Now, I can sense the blood pressure rising in most of the people reading this. That is, if it is the usual crew. Yes, I did hear what the CEO of Starbucks said, and I do understand their stance on same-sex marriage. And no, my views on this issue have not changed. My prayer is that personal reasons never shift my view on something when I feel the Bible has an authoritative stance on that issue. In all things, I want the Bible, not culture or my own feelings (or even my own reason and logic) to be the source of my beliefs.
Yet, I will not be boycotting Starbucks. If you will permit me to explain, I will share my thoughts on this whole fiasco. Do not read this as condemnation to those who have in good conscience chosen to boycott Starbucks. The issue is simply too complex for one post, so I will start with some thoughts about the problem, and in the next post, I will provide my humble suggestions for a better way. In short though, I think I can sum up the problem in one sentence.
We are fighting the wrong war.
The church has been promised victory, and we fight a battle that has already been won. Nevertheless, Ephesians 6 tells us we must put on the armor of God and charge off against evil for the sake of the kingdom unto the glory of Christ. In the gospels, Jesus told the disciples that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. Note that it is offensive language Jesus uses. Gates do not move. If the church stands against the gates of hell, it is because we fought our way to them!
That being said, we are promised a victory in a war I feel we are failing to fight, trading it in for one we prefer, namely the battle for the American subculture and government.
Brothers and sisters, are we on the wrong battlefield?
On the first day of class this semester, I walked into the wrong classroom and sat down awaiting the instructor. If you have ever done that, you know how embarrassing it is when the realization sinks in and you get up and walk out.
I fear the church may find itself fighting tooth and nail on the wrong battlefield, plunging all our might into a war for something temporary instead of something eternal. Are we more concerned with the control of a fleeting cultural kingdom than the eternal heavenly one?
If so, we are not promised victory in that battle. As a matter of fact, it is one we are most certainly poised to lose.
We stand at a crossroads today where we must ask ourselves some tough questions. What are we fighting for? Are we fighting for the advance of the gospel or to maintain our traditions? Are we fighting to loose sin’s grip on the world or for the dominance of our political beliefs? Are we fighting to bring glory to God or glory to our way of life?
I pray that we do not lose the war for souls, by struggling for control in the culture war.
Quickly, let me say I am not advocating a change in our stance on the issue of same-sex marriage. Where the Bible speaks, I say we must speak. But you can say the right thing in the wrong way!
In my estimation, for many (I would certainly not say all) adamant about a boycott of Starbucks, this is a battle to prove their side is more powerful. It is a battle for control.
Less than a year ago, my Facebook feed was filled with people decrying the ignorance and hypocrisy of gay rights activists who were calling for a boycott on Chick-fil-a. Facebook statuses everywhere said it was unfair to treat them that way, and that they should be allowed, as a private company, to make those kinds of decisions.
It was a political battle clothed in religious freedom, and swarms of good ol’ conservative Americans rushed to their side to prove that they were still more powerful than the gay rights activists. (Note the way I worded that.)
And they won. Chick-fil-a made money off that boycott. People started eating there because of the boycott!
Now, we have a company in the exact same situation. The only difference is where they stand on the issue. Do I agree with them? No. Do I think they have the right if Chick-fil-a does? Unfortunately, yes.
Furthermore, I fear many of the same people saying that a gay rights boycott of Chick-fil-a was wrong are calling out for a boycott of Starbucks.
If that is the case, this boycott is not about sin or the gospel. It is also not about religious freedom. It is about a particular political worldview wanting to win and not wanting the other side to have the same control.
And from a purely pragmatic stance, conservatives boycotting Starbucks will most likely have the same result as gay rights activists boycotting Chick-fil-a. The company will make money as its gay rights supporters are galvanized to support the company that stands up for them. It will be seen as a victory for gay rights.
Are we being consistent?
Not only does the evangelical response to Chick-fil-a stand at odds with how many are now acting toward Starbucks. In truth, we are proving ourselves to be terribly inconsistent with this issue.
Bullies pick out one person from a crowd and pick on them.
We saw this during the presidential inauguration when certain gay rights groups cried foul on Louie Giglio when he was set to pray publicly at the event. Now, certainly, many men who have shared Giglio’s stance have stood in that role, and in other roles of similar prominence. However, it was an act of bullying to pick him out of the crowd of people with his view and slam him like they did.
But, be wary of your stance on boycotting organizations that support gay rights. Today, most companies do. They are simply not as vocal as the CEO of Starbucks at that stock meeting. Fact is, if you are actually boycotting Starbucks based on values and you only want to spend your money in support of companies that share those, then you will need to make a lot of changes.
First, you will need to unplug your television and cut off your Internet. The providers of that programming, and most likely the service itself, are in the same camp with Starbucks. So are most restaurants, fast food and otherwise, so you would likely need to stop eating out. Then again, many, if not most of the major grocery chains, are favorable of same-sex benefits, so it may become hard to find groceries as well. I could go on, but you get the point.
Are we simply picking out one company to make a martyr for their cause? If so, this actually hurts our stance more than helps it. It smacks of hypocrisy.
A better way.
So, is there a solution to this? I think the answer is yes, but most people will probably not like my conclusion.
In order to win the right war, sometimes we have to stop focusing on the wrong one. Sometimes, it is best to lose a battle in order to win a war. And I fear that our insistence on fighting so hard in the cultural war is causing us to lose the eternal war in our own backyard.
What good comes from gaining the top of the cultural mountain; if in gaining it, you have lost the ear of the very people you are trying to reach? Our task is not cultural superiority. It is gospel proclamation.
Remember this? “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Mt 28:18-20).
That is the real war, and we must do everything we can to see that we charge the gates of hell in that battle. In the next post, we will look at how to engage this issue on the right battlefield.
Update: The conclusion is now posted and you can read it here: A better way: An alternative to dumping Starbucks