Righteously Bad Theology

As the Anchoress noted a couple of days ago, a server in Overland Park, Kansas went to pick up a check after restaurant patrons had eaten, and found this message on the bill:

Thank you for your service, it was excellent. That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to GOD. Queers do not share in the wealth of GOD, and you will not share in ours. We hope you will see the tip your fag choices made you lose out on, and plan accordingly. It is never too late for GOD’S love, but none shall be spared for fags. May GOD have mercy on you.

This is wrong on so many levels that it’s hard for me to be charitable about it. There are places and occasions and relationships where calling your brother to repentance is appropriate, but this is Not How It’s Done. This is not what Christianity is about. This is not the love of Christ made visible in the world.

I could say all kinds of things about the patron who wrote this note, but the fact is, I know nothing about him except the note he left. I could engage in name-calling and speculate wildly about the patron’s sinfulness, but since that’s exactly the kind of behavior I’m decrying I’m not going to go there. (And anyway, I’d only get angry and say something I’d have to repent of later.) Instead, I want to talk about the theology implied by the note itself. Let’s break down the note into its specific claims:

  1. The waiter’s service was excellent.
  2. The waiter has a homosexual lifestyle.
  3. The waiter’s homosexual lifestyle is an affront to God.
  4. The waiter’s lifestyle is sufficient reason to avoid tipping him.
  5. Homosexuals do not share in the wealth of God.
  6. The waiter will not share in the patron’s wealth.
  7. The loss of the tip is the waiter’s own fault.
  8. The patron hopes the loss of the tip will be a wake-up call to the waiter to change his way of life.
  9. It is never too late to receive God’s love.
  10. God’s love will not be wasted on homosexuals.

Let’s take these one at a time.

1. The waiter’s service was excellent. In that case, the waiter deserved his tip. The worker is worth his wages, and it’s unjust to withhold a tip that’s been justly earned if you can possibly pay it.

2. The waiter has a homosexual lifestyle. It’s not clear to me how the patron knows all about the waiter’s lifestyle as the result of an acquaintance lasting the duration of one meal, during which the waiter gave excellent service. This seems presumptuous to me. But for the sake of argument, let’s presume that the waiter is a notorious public sinner, and that the patron truly has the salvation of the waiter’s soul at heart and is truly attempting to speak the truth in love, and see whether the rest of the note holds water.

3. The waiter’s homosexual lifestyle is an affront to God. All sin is an affront to God; and leaving homosexuality to the side, I expect that the waiter has every bit as much of a reason to be ashamed before God as I do. With a slight change in wording, it seems to me that the patron could make much the same claim of any waiter they’d happened to get, gay or not. Why pick on this particular waiter?

The only answer I can see is that the patron is making a distinction between this kind of sin and that kind of sin, and saying that that kind of sin is particularly offensive to God, more so than this kind of sin. And one is undeniably tempted to assume that that kind of sin is the kind of sin the patron isn’t tempted by. But all sin is an affront to God; and none of us have reason to pride ourselves on our lack of it. (In the spirit of C.S. Lewis, who only wrote about sins he himself had trouble with: pride, yeah, I struggle with that.) Pharisaism is an ugly thing, and that’s what I see here. (I struggle with that, too.)

4. The waiter’s lifestyle is sufficient reason to avoid tipping him. If personal sinfulness was a sufficient reason not to tip, nobody would ever be tipped except by an act of altruistic generosity. But per #1, above, the waiter earned his tip, and it is unjust to withhold it. So this is plainly false.

5. Homosexuals do not share in the wealth of God. This is plainly false even at first glance. All wealth comes ultimately from God. The rain falls on the righteous and the wicked alike, the earth feeds us, the sun shines on us all. And all of these things are aspects of God’s continuing love for us, and the waiter shares in them, whatever his virtues or vices might be.

6. The waiter will not share in the patron’s wealth. This is equally untrue, actually, because the waiter is also paid a wage, and that wage comes from the patrons of the restaurant. But it’s clear that the patron doesn’t intend that he should.

7. The loss of the tip is the waiter’s own fault. Said the wife-beater to his wife.

OK, that was harsh.

8. The patron hopes the loss of the tip will be a wake-up call to the waiter to change his way of life. I’m trying to be charitable, so I won’t discuss the patron’s hopes. But as a wake-up call, this doesn’t seem calculated to impress the waiter with the love and mercy of God. Rather, it seems calculated to make him avoid Christians.

9. It is never too late to receive God’s love. Now this is certainly true. It is also never too early to receive God’s love; it is only God’s love that sustains creation in existence, and us with it. If He didn’t love us, the game is over with no replays. More pertinently, it is never too late to turn to God, beg forgiveness, and let Him lead you to heaven one step at a time. So OK; stopped clocks, and all that.

