Thursday, November 17, 2011

Just say "NO" to the cake

According to LifeSiteNews, one woman in Iowa said a little more than, "No." When approached by a lesbian couple to make their "wedding" cake, Victoria Childress, owner of a home-based baking business declined their offer. Childress said, "I did not belittle them, I did not speak rudely to them. There were no condescending remarks made, nothing."

Does refusal to provide a service based on Christian convictions constitute bigotry? It's a question that plagues Christian's in every service industry in America. LifeSiteNews reports that "[businesses] declining to service homosexual couples, have routinely been targeted for lawsuits and harrassment [sic] in states that have legalized same-sex “marriage” or civil unions." Discrimination lawsuits are becoming their own form of harassment. Christians are finding it increasingly difficult to operate according to their consciences in matters of morality. Are all situations equivalent, requiring refusal of service based on conscience?

From wedding cakes to homosexual unions to contraceptives and abortion, Christians need to make decisions based on what they believe to morally permissible actions with which they can morally be associated. Christian moral consciences are informed by the Word of God; for Catholics, in particular, this is bolstered by Tradition and the teaching authority of the Magisterium. The questions a Catholic seeking to provide services in any industry must ask themselves are: Does this make me complicit with a moral evil? Is what I am participating in giving validity to what I truly believe and know to be morally unacceptable?

Childress said that her convictions strongly oppose homosexual unions, and that she was politely honest about that with the couple. Were Childress' convictions known prior to her encounter with the couple? Was there an ulterior motive behind the lesbian couple seeking out her particular services? LifeSiteNews suggests: "Often the complaints spread through media, particularly gay blogs, where gay rights supporters are encouraged to keep up pressure on the offenders." Was Childress targeted for her Christian beliefs? Possibly.

According to the business owner, her polite meeting with the couple has resulted in a "deluged [of] hate mail that she has stopped reading" after the couple went to the local news station, KCCI, and   issued a statement  calling Childress a "bigot". Since their public statement, other Iowa bakers have come forward to decry Childress for her open refusal to serve gay couples.

Could Childress have avoided this situation? Yes. She could have simply said that she was too busy to handle their business. That statement is subjective, as busy-ness is a state of mind relative to each individual's capacity to handle stress, work load, etc. The stress of this particular cake order may have created too much mental/spiritual strain on Childress' conscience.

Was she obliged by conscience to tell the couple of her convictions? Not necessarily. Making a cake would be considered mediate remote passive material cooperation; she is not responsible for the moral evil that will result from the couple's union. Is she now morally obligated to ask every couple that  orders a wedding cake whether they are living in sin through cohabitation? Will she refuse those orders, too? How deep do her Christian convictions run? In issuing a refusal that caused public outrage, Childress actually garnered support for the lesbian couple and led other business owners in her area to publicly witness and assent to homosexual union.

It's a fine moral line to walk. Childress, to her credit, followed her moral conscience, a rare thing indeed these days. And, with an eye fixed to her eternal salvation, she refused to cooperate with something she believed to be morally illicit. However, a simple, "I'm not able to handle your order for that weekend" may have been enough, especially to avoid the perception of bigotry. Others might disagree, calling Childress a hero for Christian principles. In light of the blow back, did Childress accomplish anything more than creating division? Will her decision foster understanding or make Christians look insensitive and uncharitable? These are questions that must be considered as Christians  operate according to their convictions.

How does one best accomplish the excision of a "moral" tumor -- with a sledge hammer, or a scalpel? It is imprudent to demoralize the prodigal son, but rather counsel and operate with love of the human person in light of their inherent dignity as a child of God. Childress claims that it was not so much about the couples homosexuality as it was about her personal walk with God that caused her to openly share her convictions with this couple and deny them her service; to which one might quote Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in response: "Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness."

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