In 2014, several bakeries across the U.S. drew criticism for their refusal to bake cakes for same-sex couples. Now, an anti-gay Christian is unhappy with a Colorado bakery that refused his request for a homophobic cake. The man at the center of the controversy, Bill Jack, has a long history of fundamentalist Christian work.
According to KDVR Fox 31, Bill Jack filed a religious discrimination complaint against Azucar Bakery in Denver, Colorado, after the bakery refused to write an anti-gay message on a cake. Azucar Bakery owner Marjorie Silva said that Jack requested a Bible-shaped cake depicting two men holding hands with an "X" over them, inscribed with an anti-gay message. Silva refused to write the words, uncomfortable with presenting "hateful words" on a cake. In an earlier article at KDVR, Silva described him as "pushy and disruptive".
Bill Jack is co-founder of Worldview Academy, a Christian organization devoted to "helping Christians to think and to live in accord with a biblical worldview so that they will serve Christ and lead the culture". Worldview Academy hosts youth camps across the U.S., which instill young people with a "biblical worldview". Bill Jack also spent several years with the Caleb Campaign, a creationist youth ministry.
I recognized Bill Jack as a recurring teen track speaker at the annual convention of the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP). Every spring, CHAP hosts its annual convention at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA. The conference is decidedly conservative, with content that encourages suspicion of mainstream society and a fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity. I first blogged on the CHAP convention in 2011, after I observed talks by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and Doug Phillips of the now defunct Vision Forum. I continue to keep an eye on the CHAP website whenever the convention returns to Harrisburg, even if I can't attend in person.
Recently, CHAP made audio recordings of its 2014 convention workshops available for free download, including recordings of Bill Jack's teen track. Jack's workshops framed the world in dichotomous terms, one in which Christians battle against a monolithic secular society. Mainstream society was depicted not only as sinful, but something that Christians must "capture" and transform, lest it "capture" young Christians. Jack's worldview may help us understand why he locked horns with an Colorado bakery.
Given Jack's stance toward LGBTQ issues at CHAP, I'm not surprised that he asked a baker to make an anti-gay cake. In a CHAP 2014 workshop entitled "Counterfeit Reality", Jack spoke of same-sex marriage, incestuous marriage, man-car marriage, and pedophilia in the same breath. At the 0:28 mark, he had this to say.
"Can I legally marry my sister? ... No. It's outlawed in states. There are incest laws, right? There are laws against marrying too closely in the family. Can I marry my car? No, because it's an absurdity, right? So we draw lines everywhere. Just because two people love each other doesn't mean that they can get married, because marriage has a different set of rules than just the emotion of love, correct? ... There is an organization called North American Man-Boy Love Association, and these are men who want to have sex with little boys, and they say there shouldn't be any laws against that."Jack looked askance at mainstream society in several talks. In one CHAP 2014 workshop entitled "Counterfeit Reality", Jack argued that mainstream culture is filled with "myth-information", a false reality based on secularism. In another workshop entitled "Seven Habits of Highly Suppressive People", Jack claimed that people who suppress God's truth do not honor God, and therefore become "futile in their speculation", leading to ideas such as evolution.
Jack's antipathy toward mainstream society was on full display in a teen track talk entitled "The Four Duties of a Good Soldier of Christ Jesus". During the talk, Jack encouraged teens to be "good soldiers" for God. "If you want to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, you need to understand your duties," he told listeners. Their first duty, he explained at the 34:12 mark, was to avoid being "captured".
"First duty of a good soldier, first duty: do not get captured. Do not get captured, because not only are you of no use to your side, but the enemy will use you against your own troops. We have seen that numerous times in numerous conflicts in recent years where in the Middle East, the enemy has said, 'You bomb these positions [and] you will be killing your own troops because we have taken some captive, and we're going to place them in these strategic locations, and if you send missiles there, you will be killing your own troops'."Specifically, teens were to evade "capture" by secular culture. "Secularism is not held up as the best thing in most cultures," he insisted, ignoring the existence of secular states and secular proponents worldwide. At the 35:21 mark, Jack demonized secularism as an alleged religion that seeks to exclude God from society.
"Secularism is what were talking about here in context. Secularism is the belief that there may or may not be a god. According to Webster's dictionary, secularism is indifference to or rejection of or exclusion of religion and religious considerations. Now I hate to take exception with your great-great-great-great-granduncle Noah, but this is not the proper definition of secularism. In fact, he would take exception with that if he were living because he took his definitions from scripture. This is not the proper definition of secularism. Secularism is not exclusion of religion, it is not the rejection of religion, it is not indifference toward religion. Secularism IS a religion. It is the belief that there may or may not be a god, but even if there is, he is irrelevant in history, art, science, literature, music, philosophy. You see, we compartmentalize our lives. We become schizoid. Do not be taken captive."In keeping with the war theme of his talk, Jack encouraged his young listeners to take the surrounding culture "captive" at the 38:08 mark.
"If you're not to be taken captive, then what should you do as a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Take something captive. What should we take captive? Well, if you take a look at the command, it is that we are to capture the culture, not the flag."Amidst his talk of the Great Commission and multiplying the kingdom of God, Jack scoffed at "fun" as one of the corrupt values of mainstream culture. At the 20:21 mark, he called fun "unbiblical".
"'Fun' is an unbiblical word. Fun depends upon circumstances. Fun is driven by environment ... You know what the closest reference to 'fun' is in scripture? You know what the closest reference is? It is the the word 'folly'. What does folly mean? Foolishness. Goofiness. Silliness. Stupidity."At the 21:15 mark, he criticized mainstream culture for allegedly holding fun in such high esteem.
"Fun is what we hold as our highest value in the culture. We have become a nation of fun junkies, and that's not what scripture calls us to, is it?"Good soldiers don't have fun, Jack insisted. Rather, Christians are to have joy, which comes from obedience to God. A "worldview of difference" distinguished fun from godly joy, he told his teenage audience. Jack playfully coached his teenage audience on how to reply "Nooooo" when their parents asked them if they had fun at the CHAP convention.
Jack's stunt at Azucar Bakery may be a reflection of the worldview he put forth at the 2014 CHAP convention. If one sees mainstream society -- including its growing acceptance of LGBTQ equality -- as a deluded, sinful force, one will feel compelled to challenge it. If one believes that right-wing Christians are at war with a corrupt culture, acts such as the bakery stunt take on larger significance.
While people who think like Bill Jack are not uncommon, I remain optimistic. More and more people recognize the merits of pluralism and a secular state. More and more people are advocating for LGBTQ equality. I have a feeling that many youth who participated in Bill Jack's workshops at CHAP will someday realize that they are not in a zero-sum battle against mainstream society. Jack's bakery stunt may be an attempt to "capture" culture, but in the long run, it will not succeed.
UPDATE: I discovered that Bill Jack has been providing commentary on Kevin Swanson's rabidly right-wing Generations with Vision show. I explore his commentary on the show in more depth here.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Talking Points Memo: Man Files Discrimination Complaint After Denver Bakery Won't Make Anti-Gay Cake
The New Civil Rights Movement: Anti-Gay Religious Zealot Files Discrimination Charges Against Pro-Equality Baker
To download audio recordings of workshops from the 2014 CHAP convention, click here.