10. God’s love will not be wasted on homosexuals. This the one that really frosts me, because it’s absolute hogwash. Gays are not some special class, unlike all others, who are somehow beyond the bounds of God’s love and mercy.

There is no one that God does not love. We can’t make God love us more by behaving properly, and we can’t make God love us less by behaving improperly. God’s love is a fierce shining light that falls on all us; the only question is, will we turn our backs on it and face the darkness, or turn our faces to it and slowly learn to cope with the brightness.

The Christian life is not a life spent becoming acceptable to God. The Christian life is a life spent learning to accept God’s love.

Let me repeat that.

The Christian life is not a life spent becoming acceptable to God. The Christian life is a life spent learning to accept God’s love.

It’s true that learning to accept God’s love involves learning to leave our sins behind us. I’m not pitching some kind of wimpy universalism: growth in holiness is necessary, and so difficult that without Christ’s help it’s impossible. But God loves us, always and eternally. That’s why He became man, so that we could accept His help.

About willduquette
  • David_Naas

    Yeah, my buttons got pushed with that article too.
    Nor do I know if it is true or not (urban myth anyone?).
    However, I regret (why do I regret it?) that I know people who _would_ do such a thing.
    Oh yeah, I regret it because I didn’t say anything when I observed/heard such unchristian ‘Christianizing” at work in the past.
    Now, if I DO do/say something, am I as guilty (Pharisee, clean up thine own act first)as the other parties?
    I HATE moral conundrums!

    • Li Min

      It is possible it is a fake note. The majority of pro-gay groups are always trying to harm Christians especially over same-sex marriage, like taking away their jobs (such as the bakers who refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding or photographers who also refuse). They are NOT tolerant of Christians. If this note is true, it can be used against Christians too. Most practicing Christians do not act like that either.

      • David_Naas

        “Most” does not preclude “some”.
        Nor does “…possible it is a fake note…” justify what followed.

        I am curious, why attribute the note to Machiavellian evil-doers? The mere fact that it _could_ be written by a “Christian” (though more likely of the WBC type (there I go again ) than not), does not justify using it to attack “pro-gay” activists — “…always trying to harm Christians”.

        As has been said elsewhere, the wrong done by others does not give me (or “my side”) a free pass. “Mummy, Billy spit on me… after I hit him.”

        Nor does gratuitous paranoia befit a Christian. That sort of thinking belongs in the place we reserve for items about which we need to repent.

      • Will Duquette

        It might be a fake note; that was my wife’s first thought. This was simply another reason for me not to go to town on the author of the note, but to take on the note itself. It’s a bad example of Christianity, whatever the source. But the waiter in question doesn’t seem to be making it all about him, judging from the news report I linked to; so I’m inclined to think it’s legit.

  • HermitTalker

    So tired of self-righteous people betraying their Faith by writing like this and others who decide who may receive communion in the RC Church because they favour abortion. Those are Jesus’ judgments to make -added these two words singingspprano

    • singingsoprano

      I’m not sure what point you were trying to make.

      • HermitTalker

        The Guest who insulted him by praising his service because he assumed he was gay. And Catholic telling Nancy Pelosi she should not take communion. Jesus is in charge of making those judgments about each ione;s soul

        • singingsoprano

          ah, yes, then I agree with you.

        • Will Duquette

          It’s not my job as a lay Catholic to tell people whether or not they can or should receive communion. However, it can be the Church’s responsibility (and, in Nancy Pelosi’s case, her bishop’s responsibility) to make that determination, so as to avoid public scandal.

          That said, I don’t see why any of us should expect to privy to any such admonitions.

          • HermitTalker

            Agree. One can easily slip from trying to save, or encourage another to start taking over Jesus’ role as Judge of the heart. That belongs to Him alone and not the Pope – a confessor or a sinner’s bishop has authority in the sacredness of the sacrament of forgiveness but that requires tact, skill and discernment. Not a shot over the bow from a cardinal in Rome or a post on an Evangelical Blog

  • Li Min

    I agree that the note was wrong, but I am guessing it was written this way (with such lack of charity) due to the constant pushing of the homosexual agenda on Christians. Homosexuals and lesbians are going after Christians: taking away their jobs (their livelihoods), taking them to court, having them thrown into jail—only because they disagree with same-sex marriage. The majority in the pro-gay movement are NOT TOLERANT of Christians and Christians need to start fighting for their own right to believe in Christ’s teachings. Sadly, this one note will be used against Christians now—because it is not how addressing an immoral lifestyle should be done. Jesus told those living in sin to “repent and sin no more.”

