Cake and Hammers: Frank Underwood Has a Word for Kirsten Powers

Here we are, a bare week out of Lent, and the Christians are banging on one another, as we too often do, this time about whether or not Christ Jesus would bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple.

It all started with Kirsten Powers, writing at USA Today, declaring that Christians wanted to go all Jim Crow against gay couples, and adding “Maybe they should just ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” I think he’d bake the cake.”

Powers followed that up with another indictment, this time in the Daily Beast, and several scolding rebuttals have thumped on her for her pieces. I think some of them are a combination of hyper-defensive, overly-emotive, and — when the persecution card is played — in need of a strong dose of perspective.

I get why people are tempted to go there, and I completely understand how threatened people of faith are feeling in the face of social upheaval — I’m a Catholic watching the government and the press collude against nuns for the sake of politics, so I get it. It is remarkable how quickly things have changed in the short time since President Obama (and, much later, Mrs. Clinton) evolved on this issue.

Still, I’d advise people to read John Allen’s excellent report on what Christians are actually enduring, world-wide, and what Powers has admirably written, herself, before they fling about the P-word.

Powers might benefit from hearing some of her Christan sisters and brothers — really hearing the uncertainty that underwrites their noise — before using that other P-word, too.

We are all Pharisees and Publicans in our turns, after all.

I’ve likely spent too much time watching House of Cards, but when I read her first piece, I heard Frank Underwood drawling in my head, “but Kehsten, you caint sway uthuhs to yo’ way of thinkin’ by swingin’ a hammah with Jim Crow written awl on it, not with such ughleh his’treh. It’s just a rhetorical bridge too faahh, now you’ve got to trust me ohn this…”

I think it was, too, even though I agree with her that the bills under consideration, particularly in Arizona, seem rather broad, and that Jesus — if the choice came down to serving or excluding — probably would bake up a fine old Lane cake (with enough shinny to make ever’one tight) for a same-sex couple. I say so in my piece over at First Things, today.

While Jesus socialized with those the temple priests would condemn, and healed the “unclean” lepers, he used those opportunities to teach about the love of God and the wideness of God’s mercy. A soul opened to God’s love begins to love God in return, and — for the sake of that love, and in honor of that mercy — eventually conforms life and manner to God’s will.

Jesus’ service, then, was a means to gentle evangelization and that is perhaps something these Christian businessmen and women should consider, even if it seems counterintuitive to the character of evangelization, as Americans understand it.

Powers ends her piece writing, “‘What would Jesus do?’ I think he’d bake the cake.”

Perhaps he might; it seems to me that baking a cake for a same-sex wedding, even if one does not agree with the concept, may well come under the heading of walking along a road for two miles with someone who “presses you into service” for one.

But perhaps he wouldn’t; all we can do is make our best guesses.

My piece isn’t really about Powers’ argument, though. It’s more about how lost we have become as we have sought out “tolerance”, and how we might deal better with each other, if we reacquainted ourselves with what we used to know:

It’s too bad that laws and courts must become involved with what used to be the simplest of lessons: Not everyone thinks the same way, but everyone is entitled to their opinions; if that kid won’t play with you—or that baker will not make your cake—someone else will, so just kiss them up to God, and move on. Or, as Jesus told his apostles when he sent them off to preach the good news, “Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet, in testimony against them.”

And it is a caution against too-quickly dismissing the notion of an individual’s right to his or her own conscience.

The right to honor one’s individual conscience is no small thing to be shrugged off, or misconstrued as an excuse for ignorant behavior in the face of prevailing law. Who among us would blame a launderer (of any creed or background) for refusing to clean the sheets of a KKK member? Would anyone suggest that Rosa Parks had no business thinking for herself when a bus driver told her to get up from her seat?

I actually cover a lot of ground in the piece, both literally and metphorically, so you might want to read the whole thing.

As Frank Underwood might say, “Ah promise, ah’m not tryin’ tah make anyone mayad. Least of all Jesus.”

Except, you know…I mean it.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Manny

    What is your best guess as to which other sins Jesus would participate in the public celebration of?

