This week, a classic culture war broke out and has since gone viral. The debate – centered on whether or not to eat at Chick-Fil-A – has been so heavily covered by secular (and Christian) media that I will not rehash the story here. I also do not get into politics: this ministry is about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, due to the long history of merging politics and Christianity in America, here is my reply to those who contacted me about this situation.
(1) Do not ever let a political (or religious) leader tempt you into making your witness of Jesus about chicken sandwiches. Juicy culture wars will rise and fall on their own bun. In our globally connected world, we can be tempted to say something for all our Facebook friends to see. In seconds, our witness can be destroyed. When we make Jesus into a for-or-against pundit, we fail to reflect Christ. Neither marriage nor chicken sandwiches will exist in the Kingdom of Heaven. Remember that.
(2) When pressed to comment on The Great Chicken War of 2012, I suggest taking a pass. However, we need to clarify that we are not part of a culture war against gay people. I say this: “I have LGBT+ family and friends. I love them. It serves no purpose to fracture these important relationships. I regret when people think that following Jesus is about eating or refusing to eat certain food. The Christian has greater responsibilities – to love our neighbors; to care for the sick and the poor; and to follow God’s moral commands ourselves. We also are called to extend His great love to all people. This will continue to be my focus.”
(3) My theology does not have to change in order to extend Christ’s love to others. Those of us who hold to a traditional scriptural view on homosexuality are never called to align God against LGBT+ people. To do that with the bible is insensitive, but to do that with chicken sandwiches is ludicrous. We run into serious problems with Jesus whenever we play self-righteous games. He says that we have planks in our eyes. We too easily become Pharisees. We must intentionally avoid this. The world loves it when we play such games: it gives them every reason they need to dispute the validity of our beliefs.
Lost in the shuffle of this culture war dance is a strange reality: our nation is nearly split on this topic. According to a May 2012 Gallup poll, 48% of Americans support traditional marriage. Even in America’s first gay marriage state, support for gay marriage is only 56% to 62% of Massachusetts residents. No wonder a debate like this generates so much emotion.
What this split in opinion suggests to me is that it is quite difficult to make a conscience-based decision on what to believe about homosexuality in the context of faith. My private conversations with individuals on both sides of this issue confirm that gaining a permanent, peace-giving decision is challenging. I choose to help people process this decision thoughtfully, rather than short-circuit or strip spiritual gears by layering debate on top of their inner anxieties.
I encourage evangelicals to walk faithfully with LGBT+/SSA family and friends. Resist the inconsequential culture war debates that so often inflict pain on others and destroy our reflection of Jesus. Keep your focus on reflecting Christ within you who seeks to reach those around you. Amen.
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