It can be difficult to determine, as a writer, how much good one’s words are accomplishing in this world. The pen is mighty. Words are powerful. And writers are fallible. Not everything I’ve ever said in public has been helpful, I’m sure. Or even true. Sometimes I read my old blogs and I realize I don’t even agree with myself! My opinions changed, or maybe my writing improved enough to say something better or more accurate.
Then there are the times where readers have either come to me in person or by private message – or even publicly – to tell me I’ve screwed up big time. I was dead wrong to write what I did, they say. Or prideful. Insensitive. Arrogant. Stupid. And other unmentionables. There are also the compliments, the atta girls, and the thanks for speaking out when it seems everyone else is afraid to.
At times, I don’t know whether to continue with this gig, press on, bow out a while and go to college (or whatever might make me feel and sound smarter – haha), or shut it down and go bake cakes or something.
Of course, as you know, baking cakes – or rather, not baking cakes – can also welcome a seemingly infinite amount of trials and tribulations. This week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Colorado baker who refused, due to personal religious convictions, to bake a cake for a homosexual couple’s wedding. The baker’s refusal to accommodate the request of the couple resulted in many a day in court and undoubtedly cost him thousands upon thousands of dollars in court and lawyer fees.
I can’t imagine.
For all of the lifestyles and secular opinions I’ve spoken out against here on Patheos and elsewhere, and for all the backlash I’ve ever received, nothing I’ve ever been through compares to the Colorado cake baker’s ordeal.
I never imagined I’d see such vitriol in America. As kids, we made fun of just about every type of person there is. Including ourselves.
There’s an overabundance of hillbilly jokes out there ….
Yet, nobody got offended. Not even us, the hillbillies. It was fun to make fun of ourselves and others, as long as it was lighthearted, done with tact, and void of hate.
But words are weighty. I know this because growing up with two older brothers and a slew of boy cousins taught me so. I’m still self-conscious about my nose. I’ve finally done away with my uni-brow, but before I learned to pluck, I was always so ashamed of my eyebrows. I mean eyebrow. It wasn’t my fault I was the daughter of an ape-ish man whose friends dubbed him Hair Bag. I was born with more hair than a woman should be allowed to be born with, but thankfully, I missed out on the chest hair. I attribute this to avoiding coffee, as Dad drilled into my head that the black, bitter drink was to blame for his own hairy chest and warned against the same result for me.
I’m not suggesting we live life belittling or making fun of others. But I am suggesting it’s okay to laugh at one another – and ourselves.
We used to sing …
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.
We lied. Words do hurt. On the other hand, developing a layer or two of rhino (tough, thick) skin is a worthy endeavor. Must we be offended at everything? Could our levels of sensitivity be higher than they should be? The answer is a no-brainer. In today’s political climate, offending someone takes nothing more than a dropped hat. Say one “wrong” or insensitive word, as determined by left wingers, or refuse service because of your religious convictions, and you could have your life severely altered due to mounding lawyer fees and business interruption. Not to mention a heavy load of emotional stress the court process must put on a family.
Whatever happened to “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”?
While we can’t deny our words have weight, that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and that whatever proceeds out of our mouth should be wholesome, we also can’t deny that we should be slow to anger. Gracious. Patient.
The way Christians live their lives (or should) is that they do what they can to spread the Gospel, without being arrogant and insistent that other join their ranks. Sure, they have some power. They can refuse service. And we all, Christian or non-Christian, have access to the voting booth, a shot at running for Congressman or even POTUS. But on a lower, more practical and day to day level, we also are capable of tactfully engaging in difficult conversations with people we view as un-like us.
Sometimes, the outcome goes the way a Christian desires. Sometimes it doesn’t – like when the White House was lit up in rainbow colors. Christians viewed such boldness as not only a flip of the bird toward God, but a heretical act that took God’s message of “I will never destroy the earth with water again” to mean that neither would He would destroy a replica of Sodom and Gomorrah.
No such promise exists, but the POTUS and Supreme Court acted as though it did. So yes, Christians were offended at a multi-colored White House, and still are. But that doesn’t mean we have license to sue, or hate, or in any way force others to believe what we believe or even approve of the lifestyle we live. It simply means we keep praying, speaking out about what we believe, and voting, while continuing to read God’s Word so as not to forget our beliefs and where our ultimate loyalty lies.
We pledge allegiance to the United States of America, but that allegiance only goes so far. If America ever tries to force us to serve another god, or deny the one, true God, that’s where our allegiance ends. Because first and foremost, we pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ.
Do I trust myself to go so far as some martyrs have been called to go throughout church history? To be burned and the stake or boiled in oil or crucified upside down for my faith?
No! That makes a day in the Supreme Court look like a piece of cake (pun intended)!
But neither have I been called to become a martyr – thus far. If the day comes when I am called to give up my life because of my faith by gruesome, torturous means (or even by “humane” means), I’m confident God will give me dying grace. Until then, I’ll continue to do what I can: speak the truth, speak it in love, and work at being impossible to offend.
One has to wonder if the case of the Colorado cake baker could have been kept out of court. What if the homosexual couple and Christian baker met once a week to try and iron out their differences? Perhaps they could have come to understand one another better, if nothing else. The meetings may or may not have led to an agreement on services, but my guess is that the more people get to know each other, the more people hesitate to take one another all the way to the Supreme Court.
The lessons we can learn from this Supreme Court case are:
Be careful what you say. Know what your convictions are and exactly how far you’re willing to take them, while giving thorough thought as to how your actions might affect others – perhaps an entire nation. And wear your rhino skin, always.
Congratulations to Jack Phillips, but also every American. For this is a victory for all.