Oregon baker Aaron Klein could be facing legal action from the state for his decision to not provide a cake for a wedding involving two women. That is because under Oregon’s 2007 Equality Act, it is illegal for a business that provides goods and services to the public to discriminate based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”
Klein had previously sold a cake to one of the women filing the complaint against him. He refused to provide her a second cake only because she made it clear that the cake was for her "wedding" to another woman. This is not a case of discrimination, because Klein is willing to serve people with same-sex attractions. He says, “"I'll sell [gay people] stuff. . . . I'll talk to them, it's fine."
What Klein refuses to do is to aid an act that calls itself marriage but is in fact an impostor masquerading as marriage. Referring to the Bible, Klein says, “I believe that marriage is a religious institution ordained by God. A man should leave his mother and father and cling to his wife . . . that to me is the beginning of marriage."
Defenders of same-sex marriage are quick to pounce on Klein’s biblical defense of his actions. What I find surprising is that critics usually don’t argue that the Bible is simply false and that Klein is an idiot for following it. Instead, critics are more apt to say that Klein is a hypocrite.
What about Tattoos?
For example, on the popular restaurant review website Yelp, Klein’s store, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, has been inundated with one hundred negative reviews that have caused its previous four-star rating at the beginning of the year to plummet to 1.5 stars. Of course, the reviews are critical of Klein’s beliefs rather than the quality of his pastries. How else do you explain someone saying his cupcakes “taste like hate?”
In one of the reviews a critic writes, “Look at some of the ridiculous prohibitions in the Old Testament that people do not follow. Tattoos? I think Leviticus says ‘No,’ but it looks like the baker's got one.”
Personally, I can’t see one in photos of Klein, but let’s assume for the sake of the argument that he has one. This is similar to arguing that Christians are inconsistent because they condemn homosexuality for biblical reasons but do not condemn other actions which are also prohibited in the Bible, such as the eating of shrimp.
The passage the critic is referring to is Leviticus 19:28 which says, “Do not lacerate your bodies for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD.” Chapter 19 lists several rules the Israelites are obliged to follow so that they can be holy in the same way that God is holy. Now, to be holy means to be “set apart” by God. So why would God care about tattoos?
In the ancient world, tattoos signified belonging to a pagan religion or invoking those gods for help. Tattoos discovered on mummified Egyptian females suggest that they were employed to seek help from the gods during pregnancy. It has also been argued that tattoos were a way to signify allegiance to the pagan god Baal. Along with tattoos, many of the other prohibited activities in the Mosaic law that we now find morally innocuous were practiced by other pagan religions.
By engaging in these activities, the Israelites would have failed in their goal to be “set apart” or “holy” in comparison to these other groups.
Two Kinds of Laws
Since Christians aren’t tempted to worship Baal anymore, we are not bound by the Old Testament laws. This also applies to Paul’s admonishment of long hair for cultural reasons (1 Cor. 11:14), which is used by critics to say his admonishment of homosexuality can also be ignored as well (Rom. 1:26-27). For a more in-depth discussion see Jim Blackburn’s article on the subject and this radio show with Michael Barber.
Just because Christians are not bound by the cultural-specific codes in the Old Testament does not mean we aren’t bound by the universal codes found there.
After all, I am no longer bound by the childhood rule requiring me to hold my mother's hand when crossing the street, but this doesn't mean I am not bound by other childhood rules such as "Don't drink what's in the containers under the sink." As an adult, I do not need the former rule to protect me, but the latter rule is still binding because ingesting bleach will kill me regardless of how old I am. Likewise, some rules in the Mosaic law still apply because they involve actions that are always harmful.
For example, the verse just after the tattoo prohibition says, “You shall not degrade your daughter by making a prostitute of her; else the land will become corrupt and full of lewdness.” The critic’s argument could be turned on its head by a pimp who says, “You are a hypocrite for telling me that it’s wrong to prostitute my daughter just because the Bible says its wrong. Do you think tattoos are also an abomination?”
I think this misunderstanding also underscores why the Catholic moral tradition, which stresses natural law, is more effective in promoting sacred values than simply proof-texting Bible verses. The Catholic approach provides a holistic framework for understanding God’s design in nature and how we can flourish as rational creatures if we simply order ourselves to be in conformity to that natural law.