I saw this tweet a few minutes ago that Dr. Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (I’m a fan, btw) retweeted from Kyndra Moore (not sure if related). It goes,
@kyndramoore: @drmoore …But the real ethical question is: would Jesus bake a king cake?
This is obviously a humorous, tongue-in-cheek take on the the “would Jesus bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding” that has been going around after the bills promoted in Kansas and Arizona the past few weeks that would allow religious people the ability to opt out of participating in things that they felt violated their religious beliefs.
But, apart from that specific issue, the tweet does bring up a really good question. Would Jesus bake a King Cake? Say, he was a baker instead of a carpenter, and a celebration occured in his city that was known for drunken revelry, wild living, and paganism with parades and floats named after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. Would Jesus help facilitate that celebration? Should Christians?
This is personal to me. I am from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, so I am partial to Mardi Gras. I grew up eating King Cakes. My cousin Bobby and his wife own a bakery in my hometown that invented the first ever King Cake with cream cheese and fruit filling. It is amazing. (Seriously, check out Paul’s Pastry Shop in Picayune, MS. You can order them online). So, I love King Cakes. I remember having King Cake parties when I was a kid in elementary school. If you got the plastic baby in the King Cake, you were the one who got to bring the next one. Every kid hoped to get the baby. It was special (the baby represented the baby Jesus and the King Cake was from the Wise Men who brought gifts to Jesus. It all started on Epiphany, or King’s Day, January 6th).
Mardi Gras can be a lot of fun for families and there are good ways to celebrate it. I am not against Mardi Gras even though it has a lot of pagan connotations because there are really good parts to it. Some of it can be a mess, though. Lots of King Cakes are bought by people who are going to use them in their parties that will end up in drunken revelry and sinful behavior. The whole festival can have a really negative connotation and definitely can promote a lifestyle that would be considered sinful.
So, is it wrong for a Christian to participate in any form of an industry that promotes such a festival? If a Christian is baking King Cakes, are they promoting paganism? Sin? Or, can they help facilitate it while thinking only about the good parts (the kids having school parties for example)?
I really am not trying to make a point about gay marriage. I am talking about King Cakes and Mardi Gras (today is Mardi Gras, by the way, so that has me thinking).
One way that I think it is okay for a Christian to participate in facilitating Mardi Gras is that there is nothing inherently wrong with going to a parade, catching throws (beads, dubloons, golden coconuts, etc), hanging out with your family and friends, and listening to bands going by. There is nothing wrong with eating King Cake because it is just cinnamon cake. There are good ways to celebrate the cultural holiday.
But, on the other hand, the connections with paganism go deep. The connections with drunken revelry and sinful behavior are strong. When people think of Mardi Gras, they often think of debauchery. Is it wrong for a Christian to lend their talents and energy to helping facilitate such a celebration with all of the negative connotations?
I can see both sides and am fine with leaving it up to the individual conscience or conviction. Perhaps Romans 14 wisdom is in order here. Paul was a tent maker. Did he ask what every tent would be used for before he made them? Jesus was a carpenter. I wonder if he asked what a table or chair or anything thing else that he made would be used for before he built it and sold it? I wonder what consistency would look like in this regard? I do believe that we are not to knowingly participate in sinful behavior or help facilitate it. But, sometimes with cultural celebrations, it can get tricky.
I like Mardi Gras. I love King Cake. Just wondering if there is a specifically “Christian” way to see a believer at work in the marketplace creating, selling, and buying when it comes to these types of celebrations, even if they are pagan in connection and origin and end up often being sinful in much of actual practice?
The answers to such questions could lead us into interesting and difficult places.