Most people in America are aware some Christian bakers prefer to not bake cakes for homosexual “weddings.” These “here I stand” moments often repeat in a similar way each time, as the cultural foes on both sides of this ideological divide rush to their phones, eager to summon their media allies to hear their tales of woe.
In conservative Christian circles, many people say this is all a terrible thing. You’ve heard it before. The government is evil. The government is trying to persecute Christians. The government is a tool of Satan. Pack your bags, stock the bunker, prepare for The End. Things ain’t like they used to be. Etc, etc, etc.
If you were a Christian baker, would you bake a cake for what you know is a homosexual “wedding? Some Christians wouldn’t do it, as we can tell from recent media coverage. Some Christians would do it, what they consider to be biblical reasons, too. So, let me ask a simple question. The Apostle Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3). Do you think he only made tents for Christians?
Paul was not a wealthy man, and most people in this period only earned enough to survive. Artisans made money by developing a reputation for producing better quality work than the other guy in the same town, or the next. This means you had to build your business locally – and this could only happen if you stayed in one place for a while, to develop a name for yourself.
Paul traveled all over for years, so it must have been extraordinarily difficult to get work – especially because the locals already had their own guys they went to for tent making. In this context, do you actually believe Paul would have survived if he’d only made tents for Christians?
Thankfully, biblical archaeologists have recently uncovered a perfectly preserved mp3 recording of an actual conversation between the blessed Apostle and a pagan customer. I’ve transcribed it, and you can read it all for yourself . . .
The Lost Dialogue
Paul sits on his stool, sharpening his tools, wondering how on earth he’ll find enough money for his planned trip to Corinth. He hasn’t eaten for almost a day and a half. A man wanders by and stops to chat . . .
Pagan: “Hey, dude! I’d like you to make me a tent.”
Paul: “Are you a Christian?”
Pagan: “What’s that got to do with you making me a tent?”
Paul: “Nothing, really.”
Pagan: “Ok . . . so, I’d like you to make me a tent.”
Paul: “I can do that.”
Pagan: “Ok, so how much?”
Paul: “I’ll tell you in a minute. First, do you want to know how to become a Christian? In four easy steps, you can invite Jesus into your heart. I have an old-fashioned altar nearby, too. I’ll even walk you down the aisle myself, with every head bowed, and every eye closed, nobody looking around . . .”
Pagan (looks nervous, wonders if he’s made a terrible mistake): Uh . . . look, I’m not interested. Wasn’t your leader was a criminal? And, didn’t he tell you guys you had to, like, eat his flesh and drink his blood, too . . . ?”
Paul: “Nah, man – that’s not true. In fact —–”
Pagan (interrupts Paul): “Look, I just want to buy a tent.”
Paul: “What do you plan to use the tent for?”
Pagan: “I plan to use it when I make my pilgrimage to Ephesus, to worship the fertility goddess Diana. During my stay, I plan to bring many cultic prostitutes back to my tent, where we will enjoy ourselves, and I pray our energetic activities will entice the honored goddess Diana to bless me with a wife, and many sons!”
Paul (taken aback, clearly troubled): “I . . . see . . .”
Pagan: “What’s wrong?”
Paul: “Oh, nothing.”
Pagan: “Are you sure, man? You look upset . . .”
Paul: “Well . . . actually, I don’t think I can make you this tent, after all.”
Pagan (visibly upset, confused): “Why not!?”
Paul: “I’m sorry, but I just can’t allow my artistic talents to be used for something my religion tells me is morally wrong.”
Paul: “Yes, it’s true. I can only use my artistic expressions to promote messages that align with my religious beliefs.”
Pagan: “What have I said that’s against your “religious beliefs?’”
Paul: “I think sexual activity should only be between a married man and woman. I wrote about this in a little book. Let me get it for you —-”
Pagan (interrupts Paul): “I don’t want to see your silly book!”
Paul: “Ok, no problem. If you change your mind, just Google “Nashville Statement,” and it’s all there.”
Pagan: “I don’t believe this . . .”
Paul: “I don’t mean to offend you. It’s just that I think every Roman should be free to choose which art he will create, and which art he won’t create.”
Pagan: “Art? We’re talking about a tent.”
Paul: “My work is my art. It’s who I am. My artistic expressions are a part of me. They complete me.”
Pagan: Your . . . artistic expressions? What on earth are those?”
Paul: “I’m glad you asked. You see, I believe God has gifted me with a very particular set of skills; skills I’ve acquired over a very long career . . .”
Pagan: “Go on.”
Paul: “Well . . . I earn my living by using these very particular skills. They’re how I express my artistic talent. If I use those talents to make your tent, which you’ll take to Ephesus and use to copulate with cultic prostitutes, then I’ll be participating in your wickedness.”
Pagan: “How do you figure?”
Paul: “Because, man.”
Pagan: “Because, why?”
Paul: “Because if I make you an awesome tent with these skills, which I’ve acquired over a very long career, then I’ll be condoning your sin. I’ll actually be helping you sin! Don’t you see?”
Pagan: “No. Are you actually saying you can only make tents for people who think exactly the same way you do about marriage?”
Paul: “Uh . . . no . . .”
Pagan: “It sounds like that’s what you’re saying.”
Paul: “It isn’t.”
Pagan: “Would you make a tent for somebody who has been divorced?”
Paul: “Umm . . . I’m not sure . . .”
Pagan: “What about Alexander, the tanner? You got your leather from him last week, and he’s the one who recommended you! He’s had four wives!”
Paul: “Well, I didn’t know that.”
Pagan: “Did you ask him about it?”
Pagan: “So, you get to pick and choose who you’ll use your ‘skills’ for, is that it?”
Paul: “Well . . .”
Pagan: “I think I’ll file a complaint with the local EEO office. I’m also recording this.”
Paul: “Let’s not be too hasty, here!”
Pagan: “So, if I hadn’t told you what I’d be using the tent for, you would have made it?”
Paul: “Of course.”
Pagan: “But now, you won’t make it. Is that right?”
Paul: “Right! My conscience won’t allow me to do this. I must use my gifts for the Lord, in a way that honors and glorifies Him!”
Pagan: “Whatever. I’m leaving.”
Paul: “I suggest you try Fred, just down the road. Cheers!”
Paul settles back down, goes back to sharpening his tools, and wonders how he’ll find food to eat tomorrow.