Evangelical and traditional Christians across the United States had arms up in outrage a couple of weeks ago at the news that Chik-Fil-A would stop donating to the Salvation Army and other organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Having been under fire from LGBTQ activists with persistent boycotts, in addition to influencing various cities and venues to refuse to do business with Chik-Fil-A, such as the San Antonio airport and the Oracle mall in the city of Reading in the UK. While Chik-Fil-A’s actions may be understood to represent a “capitulation” to the LGBTQ advocates, at the same time, they are trying to branch out into the international market and their initial reception in the UK was meet with vociferous resistance. If they were to expand their operations to Europe, they had to address some of the political baggage that comes from their charitable contributes in the past.
Now, before continuing my main point, let me say one thing: Firstly, the Salvation Army or the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and other organizations do not have a right to charitable contributions. It is a grievous incident based upon a false portrayal of the Salvation Army and the work they do and their non-discriminatory support of the homeless including the LGBTQ, but as a charity, they are not automatically favored over other charities that do the same thing. The question is certainly up to see how Chik-Fil-A directs their charitable donations in the future in ways that make up for the loss to the Salvation Army, but the SA, while a clearly visible and well-known charity, do not have a right to Chik-Fil-A’s support. Nevertheless, while SA does not have a right to the CFA, the smearing of the SA for a larger social movement is a momentous injustice.
However, we Christians who hold to a traditional sexual ethic might be tempted to think the LGBTQ activists who put pressures and boycotts based upon this smear campaign are the source of the problem. We might believe that they are aggressive deceivers and propagandists who are out to support their political agenda. We very well might be correct in that assertion. And yet, there is something we as Christians might be tempted to forget. Much like the hypocrisy of politicians that can criticize the behaviors and traits of their opponents while forgetting it when it is true of their own members, we can risk falling into hypocrisy if we forget how right-wing Christians in the United States have also tried to pressure corporations to boycotts based upon their perceived support of homosexuality. Anyone remember the Southern Baptist Convention voted to boycott Disney until they stop promoting homosexuality? (Click the following article if you forgot: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1997-06-18-9706180143-story.html). For what: for having a day that allowed gay people to I am reminded of these words from Jesus:
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. (Matthew 7.1-2; NRSV)
Far from the misquoted verse that people use to say we should not think negatively about what other people are doing, this verse warns more so the ways in which people actively seek to discipline and fix perceived ethical wrongs may come back to bite them. The following verses in Matthew 7.3-5 show that the context of these verses is better understood against the backdrop of how some teachers in Second Temple Judaism would try to correct the moral wrongs and evils they saw in others. Jesus’ words were a warning that what you give may come back to you; the way you treat others can become the way you get treated.
Bothers and sisters, what is happening to Chik-Fil-A is nothing more than the page out of the playbook of the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 20th century. And, unfortunately, because the SBC took pains to try to be a representative of Christian moral values on the nation, including those who did not share the same moral values, we see the fruits of this as Chik-Fil-A, who as a corporation does not share the same values as LGBTQ activists, has now come under a similar pressure. The one difference: there are greater social and political affinities with the LGBTQ activists than there were the SBC, and so Chik-Fil-A has undergone greater social pressure than Disney did.
I am reminded of the words of Paul in Romans 2.17-24, who upon criticizing the Jewish sages who stood as the prevailing representatives of Judaism in his day, tell them that they are responsible for the Gentile’s blasphemy against God. Likewise, the SBC and the Moral Majority of the late 20th century are responsible for what we are witnessing now.
It is majorly unfortunate that so many Jews in Paul’s day faced the stereotypes and injustices they did in the Roman Empire, in part contributed to the way the reputedly wise stood as representatives of the Jewish faith. It is likewise very unfortunate that wonderful charities like the Salvation Army and the corporations like Chik-Fil-A that have supported them have come under fire.
How then should we as Christians who stay true to the Scriptures respond? Hear Paul’s words in Romans 12.19-21:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NRSV)
We can perhaps hear in Paul’s words an echo of Jesus Christ. Soon after rebuking the judgments of people who try to fix other people’s sins, he commends his hearers to the following:
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7.12; NRSV)
To be clear, Jesus, nor Paul after Him, are saying you shouldn’t call a spade a spade or speak up about what is false and wrong. So don’t hear my words as a call to say “Shut up and don’t complain because we are getting what we deserve. Just be nice” That is not the point. The point is that the way to respond in the face of such a social crisis is not to try to further correct the problems we see in our social opponents nor to try to get revenge against ‘them’ as they did against ‘us,’ but to act to creation the good relations that we wish we they would have with us. All too often, we say we want peace with those we disagree with and yet our actions suggest we treat them as our enemy. Perhaps we should reverse this, allowing our words to speak of the unfairness and injustice but at the same time bringing an offer to share a new way of engaging with each other by our words and actions that try to create peace.
It is my hypothesis that some of the Jewish Christians in Rome did not heed Paul’s advice very well. As put forward in previous posts, I have argued that Paul is deconstructing a portrayal of Jewish faith and practice as expressed in some literature such as the Wisdom of Solomon that took a decidedly negative view towards the pagan, Gentile world. Some of the rhetoric of the Wisdom of Solomon borders on the rhetoric of hatred, and this hatred seemed to extend to everyone beyond faithful Israel living under God’s wisdom and Torah. An outsider might consider such a harsh, dualistic worldview that has a viciously narrow exclusivism would be seen as a hatred of humanity. And what is it that we see Christians accused of after the burning of Rome in 64 AD? Of “hatred towards the human race” as recorded by Tacitus (Annals, 15.44). Perhaps after the burning of Rome, some Jewish Christians influenced by the bitterly judgmental rhetoric of the Wisdom of Solomon started to celebrate the fire as God’s judgment against the Roman world, seeing in it the beginnings of a new Exodus. From this bitterly negative judgment, the early Christians as a whole may have suffered a false and grievous injustice because some in the name of God judged all humanity and celebrated the burning of the Meditteranean’s center of power.
Similarly, if the religious teachers in Judea had heeded Jesus’ words, the Jewish revolt of 66 AD would not have occurred, or at least would not have received such a strong support, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
So, let us learn from our history, sisters and brothers. Let us see a new way forward to seek to bring God’s shalom, alongside the word of God’s truth, to cultivate something that can make spiritual war against the rhetorical aad political wars against flesh and blood that we have been fighting.