"Christians Making Jesus Look Bad" has been the theme of way too much breaking news in the last few weeks. In rapid succession the North Carolina legislature adopted a bill blocking protections for the state's LGBT citizens; a similar bill made it though the Georgia legislature and onto the governor's desk and Mississippi passed a measure targeting the LGBT community that was so draconian The Clarion-Ledger called it "an act of oppression" in its April 6th editorial:
Through the swish of a pen, Bryant signed away the rights of families, ignored the pleas of residents and businesses, and wrote another page in the state's history that future generations will be shocked -- even embarrassed -- to read. With a final stroke of that pen, Mississippi welcomed its latest Jim Crow law and displayed a sign for the world to see: Welcome to Mississippi. No gays allowed. Mississippi and its citizens deserve better than this unconscionable law.
As a priest and pastor, I not only agree wholeheartedly with the Clarion-Ledger - I would go one step further and say that Jesus deserves better than having His Gospel message of God's inclusive love hijacked and deployed as a weapon of mass discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of "religious liberty."
It's enough -- as they say -- to give Baby Jesus colic.
But the good news is there isn't just bad news coming out of Mississippi. There was at least one ray of sunshine in this post from Campbell's Bakery in Madison, Mississippi. From the bakery's Facebook page:
"I know this may lose some people on the page, but doing what is right matters more to me than the number of "likes" on the page. I am happy to discuss this with anyone, but I try to keep the page positive and positively sweet. So if it turns negative I will delete those negative or mean comments. I am a Christian. I have a deeply held religious belief that I am here to serve. I am not here to decide whom to serve. We are open for everyone and always will be. We find HB1523 appalling and objectionable. We are wholeheartedly against it and will fight it any way we can. We are called to serve, we are called to love. I am called by my savior to serve ESPECIALLY people that don't love me or that I don't like. To paraphrase: "If we only love those who love us what credit is that to us?" I love this state, MY state, and I love her people. All of them. It's what I am called to do. Thank you for the support."
Will this simple statement from a Mississippi bakery that actually gets the message Jesus preached be enough to turn the tide of "Christians Making Jesus Look Bad" in our nightly news cycle? I wish it was that simple but of course it is not.
It is, however a most welcome ray of light, hope and encouragement in the darkness of so much bigotry, polarization and discrimination so sadly being perpetuated in the name of one who called us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
You don't love your neighbors by discriminating against them. Campbell's Bakery in Madison, Mississippi gets that. So let's just take a moment to pause and be grateful for their witness. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and buy a cinnamon roll or brownie or two. Or two hundred. And then let's get back to work making this a country where the pledge of "liberty and justice for all" doesn't depend on your zip code. It's what we're all called to do.