Attract, Not Attack (Part 2)
“Don’t go there. Don’t condone homosexuals.”
Those were the words of a devout religious woman telling me not to patronize beauty parlors. Why? In her own words, “So, you don’t condone homosexuals.” Simply put, if I don’t have my haircut there, they won’t earn money to use for their homosexual lifestyle. If I have my hair done there, I am supporting it.
In my naiveté (I was a teenager at that time), I complied for a while. I confess I even felt that holier-than-thou feeling in doing so. (Of course, I only speak for myself. I have to assume that she was sincere and her advice was well meaning.) However, later on, I decided to go back to my gay stylist for my haircut. Why? He cut my hair better than any barber available at that time. It’s that simple. The issue was his skill, not his sexual preferences.
Plus, what if the barber was a womanizer? So, going by the same argument, am I condoning his philandering, too? If I have my haircut in his barbershop, he would earn money to support his immoral lifestyle, too. Right? Again, the issue was his skill, not his sexual preferences. So what’s the difference anyway?
And it’s not always about a haircut.
|Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO|
Image source: http://wkdq.com/
Two years ago, due to an online petition, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz withdrew from a scheduled live interview in the annual Global Leadership Summit (GLS) that Willow Creek Association sponsored. The petition accused Willow Creek Community Church of being anti-gay and threatened to boycott Starbucks. After a dialogue with Starbucks, senior pastor Bill Hybels and his team released Schultz from his commitment with them. “At the end of the day, [Starbucks] decided that the downside business risk was just too high for them, so Howard and his team decided to cancel and [Willow Creek] decided to let him out of his contract without any penalty.” (Source: ChristianityToday) So, because of 717 online petitioners at that time, an estimated 165,000 GLS participants (not counting those who watched the video feed in 450 locations) missed out on Schultz’ leadership interview.
|Image source: http://www.timschraeder.com/|
How was Hybels’ take on the issue? First, he countered the allegation that Willow Creek was homophobic.
“Willow [is] not anti-gay, Willow [is] not anti-anybody. Our church was founded on the idea that people matter to God. All people. All people of all backgrounds, all colors, ethnicities, and sexual orientation. … So to suggest that we check sexual orientation or any other kind of issue at our doors is simply not true. Just ask the hundreds of people with same-sex attraction who attend our church every week.” (Ibid)
Second, he clarified what Willow Creek consistently teaches.
“Now what is true is that we challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics taught in the Scriptures–which encourages full sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage and prescribes sexual abstinence and purity for everybody else. But even as we challenge all of our people to these biblical standards, we do so with grace-filled spirits, knowing the confusion and brokenness that is rampant in our fallen world. And at Willow we honor the journey of everyone who is sincerely attempting to follow Christ.” (Ibid)
We cannot compromise what we think the Bible teaches. We have to be committed to what we believe. But there’s no need to shove it down people’s throats. Hybels cried out against the “throw stones first and ask questions later” trend. “Jesus taught and modeled a better way: to treat everybody with respect, to believe the best about others, to seek to understand other we might disagree and if we must disagree then attempt to do so respectfully.” (Ibid) He even encouraged the participants to buy coffee from Starbucks and Schultz’ “Onward” book. He did not call for a boycott. Instead, he called for people to “just show some Christian goodwill.” (Ibid) In short, Hybels called for respect, not revenge.
Video of Bill Hybels announcing that Howard Schultz
had withdrawn as a Summit speaker
We can be both aggressive with our convictions and not abrasive with our communication. In a debate or a dialogue, what matters are not only the matter (what we say) but also the manner (how we say it). The Apostle Paul commended and commanded such tough but gentle approach: “Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey.” (2 Timothy 2:23-25, The Message) We cannot and should not force our beliefs on people. But we can and should be faithful in sharing and living it out. That’s a better way than that starve-them-so-they-shape-up approach. After all, the issue is respect for people no matter who they are and what their choices are. And, hopefully, respect begets respect.
My take? Compassion, not condemnation.
Read Part 1.
Read Part 1.