As a gay man, I should hate Melissa and Aaron Klein.
They’re the Portland-based Christian bakery owners who, in 2013, refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding. And despite their insistence that they’re only morally opposed to gay marriage, not gays, they make their disdain for equality quite clear: “I didn’t want to be a part of her marriage, which I think is wrong,” Aaron Klein recently said of one of the women he rebuked.
I’m also an evangelical Christian. I can’t understand why Klein or any other Christians twist the words of Jesus Christ to justify this behavior. To me, it’s a deeply harmful and embarrassing bastardization of our faith.
But I don’t hate the Kleins. In fact, I’m raising money to cover the $150,000 punitive fine they received from Oregon.
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To be a gay Evangelical is to live what some may view as a paradox. I grew up in a loving, supportive Christian home and my faith eventually led me to a conservative Presbyterian seminary. I was yearning to study my faith more fully, but I was also deeply burdened by my same-sex attraction.
I believed it to be evil – the most revolting and damning of all sins. Looking back on those dark days, I now see the hate I had for myself. I was also secretly angry at everyone in the church who had tried to lead me to believe that something so fundamental to me was disgusting and wrong.
It wasn’t until I stepped away from the church, albeit briefly, that I was I able to find love and forgiveness for myself and the true heart of the Christian gospel; the love of a Father so stubbornly refusing to condemn that He would send His Son to die in my place. And that gospel has so deeply permeated my soul that I cannot find it in myself to hate the Kleins.
In the face of intolerance, I am yet called to love.
I know some Evangelicals are convinced that being gay is a grave moral sin. And I believe that they, and all people, should have the right to decide whether or not to condone religious marriage ceremonies for gay couples. But the Oregon case is not a question of religious marriage. This couple didn’t ask the Kleins for their blessing. They simply asked to pay for a cake.
Last I checked, a pastry is not moral approval of a religious ceremony.
As he was suffering an agonizing death on the cross, Jesus Christ forgave even those who slaughtered Him. He welcomed the poor, the indigent, the scourges of society, into his arms. It’s impossible to imagine the same Jesus who humbled Himself to the point of crawling on the floor to wash the feet of Judas, today standing in the Klein’s bakery and telling them not to bake cakes for gay weddings. Regardless of what you believe Jesus’s position would have been on gay marriage, the Bible makes it clear that the posture with which He would approach gay and lesbian couples is infused with love.
I know this is a lot to ask of Christians like Klein; to shower love on people like me who represent something she abhors. So I’m trying to live that challenge myself.
The Kleins say the $150,000 fee will bankrupt her family. I’m raising money to help offset that cost. I’ll send whatever we raise along to the Klein family with a message of love and peace. I don’t want them to suffer. But I am also pleading with them and other Christians to stop using the name of Jesus to explain to the LGBT community why we don’t deserve access to the civil rights afforded to heterosexuals through the legal institution of marriage.
I hope the Kleins will accept this sign of good will. After all, they must see that our goals here are the same – to live our lives as we see fit and be treated equally under the law.
Already I can hear the shouts from progressive and gay friends.
“You’re an apologist for homophobes,” they tell me. “How can you reward this anti-gay behavior? Who next will they choose not to serve? African Americans? Single mothers? Muslims? We cannot support this.” To them I say: this is what an olive branch looks like. I am not rewarding their behavior, but rather loving them in spite of it. It is time for these two communities, which both cite genuine love as our motivation, to put aside our prejudices and put down our pitchforks to clear the path for progress.