Sale: Two For The Price Of One

It’s a Sermon on the Mount moment for Christians and some don’t even recognize it. A fb friend alerted me to this piece.

Three in ten (30%) Americans say they think it should be permissible for a small business owner in their state to refuse to provide services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs, while two-thirds (67%) say they should not be allowed to do so.

By contrast, there is generally less support for allowing small business owners to refuse to serve African Americans, Jews, Muslims, and atheists, if serving these groups would violate the owner’s religious beliefs. However, the number of Americans who support religiously based refusals to serve each of these groups has increased in the last five years.

Jesus seemed to have something to say about people we consider bad:

‘You have heard that it was said,
“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
But I say to you,
do not resist an evildoer.
But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek,
turn the other also;
and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat,
give your cloak as well;
and if anyone forces you to go one mile,
go also the second mile. (Matthew 5:39-42)

The Lord would seem to suggest that when a same-sex couple asks a Christian baker for a wedding cake, a believer is obligated to provide a two-for-one opportunity.

There doesn’t really seem to be any other way out. The worst case scenario (one I disagree with) is that people who disagree with us are evildoers. In that situation we are obligated by the teaching of Jesus to go that extra mile. More often, people who think, live, or love differently are far milder than the worst evildoers. They might even be more virtuous than us. The solution seems the same. We offer our service in duplicate.

Why? Because people who are different from us don’t contaminate us. Small-hearted individuals have no influence to build the Reign of God. They can only give a tattered witness of their Lord. Their morality is narcissistic. If they persist, they are unfit for duty in the field hospital, the peripheries, and the wilderness. They will sit at their small table with a few confreres and demand to be serviced. They typify the Church of Maintenance. They have abandoned the mission.

Personal holiness is a discipline we work in cooperation with God. But it is not the end point of the Gospel. Jesus entrusted his disciples with a mission to preach to and baptize the whole world. All creation, if you take the Mark 16 mandatum. We don’t set aside aspirations for holiness, but in the greater context, Christians have received a wider and greater aim.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Sale: Two For The Price Of One

  1. Liam says:

    While I am sympathetic to this in many ways, it may serve to illuminate more if the examples are reframed in reverse to our preferences: what’s my obligation to provide X good/service to a person who is doing Y [evil but thing (but that is lawful in civil law)] in a way that furthers/promotes/enables Y? [In here insert discussion of whether our Lord would see a discussion of material and formal cooperation as a distraction or not. I for one don’t have an instant answer on that one; I suspect the answer depends on conscious and less than conscious motives and therefore would be particular to all the facts, visible and invisible.]

    For example, is everyone obliged by the Scripture verse quoted to rent a PA system to a white supremacist convention? (Or two of them?).

    Stepping back, who exactly is my enemy? If anything, what’s passing strange about our culture is how we kinda strangle the idea of enemy into caricature. It’s the same culture that strangles the idea of forgiveness by vastly expanding the terrain of justification and excuse; this is not surprising, because, as it turns out, the language of forgiveness that the Risen Lord gave as his first gift to his disciples is a *hard* language.

  2. Todd says:

    Assuming everybody who is not me is evil, or potentially so …

    Eating a cake is not an immoral act. But using a PA system to foment hate and tell lies is. Granted, the former has a symbolic value. But many businesses protesting are, in fact, discriminating in their tastes in non-cooperation. They protest one kind of sexual sin, but look away on others. Perhaps selling beds is a problem, since much (or most) sexual activity takes place there. But beds are primarily for sleep and rest.

    A problem closer to home for some of us: a child makes a poor choice of a spouse. What is our wedding duty? Do we cooperate with something we know will fail and cause deep pain? Would a protest render more injury in the short-term? Would the parties be prepared to listen and receive our input? Or is our stance more about self-definition rather than facilitating a conversion?

    • Liam says:

      A wedding cake is not only food, but communication (unlike, say, a plain carrot cake – to the extent a couple would find a material difference between being presented with a plain carrot cake and an expected wedding cak0e is the measure of salient difference in moral terms if not legal terms). Not everything that will be said through the PA system will necessarily be evil, either. I don’t think your distinction is sufficiently probative of the test – as your other distinctions about motive go to the issue of subjective motive/intention, which is not what the objective principle is about, as you’d have to address the issue of people who would consistently apply their principles).

      • My wife and I opted for a plain sheet cake. Chocolate. Frosting, but no other decoration. I think the religious distinction is shaky. Divorce lawyers. Sometimes the same firms that represent bishops and dioceses. Unless a baker is going in for church clientele only, I think the LGBT thing is discrimination. Especially if a lawyer can trace it to a bishop who hires a divorce lawyer.

        It’s part of the reason I think we’re “safer” and more on target with the mission to bake the darn cake, and if something sexually suggestive is requested, the provider can explain politely they would prefer the customer provide what is needed. Otherwise, love and commitment are moral positives I see no problem with affirming.

      • Liam says:

        So, it sounds like you’re saying discrimination we disagree with is an evil thing by an enemy we can resist. As opposed to, say, being beaten. Or something. And one gets to express some superiority about it.

        And for additional perspective: how moral (not talking legal here) would it be for me to have expected and demanded a baker with religious objections to bake a wedding cake for my widowed best friend’s second (same-sex) marriage earlier this spring?

        For context, I am a firm advocate for anti-discrimination laws and regulations for public accommodations and other things but, having been an activist about them in my earlier career (involved in caucuses, drafting debates, apologetics and briefs and what not), I am aware they have practical limits of enforcement beyond which they start to self-cannibalize. The Golden Rule is actually a good practical place to start considering the principles one believes should govern public policy, but – if you do it without cherry-picking (which is hard work), it will likely take you places where you are bitten by them in turn.

  3. Maybe it sounds that way, but I prefer a more courteous exchange. I think making a demand strays toward sin. I think welching on a deal, likewise. Be it a promise to provide a cake before one knows the whole story, disinviting a speaker, or firing an employee. In terms of sales, I’d say there’s likely discrimination afoot. It should be examined most carefully.

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