  • Lynn Perrizo

    Gosh, I’m so tired of so much time wasted on bickering about this subject. Jesus came to serve, to bring us all closer to His Father. His love for us was such that it didn’t matter what it cost Him. He went to the cross, died a brutal death to bring us to His Father. And he counted it all joy! I’d would bake the darn cake and be thankful I was given the opportunity it pray for someone who I believe needs prayer! But that is me. Why do people want to micro manage others?

  • Lolly Tosh

    If a baker truly wanted to only participate in unions that were not considered “sinful” by the bible then they would be questioning each client that walked through the door.

    Having an obvious gay couple standing in front of you isn’t just low hanging fruit. It’s a convenient excuse to start caring about something you didn’t care about in any other situation. Admit it, most of the people who support this law are fair-weathered fans of the bible, because none of the “bakers” went out of their way to check and see if a union was sinful with previous contra-sex couples.

    In fact, if you are so concerned with what type of celebration you are participating in then maybe the wedding business is the wrong occupation for you overall. Hypocrisy at its finest!

  • Lolly Tosh

    Lynn, that is because you are what they call a REAL Christian. You don’t seem like the type to take every opportunity to distance yourself from perceived sinners and be exclusionary, because you try to follow Jesus’ example.

  • Sus_1

    Thank you for writing this and sharing the links. It should be required reading for the Catholics who think their world will end if gays marry.

  • john m

    Bake the cake for the couple, send them a bill, donate the money to the charity of your choice (perhaps a pro-life or pro-family organization), and then send the couple a letter informing them what you did with their money and thanking them graciously for their contribution.

  • ucfengr

    You are free to bake a cake for whomever you wish, but that’s not the real issue here. The real issue is should you be able to compel people to violate their religious convictions, whether you agree with the specific conviction or not. Do you believe that people should be free to worship in their own way, or in the way you think they should? I would also point out that it’s not the gay couple that’s being micromanaged here.

  • ucfengr

    Look, “the no true Scotsman” fallacy….it never gets old does it? You know, perhaps Jesus would have baked a cake for the gay wedding, or perhaps he wouldn’t have, but one thing I can guarantee he wouldn’t have done was grab a bunch of Roman Centurions to force a baker to bake the cake, which is what you’re advocationg.

  • Theodore Seeber

    All I know is, as much as I support traditional marriage and the rights of conscience, if one of these laws passes, we will likely see civil war.

    BOTH sides of this issue are just to violent for me.

  • Theodore Seeber

    Yep, this is the true best answer.

  • Theodore Seeber

    I read the links, and they have convinced me that the world has already ended.

  • Manny

    Baking a cake or providing flowers is one thing. You send over the products and let people do with them what they will. But I can see how a photographer or the catering hall has a bigger problem. You actively have to participate in the affair. That’s not as simple as you delineate in your article.

  • Chritina

    Turning back the clock of time, I found out that my brother was gay. The small community I lived in was filled with gossip. Gossip is something communities do best. I asked myself “How can I love my brother knowing that he was not only gay but had other problems as well?” I had three boys and what values did I want to teach them. The only thing I could think of was to talk with him whenever I’d see him. Years went by and I saw him on very few occasions. My heart wept for him. One day, upon going to the chapel, I noticed my brother sitting by himself in the back of the chapel. I went over, put my arm around him and said hi. I sat next to him not knowing what to say, if anything. He started crying and I put my arm around him and just held him until the tears stopped. I think back on those days as he is no longer with us. I have to say, I respected the person he was but I didn’t agree with his life style. Love doesn’t require me to loose my values but to love my brother. What would Jesus do? I don’t know. In retrospect, I would not have done anything differently. But learning to love took me many years of struggle as gossip was the uppermost ‘word wagging’ ‘loud speaker’ means by which a community didn’t have to look at itself and its own sins.

  • oregon nurse

    Low hanging fruit? Maybe. But I would have to investigate the minutia of a heterosexual’s prior marriage and divorce to know if it their remarriage was “sinful” wouldn’t I. I don’t have to investigate anything to know the homosexual couple’s is sinful.

