TV's Seinfeld birthed many memorable characters and phrases during its award-winning nine seasons. The Soup Nazi, and his famous line, have become ingrained in our collective psyche.
If you somehow missed out on the Seinfeld experience, here's a quick synopsis: A new soup stand opens in New York City, offering various soups that are out-of-this-world. The proprietor, though, is an extremely rigid and unforgiving man who has a very strict procedure that must be followed in order to be allowed to make a purchase - earning him the nickname "The Soup Nazi."
One mistake, one hesitation, even a simple question, would elicit those four most-feared words: "No soup for you!"
The Soup Nazi makes for great comedy, that's for sure, yet certainly we all agree he is not someone we should aspire to emulate. So, why does it appear, then, that the Soup Nazi has become our model of Christian conduct?
Across the good ol' "Bible Belt" we Christians are acting like we are God's store managers. We closely guard our (er... God's) merchandise and are wary of selling it too cheaply. We put a high price tag on items such as mercy, forgiveness, acceptance, grace (can you say, "works-based salvation," boys and girls?). And, with smug self-righteousness, convinced God will be pleased with the strict efficiency with which we are running the store, we are engaging in an orgy of legislation to give us the privilege of boldly declaring, NO SOUP FOR YOU!
We Christians are doing so because we believe our faith is under attack. And, we've clearly identified the enemy (which, of course, makes them God's enemy) who is attacking us: LGBT persons and anyone advocating for LGBT equality.
Thankfully, we find in our Bible instructions for times like these. Confused about what we should do? Jesus gives us clear, concise guidelines. But, we have to pause from weaponizing the Bible long enough to read what's inside.
Let's ask the Lord how we should treat people we think are out to get us, people we don't like, people whose behavior we have decided violates our own sense of personal morality. Not surprisingly, Jesus has an answer: "Just as you want people to act towards you, you act that way towards them."
OK, Lord, we need to be more specific - we believe a certain group of people is our enemy and they are out to get us. "Love them," Jesus says.
"But they hate us and everything we stand for and believe in!" Jesus' reply? "Deal kindly with them."
"But, Lord, we feel we are being insulted, even persecuted!" And Jesus responds, "Well, then, pray for them."
"But, Jesus, by law we might have to do something that actually enables them!"
And Jesus tells us, that if, by legal requirement, we have to stop what we're doing and have to go out of our way to help someone carry their load for one mile, then we should see it as an opportunity to serve them out of the humility and unconditional love in our Christian hearts and carry their load for a second mile.
Dismayed that Jesus might be suggesting we dare to go against our cherished religious convictions, we angrily ask, "You mean we should bake a wedding cake for a gay couple?"
"Yes, and throw in the groom's cake for free!"
"But, Jesus, if they're both gay, then ..." Smiling, Jesus just walks off to let us work out what that means.
Jesus certainly has a way of challenging our sincerely held religious convictions with simple compassion, mercy, love, and basic everyday kindness, doesn't he?
And lest my Pauline brothers object (truly Pauline literalists would never allow a sister to speak to such weighty theological concerns), remember the letter to the Galatians. Are we worried about laws that prohibit the free expression of our Christian faith? There are no laws that can be passed against the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives - which blossoms forth through our becoming more loving, more joyous, more peaceful, more patient, more kind, more good, more gentle, and exercising greater self-control (it's not our Christian duty to control everyone else).
That's right! THERE ARE NO LAWS which will ever be passed that can prohibit anyone from freely modeling Christ-like behavior toward one another (can you say, "the Bible tells me so," boys and girls?)!
Besides, considering the number of lesbian, gay, and transgender individuals who are devout Christians, praying and singing and serving and leading in our churches every Sunday (whether or not we are aware of it), this whole "gays vs. Christians" dichotomy is an illusion - a very harmful, unBiblical, and un-Christlike illusion.
So, enough then with all this "legal protection" nonsense, please.
If we're going to model ourselves after television personalities, it should be Mr. Rogers, not the Soup Nazi. Singing "Won't you be my neighbor?" sounds much more Christ-like, don't you think?