Of Bakeries and Gay Bars

I have always made it a point during my years as a pastor to go to the places and people to whom I think Jesus would go. When I was in Sanford, FL, I frequently played on the stage of an English Pub on Fridays nights. I sang, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, and of course, Elvis, but I never hid the fact that I was a pastor. As a result, it was not uncommon for people to seek me out to talk or even for the owners to give me a call and say that someone there really needed to talk to someone. I was affectionately called “the Vicar.” I made many friends and told countless people about Jesus and his love for them. No matter what their lot in life, or what they had done, or who they were made any difference, they all needed to know and see the love of God.


This week we have had old friends visiting from Canada, so after church, another family from our church and we took them to Ybor City, the old Cuban section of Tampa. After an incredible lunch at Columbia, the youngest member of our party was getting pretty tired, so his parents took him home and the rest of us decided to take a walk around Ybor. As we were walking, we noticed a balcony with people sitting and having drinks overlooking 7th Street. This looked like a perfect place to do some people watching, one of my favorite activities. We proceeded upstairs.

This watering hole is called Hamburger Mary’s and, depending on your point of view, it is a famous or infamous, gay bar. Not once were we asked if we were gay or straight before being seated. Not once did any of the staff refuse to serve us. As I had not been home after church, I still had on a clerical shirt, but without the collar tab in place. Seated across from us was a friendly group of people, including one of the drag queens who worked there. One of our friends, with a very wicked sense of humor I might add, suggested I should put in my collar tab to see what the reaction would be. I did. The entire table just about dropped everything in their mouths. We started chuckling, and it opened up conversation and the one in drag came over to our table and we struck up a conversation. I kissed her on the cheek and told her I loved her. She left with a smile on her face and a tear in her eye.

The remainder of our time there, we were still treated with welcome and respect. We even stayed for their charity Bingo game which benefited Relay for Life. I plan on returning there to build relationships.

As we left, I thought about the recent law in my home state of Mississippi that would allow people to discriminate against the LGBT community in the name of Jesus. Is that what Jesus would do? I don’t think so, and I have a background which I think uniquely qualifies me to comment on this. For the first fifteen years of my adult life, I was in photography and video production and now I am the pastor of a Christian Church. I am the son of a photographer who has photographed more weddings than just about anyone else living. Although neither my father nor I were ever asked to photograph a gay wedding, mainly because at that time there were none, I don’t think either he or I would have refused based on our sincerely held religious beliefs; however, I am sure both of us photographed many LGBT people over the years. I even count as a friend a transgender race car driver with whom I produced a video of her career.

This brings me to bakeries or others to whom this law applies, pastors and churches have always been exempt, by the way. How does baking a cake, selling flowers or wedding attire, DJ’ing, or performing any other support services for weddings violate your religious beliefs, even if you don’t agree with their lifestyle? Would it not be more like Jesus to do the opposite? After all, Jesus ate and socialized with those called sinners in His day, to the point that He was hated by those who considered themselves righteous before God. In fact, it was to the religious that Jesus gave his harshest criticism. “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31).

Maybe, just maybe, the best way to not violate the law of God is by loving our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus indicated in the story of the Good Samaritan that our neighbors are even those whom the religious establishment considers outcasts.

My advice is to bake the cake, take the pictures, provide the flowers and attire, and they might just see Jesus in your eyes.

14 thoughts on “Of Bakeries and Gay Bars

  1. mary ann rodman downing

    Rev. Jody Dude–I am so proud to call you friend. Your dad shot my wedding in 1989…and while it was a “straight” wedding, a good chunk of the wedding party was not. The behavior of the Miss. Legislature makes me sad for my adopted state, and only economics convinced the Governor of my current home, Georgia to veto a similar bill (which the Georgia Legislature is currently trying to override.) I know Jesus was with you and smiling at Hamburger Mary’s.

  2. Kimiko white

    Exactly, no sin is bigger than another sin, and we have all sinned.we should love our neighbor, and our enemies, and not judge or use sarcasm. If people want to know God, then read the Bible, just don’t go to church, then do want You want most people have a bible, yet they don’t read it! Love love love help those in need, practice acts of kindness. I believe there’s always a place, and a person to minister to, another important part of what we are supposed to be doing.. Everyone deserves to have a relationship with Jesus!