  • Lynn Perrizo

    Do unto others as we would like them to do unto us. I believe scripture is clear that God does not want us involved in intimate relationships with someone of the same sex. Scripture is also clear on adultery, murder, lying etc. I’m an imperfect person who desparetly needs a Savior. I have friends who are gay. I pray for them. That the Holy Spirit would draw them to the Father. I am not going to change anyone’s mind about anything but the Holy Spirit can. But seriously, this type of discussion is not drawing anyone to Jesus.

  • NCMountainGirl

    What if the bill was about forcing animal breeders to sell to practitioners of the religion of Santeria? Or even about making someone who raises goats to be sold as pets to sell one to the Mexican family intent on serving the old family recipe for Cabrito on their daughter’s quinceañera? . Or perhaps a Chinese family wants to honor an infirm elderly relative;s request for a last supper of dog meat? Should a dog breeder be forced to sell to them?

    This is not a hypothetical. I know several people who raise goats for sale both as pets and as four legged lawnmowers.. They will not sell to people from certain ethnic groups because they suspect the animal will be slaughtered and eaten.

  • NCMountainGirl

    As a cook I keep wondering who would ever want to eat a cake if the baker had been forced to bake it against his or her will?

  • Manny


  • Manny

    That’s a good question, and for the record we are different Manny’s. The key word there is “participate.” Baking a cake is simple. Would Jesus participate in sinful behavior?

  • Manny

    The whole debate is forced upon us by a radical element who want us to violate our values. They insist we participate. They can easily go to other bakers or photographers or wedding halls that accomodate them. But they want us to essentially repudiate the very words that are in the bible by our actions. They want us to apostasize.

  • Mike

    Baking 1 cake if you bake hundreds based on pre-made plans is one thing, baking in a small business in which you’re asked to directly use your best artistic gifts to promote sinful behaviour, is, another, no?

  • Mike

    Excellent question! Seriously! Cheeky of course but on point. Say, would he give a ride to the prostitute on his donkey, would he publicly help the tax collector count the money? We all know the answer, he would politely decline and would eventually be crucified for it, for his refusal to betray his father.

  • Mike

    Same with my brother except his cross was and is drug abuse. He would berate me for not accepting him for who he was, a drug addict. I always loved him and still do but could never accept his behaviour as it was killing him and still is. He hated me for it. His point was the same: accept all of me or you hate me. It seems to me that the culture is going through what i had to deal with. The more i told him i loved him the more he hated what i was saying. It felt like i was exercising a demon. He’s alive but refuses to admit his lifestyle is destructive.

  • Gaffer7

    Christina, you expressed my thoughts and emotions regarding this issue -so well – as I have struggled to come to terms with a relative who was married, and then later announced he was gay. Loving the Sinner, and hating the sin is surely a complex matter, and it has become so because we have for too long REJECTED HOLY MOTHER CHURCH (OUR DEPOSIT OF FAITH). In my Senior Community, most of my neighbors go along with the SECULAR THINKING – just to get along — And yes, there are more than a couple gay pairs in our community, and as you say – Gossip is the Loud Speaker – instead of SELF CONTRITION — As Pope Paul so wisely stated – rejecting Humanae Vitae – started the slippery slope, and we live in a Culture of death..

  • Manny

    I don’t know. I guess it depends on the situation. I can see a cake just being a cake and let the buyer take it home for whatever he wants to use it for. There’s no need to pry into what the details of the occasion are.

  • oregon nurse

    Correct, but there really are no off the shelf wedding cakes. The baker can have to spend a lot of time working with the couple to come up with flavors and a design. Then there is usually the set up at the reception. You have to get pretty involved.

  • Mike

    I agree but remember this is NOT a religious issue but a civil rights issue for people of conscience who disagree deeply.
    Where is the ACLU? If this were a muslim they’d be there; if a gay restaurant was asked to cater a Catholic family gathering and refused it would be there.
    Where Powers gets it wrong is that it should be your CHOICE to participate. Today it is you conscience tomorrow it will be mine. Unless we want to coerce people into conformity we should let people live and let live.

