whole wedding cake saga a profit maker. Pointing out that the fund raiser is still open they thought this was a callous effort to “rake in some more dough” (pun intended again). I suspect that was probably not the goal.
This sort of “you are going to hell” evangelistic style usually comes from two motivations. One is the idea that the Gospel is an offense and it is up to us to make sure the hearer of our message is offended. This theory treats outrage as a desired result. I’ve never understood how, since Paul was sure the message alone was an offense, in our time we feel we need to add an offensive delivery just to be sure.
The second idea is that the most loving thing I can do is to warn someone they are hell-bound. Nearly 40% of LGBT people identify as Christians so they would see differences on this subject as akin to differences on the mode of baptism; sort of as a theological dispute in which they are confident of their own understanding. Many of those who are not Christians don’t believe in hell at all so the message is, to them, akin to saying “The Boogey Man is going to get you!” Either way it made the cake-baking effort useless, or even counter-productive and offensive.
The smiling faces of the baker and her family in the article make me suspect they actually have no idea that this might be anything other than a sweet (There is that pun again!) Christian gesture. That sort of scares me. The essence of good evangelism is to connect up personally with the one we are trying to reach. Efforts such as the cake-baking might be a good way to do it, particularly if they asked for dialogue and sincerely wanted to hear and understand those they were trying to reach. Including the DVD was nothing more than taking the job of the Holy Spirit into their own hands, thinking it is their job to convict.
My advice to Sweet Mellissa is to send another cake, perhaps with the message “I am sorry, I screwed up.” Perhaps they might add a note saying they want to meet and listen before they talk.