  3. Theologetics

    Hi Jody. Let me begin with saying I definitely feel the love you have for everyone. No matter if the person is gay or straight we all have fallen short of God’s glory and none of us is better than the other. I have a close lesbian neighbor who has been there for my wife and I and vice versa. I work with a gay nurse who is one of my favorite cooks and is a joy to be around. I have formed a close personal bond with them yet they know where I stand on the issue of homosexuality and we love each other regardless.

    Jesus did in fact eat with sinners and condemn the religious for their hypocrisy. I saw a meme recently that said “So Jesus can eat with sinners but you can’t bake a cake for a gay person?” The difference seems to be either ignored or overlooked. When Jesus was with the sinners was he celebrating their sinful behaviors and lifestyles or was He letting them get to know Him on a personal level? He is known as saying “God and sin no more.” Had the wedding in Cana been between a gay couple would Jesus have been there (by being there as a show of approval)?
    What rarely gets mentioned in the media is that no baker or photographer named in the news would have declined anyone’s request for birthday, promotion, birth celebrations based on sexual orientation. They would have happily obliged. But when it comes to being a part of celebrating what their conscious and faith tell them are wrong, that is where the line is drawn.
    A true Christian understands the wretchedness of his or her own sin before a holy God. He knows it is nothing to celebrate. And he or she can’t in good conscious celebrate other’s. Baking a birthday cake for or eating with a gay person is not celebrating a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s word.

    The love of God says “I am here for you and I love you.” But it doesn’t celebrate sinful behavior.

    Grace to you and peace.

    1. Don

      I disagree. Your not condoning anything when it’s your job to bake cakes or take pictures… What you are doing when you refuse certain people your services is JUDGING. Nurses can’t refuse because of their beliefs, Customer Service reps can’t refuse to talk to a certain customer due to their beliefs, etc….Let those who are without sin cast the 1st stone… And trust me, there is no law needed, the LGB community already know who supports them and will go to them for services. These Bills are just something the politicians use to make it look like their doing something and get the religious right to vote for them. I also bet there are other this in that bill that have nothing to do with “safety” but with lining their pockets.

  4. Joe

    Wwjd! The Bible never mentions that Jesus partaked in any sin. He forgave sin to those who had faith. We are called to spread the good news, lead by our Christianity which all fall short to do. I don’t believe that siding with people with there selfish sinful ways over the state of Mississippi is more hypocritical that the point your trying to display.

    Thanks for the rant. And may God bless All of us that believes in him.

  5. MusicMan

    It is true that Jesus ate and socialized with sinners, but I don’t believe he ever once condoned, supported, affirmed or celebrated their sin. In fact, everyone who came in contact with Jesus left their sin (the woman at the well, Zacheus, etc. That was the point: He came to die and free them from their sin! If someone sincerely believes homosexuality is a sin, why must they be forced (under the guise of “non discrimination”) to support or tacitly condone that sin? (i.e., a gay marriage) Certainly a Christian photographer should take pictures of gay people! – for birthdays, graduation ceremonies, etc. But if they honestly believe that gay marriage is “wrong,” why can’t they be allowed to live out their conviction without being labeled a bigot? (Or worse!)

  6. Teresa wolf

    HELL YEAH!!!!! Finally someone speaks up that has some sense and should know what he’s talking about!!!! Thank you sooooo much sir.i will pass this story on one hundred times.thank u and may God bless u and may you keep on educating these people that say they are Christians yet want to create hate.the world has had enough hate that’s for sure.

  7. Teri

    Thank you for sharing this. As some friends and I were discussing this, we found that it was such a struggle to figure out. Where could the line be drawn? At each point where we thought denial of services might not only be -okay- but -the RIGHT thing- to do, we found that our continence was pulling at our hearts. It felt wrong to treat people that way just because they don’t know the love of Jesus. It’s our job to share Him with these who are uknowingly lost. We are the candles that bring His light into their darkness. Your article has helped untangle this dilemma. Clearly, we can love them. I sincerely thank you! Much love, Teri Fuller from Rescue CA

  8. Chris Harvey

    Beatifully stated. God bless you. We need more messages like this. I used to think the WWJD saying was a bit over used. I think it needs a come back.


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