    • Kenny Williams

      You’re just passive-agressively affirming what the restaurant patron did. You’re blaming the waiter for the note.

      • Dagnabbit_42

        Eh, that’s reading the comment pretty uncharitably. I don’t see the comment as blaming the waiter.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Unfortunately this type of note, or at least this type of attitude has been around far longer than any kind of societal respect for or power given to GLBTQ folks. So it’s hard to see your comment as having any kind of universal aplication. If you let intolerant Christians off the hook because they may have faced some past persecution from the people they are intolerant against… don’t you have to do the same for any intolerant homosexuals you may encounter? I’m sure there is some amount of intollerance on both sides of the fence, but I’d rather stick with the whole, “cleaning up my own yard first” approach…

  • Will Duquette

    Hey, by the way: thanks very much to everyone for keeping it polite. I appreciate that. I don’t have a comment policy up, yet, but trust me, keeping it polite is key. :-)

  • PJNicholas

    The one thing that you neglected to mention is that it is only an assumption that the writer claims to be Christian. When we and the media continuously assume that all anti-LGBT comments come from so-called Christians, the stereotype is perpetuated. There are other religions who believe in God and other religions who struggle with Homosexuality. Hate and bigotry are not exclusive to Christianity.

    • Dagnabbit_42

      Huh. Plausible.

      And, another thing that’s plausible is that it’s a hoax — not, I would think, by the waiter, but by a patron too cheap to leave a tip, but willing to duck the blame for being cheap by making Christians look nasty.

      You know: Like nearly every instance of on-campus “racism” seems to be, these days: A huge media storm erupts, and then, several weeks later, a shy little back-page story reveals that it was actually the “victim” who left the hate-screed.

      So there’s more than one alternative explanation for the note.

      But of these alternative explanations, I’m afraid the most LIKELY one is that it’s a Christian who’s sincere but a bit of a dick.

      There are far too many examples of persons who actually profess the Lordship of Jesus Christ saying anti-gospel, unloving, charity-free things to homosexuals.

      There are an awful lot of hoaxes perpetrated, too; and the media are all too anxious to lap up anything that supports their ongoing narrative of Christians as hateful bigots. Heck, most of the country still thinks Matthew Shepherd was killed for being gay! As usual, lies get half-way ’round the world before the truth can put its boots on.

      Still, we have enough uncharitable Christians — especially in the near vicinity of those Westboro Baptist Church folk — that the safer assumption is that this isn’t an Alinsky tactic, but a real instance of Christians shooting their Lord in the foot.

      So, once again, let us turn our voices and pulpits/ambos (sp?) towards encouraging charity from one another, towards all sinners.

      Not that the Westboro folks will be much influenced by it. But we’re responsible for improving what’s within our power to improve; not what’s outside our sphere of influence.

      • Will Duquette

        Right. And again, this is why I focussed on the content of the note, rather than the author of it.: that’s what’s public, and what needs to be addressed.

  • Billiamo

    The references to wealth incline me to think the patrons are Prosperity Gospel folk.

    • Will Duquette

      Yeah, I had the same thought.

  • Dagnabbit_42

    Will, couldn’t you be a bit more precise on Item #10?

    I mean, it’s true that “God’s love will not be wasted on homosexuals.” It won’t be…by which I mean, He loves them, and that love is not wasted on them because they are not creatures without value but rather creatures of great value, “very good” in the words of Genesis 1. A “wasted” love is love directed towards something of no value. But God’s love for murderers and homosexuals and bigots and heterosexual fornicators and tax-cheats and gossips and people who skip Sunday Mass without adequate reason and people who neglect their prayers and people who waste time posting comments on blogs is never “wasted” because all those sinners are God’s creatures, people made in His image, and of great value.

    Anyway, I thought that one needed more parsing, because when I read it, I interpreted it as a true statement about the love of God. I thought the (nasty) author was (correctly) saying that God did love homosexuals and that that love was not wasted.

    Probably naive of me. I don’t, personally, know any anti-homosexual bigots so I don’t have much conception of how bad they can get. So I read something like that and it doesn’t immediately occur to me to think the words.

    • Will Duquette

      I read that sentence as, “God will love you if you stop being gay, but not otherwise.” You’re apparently a more charitable person than I am. :-)

  • FW Ken

    I have to admit that I did leave a note on my ticket at lunch yesterday. It said.”45 minutes to cook my lunch? You have to be kidding!”. I did leave the waiter 10 %, though, which is half of my standard tip. He was obviously new. I also suspect he was gay. ;-)