Rachel Held Evans, a must-read blogger for me, wrote today (Aug 2), “Is this what following Jesus is supposed to be about? Eating a chicken sandwich to prove a point? Is this what mobilizes the people of God? Suddenly, my religion is alien to me–small, petty, reactive.”
I’ve read a surprisingly large number of blog posts, Facebook posts, and comments from conservative Christians who are very uneasy with yesterday’s Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day protest. Not opposed to it, necessarily, but they don’t feel it’s the right approach. One friend wrote to me, “Buying lunch there today in order to thumb my nose at the very people I want to ‘Love-to-Jesus’ just doesn’t seem to make much sense.” In many cases, these writers have gay friends and know that this is coming across to them in non-helpful ways. As the late Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand, THEN to be understood.” I fear that the people standing in those long lines gave little thought to how they were coming across.
We need to be strategic and thoughtful about how we go forth with the Gospel. But there was nothing evangelistically strategic about Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. It didn’t start with churches or religious leaders, but with a TV political talkshow host, for goodness sakes. (Which was the greater motivation: supporting Chick-Fil-A, or supporting Mike Huckabee?) Political pundits are not concerned about spreading the gospel and influencing people for Christ. They just want to create a crowd and demonstrate their own influence. So let us NOT take our cues from TV talking heads. Christians are to be the Church, not merely a jump-on-command TV audience.
Not that the multitudes who flocked to Chick-Fil-A had ill-intentions. And there were no doubt a variety of motivations,including nonChristians who oppose gay marriage or were merely supporting free speech. Anecdotes make it sound almost like a revival, a memorable experience where Christians came together over shared convictions. So, good for that. But they were mostly flocking to support a view in an “I’m right and you’re wrong” public controversy. And people on the other side mostly saw judgementalism and condemnation. The gay community is hyper-sensitive to anything they can construe as judgementalism from Christians, just as Christians are hyper-sensitive to anything they can declare to be religious persecution.
Anyway, these comments I’ve read from thoughtful Christians, who refuse to be knee-jerk reactive, are encouraging to me. We need to think deeply about our activism and how it comes across to a nonChristian world, and not merely be puppets for people with secular agendas. People’s souls are at stake. Let’s not risk alienating people we want to reach for Christ merely so we can make a political statement.
Unfortunately, this flap has gotten way out of hand. I fear that it is doing little more than further alienating gays from the church, and making our real work as Christians–of spreading the gospel–a whole lot more difficult. Yes, political points were scored. But it will not increase the population of heaven.