Rabbi Rami: Why Force Christian Bakers to Bake Cakes For Gay Weddings?
Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler
Photo Credit: Ivonne Wierink-vanWetten/Thinkstock
My aunt says forcing Christian bakers to bake a cake for a gay wedding is like forcing a rabbi to officiate at a Christian wedding. Is the analogy apt?
Rabbi Rami: Since rabbis are not authorized to officiate at any Christian wedding, gay or straight, your aunt’s analogy is a poor one. Try an analogy to kosher bakeries instead:
Kosher bakeries are certified as kosher by rabbinic authorities, and held to the kosher standards set by those authorities. While anyone may buy kosher baked goods even if she intends to eat them along with a ham sandwich and a glass of milk, no one can expect a kosher baker to bake nonkosher baked goods.
If Christian clergy certified bakeries as Christian the way rabbis certify them as kosher, and if they made it clear that certified Christian bakeries cannot bake cakes for gay weddings, then no one would expect them to do otherwise. People could, however, buy a cake off the shelf and eat it at a gay wedding, but my guess is that no supporter of marriage equality would frequent such a Christian bakery in the first place.
I value religion and want to believe, but how do I decide which religion is true?
Let me suggest three principles that might be of help: anekantavada, eilu v’eilu, and neti neti.
Anekantavada (“no single doctrine”) is the Jain teaching that no religion contains Absolute Truth. Eilu v’eilu (“these and those”) is the Jewish challenge to allow these partial truths to argue with and feed one another, and in this way cultivate a greater truth. Neti neti (“not this, not that”) is the Hindu realization that even this greater truth is still not Absolute Truth. Practicing anekantavada, eilu v’eilu, and neti neti will help you live comfortably with uncertainty, and humbly with not-knowing, and in this rests the key to authentic spiritual living.
My pastor tells me doubt is the Devil, and urges me to banish it from my life. But I can’t. What should I do?
Cherish your doubt. After his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples: “When they saw him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. Jesus came up and spoke to them.” (Matthew 28:17–18) To whom did Jesus speak? To the doubters! And what did he say to them? He told them to make disciples of all peoples. He told the doubters to promote critical thinking rather than blind faith. If doubt is your path, know that Jesus walks it with you.
I want to be a Buddhist, yet I don’t want to shave my head or trade in my torn jeans for robes. Is there a way around this?
Sure: be a Buddha rather than a Buddhist. The Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist; the Buddha was awake: awake to the interdependence of all life, awake to the impermanence of all living, awake to the suffering that arises when we desire things to be independent and permanent, and awake to how we can end that suffering by embracing interdependence and impermanence. Wake up to reality as it is and you can wear your jeans as tattered as you like, and grow your hair as long as you wish.
I have Jewish friends who say the Confederate flag is as offensive to African Americans as the Nazi Swastika is to Jews. But what about the Israeli flag? Don’t Palestinians see it a symbol of oppression? Yet every synagogue displays one. And what about the Stars and Stripes? Isn’t this offensive to Native Americans? What’s the answer? Stop flying flags?
As long as we subscribe to a zero-sum fear-filled tribalist worldview of “us against them” we will fly flags for which we will kill and be killed. What we have to do is this: 1) shift from this zero-sum worldview to a nonzero worldview of “us and them and all of us together”; 2) stop oppressing people in the present; 3) admit to and make restitution for the oppressions of the past; 4) outgrow tribalism; and 5) fly the only flag that matters: the earth flag.
I believe God speaks to me. Should I worry?
That depends on what God says. If God challenges you to be more just, kind, helpful, and loving—don’t worry. If God tells you to sacrifice your children, oppress your neighbors, keep women illiterate, slaughter those who think differently than you do, or establish a church with yourself as the messiah, then, yes, you should worry. And find a good therapist as well.
Why don’t you Jews appreciate it when I urge you to drop your unbelief and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
I don’t know, but I get the same reaction when I urge Christians to drop their Trinitarian polytheism, join God’s Chosen People, follow Torah, and stop believing in a god who, like Zeus, impregnates human women. I guess people are just dumb.
Why is the Bible truer than the Qur’an?
The Bible is truer than the Qur’an because… ah, well, because… Who said the Bible is truer than the Qur’an? People search for wisdom, and many who do so share their wisdom in books. Over time some of these books are ascribed to God. When this happens the wisdom they contain becomes dogma to be believed rather than ideas to be tested. I suggest you read the Bible and the Qur’an as well as the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, Taoist Tao te Ching, Sikh Granth, Jain Sutras, Book of Mormon, and Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra (among other books), and seek out the wisdom in each. When people say the Bible is truer than the Qur’an I fear they have fallen into a spiritual myopia they would do well to overcome.
One for the Road
I’ve heard you say that when asked to interpret another’s dreams always begin by saying, “If this were my dream…” I have dreamed the same dream every week for two months: I’m in my basement searching for something important. Eventually I find an old chest that I know holds the answer to my search. I open the box and it contains my own bones! OK: if this were your dream, what would it mean?
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Author and teacher Rabbi Rami Shapiro has been called “one of the best bridges of Eastern and Western wisdom.” His newest book is Embracing the Divine Feminine. Check out Rabbi Rami's weekly podcasts for S&H at spiritualityhealth.com/podcasts.