  • Manny

    OK, I understand. Thanks. I’m trying to find some middle ground. I’m not always an extremist. :)

  • Lynn Perrizo

    “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Colossians 3:23, 24 NLT)

    So when I read this this morning my thought was that those verse answer this whole thing. Amen. Jesus commanded us to go and make diciples of all nations. We don’t get to decide who we will be an example of Christ’s love to. The people Jesus had the biggest problem with was the religious leaders. I do not want to be a member of that group! As the church we are reflect who Jesus is to the whole world. Not just those who from our piping of view sin in a way that is acceptable to me.

  • AnneG

    Just wondering and off topic. Would you have a problem with a nurse refusing to give care to a patient having an abortion?

  • AnneG

    You do know that sodomy is one of the four and only four sins in the bible that cry out to heaven, right?

  • AnneG

    I have a constructive suggestion I heard somewhere. Bakers, photographers, etc, could put a sign in the window and on their contract clearly stating 20% of fees will be donated to Becket Fund or Foundation for the Defense of Marriage. That should do it.

  • Eve Fisher

    I think the main problem is that people want the right to honor their religion without paying any of the consequences. They want to change the law to match their religious beliefs – even though we’ve seen what happens with theocracies in the Middle East and elsewhere – and even though we live in a secular, constitutional democracy. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed for practicing his religious beliefs; Rosa Parks could easily have been beaten, and she was harassed for hers; Civil Rights workers were persecuted, beaten, mocked, jailed, and some were killed; Harry S. Truman ran significant risks when he refused to sell sheets to KKK members in Missouri. That’s the difference. If you really believe it’s a sin FOR YOU to bake a cake for a gay person, don’t bake it. But don’t expect people to want to change anti-discrimination laws so that you don’t have to run any risks by not doing so.

  • Drummie

    The point is NOT about whether Jesus would bake the cake. That is totally irrelevant. What the issue is about is coercion. Why should a business or business person be FORCED to serve/sell in a way that violates their religious beliefs? Are you going to make a Muslim butcher shop sell pork roast or bacon because some people want to eat them? What about an Orthodox Jew running a Kosher Deli, are you going to require him to serve pork products as well? Why is it that a protected “class” has been granted to some people because of behavior? What someone does in their own bedroom is their business and I do not care on a certain level. I do care that the behavior has proven to be dangerous and shortens lives but I can not stop people from doing what they want. The big question to me is why should I be REQUIRED or coerced into providing a product that is used for purposes that violate my religious beliefs. Mine are just as deeply held as the Muslim and Jewish prohibitions against pork. When Muslims can complain and get a restaurant that serves pork shut down because they say the smell offends them, things have gone too far. This is NOT about what Jesus would do, but about governments forcing people to violate deeply held, centuries old religious beliefs for the sake of political correctness and quieting the noise from those that want a particular life style not only forced on others, but demand that it be approved and promoted as good and normal. As for me, I will not participate.

  • Drummie

    As I said above, it is not about whether any particular relationship is sinful, it is about government forcing, through the courts, business people to do business with someone they would rather not based of religious beliefs. Chik-fil-A had to fight in court to be able to not be open in certain malls on Sundays because of religious beliefs. The courts upheld their right to close on Sundays purely on religious grounds. Why should I be forced to serve what violates my religious beliefs under duress from an over reaching government?

  • Drummie

    WHAT is being discriminated against? BEHAVIOR. Martin Luther King was killed because of racism plain and simple. Why as someone so aptly stated above should the Roman Centurions force me to provide the product? Restaurants can refuse service because of no shirt or shoes. That is behavior. So is homosexual practice. No reputable valid scientific evidence has been produced to show me differently. If gay is the born in, how can some people change? Through the Grace of God and effort on their part. But again I ask, Why should I be forced, by the government to provide a service to someone when I have deeply held religious beliefs that tell me it is wrong for me to participate?

  • Sheila Warner

    Sin is often viewed by the teachings of our Church as having several layers of complicity. Do our actions allow a mortal sin? For example, we ought not drive a woman to an abortion clinic. But, baking a cake? I doubt that a wedding party would look at the cake and believe that the one who baked it for a gay wedding was also gay. We don’t view the photographer or the florist in this way, either. I believe that some who turn gay couples away are doing it out of fear. They think those that don’t know them will assume they are gay, too, if they provide any service for a gay wedding. Perfect love casts out fear. I’d bake the cake myself.