Starbucks CEO Bows to Gay Pressure, Cancels Church Appearance
Clearly, there is a pattern building here. Recently we featured a story about Apple’s decision to withdraw its products from the Christian Values Network because of a petition circulated by gay rights activists. We also featured a story about a petition calling for Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street fame to get “married,” in order to teach children that homosexuality is normal. That petition now has nearly 10,000 signatures.
And we have mentioned the fact that the founder of TOMS shoes recently disassociated his company from a pending partnership with “the notorious extreme right-wing, anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-woman fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family,” because of a petition begun by Ms. Magazine.
Now we learn that Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks Coffee, has requested and received a cancellation of his speaking contract with the Chicago area Willow Creek Community Church, because of a petition started at Change.org which accuses the church of being anti-gay.
Denying the charges of an anti-gay bias, Bill Hybels, the senior pastor at Willow Creek said, “Willow is not anti-anybody. … To suggest we check sexual orientation at the door is simply not true.” However, Hybels did maintain that the Bible requires all believers to live celibate lives outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.
When told of Hybels’ position, the activist who originated the petition responded, “I’m encouraged to hear that he’s moving in the right direction, but then he goes on to say because you were born a certain way, because God made you that way, you have to live your life as celibate? I think that’s completely unfair, and I would say that’s anti-gay.”
These are the words of a man who knows nothing of Christ’s call to pick up a cross and follow, or Paul’s teaching that God sometimes allows a thorn to remain within our flesh in order to remind us of our weakness without Him. They are the words of a man who does not understand that all love requires sacrifice.
While we regret that Howard Schultz chose to bow to pressure which began with such a man, we respect Bill Hybels’ response. He told his congregation to write supportive letters to Schultz, buy coffee at Starbucks, and purchase Schultz’s book.
But is this a situation that calls for us to “turn the other cheek,” as Hybels seems to think? Or should the church take a different kind of stand against the growing pressure in America to normalize behavior which the Bible clearly teaches us is harmful?
Forgiveness is commanded when an enemy attacks us personally, but can one ethically forgive harm done to another? Does there ever come a time when Christians must actively resist the spread of destructive ideas we are our brother’s keeper? If Jesus was confronted by a highly organized group of people who were spreading lies among the general public, lies which could well lead some to estrangement from God, would he turn the other cheek or would he fight?
Come to think of it, Jesus did both.
They persecuted him to death, and he did turn the other cheek while he hung on the cross, and his forgiveness for the harm done to him personally was not contingent on repentance.
But for harm done to others he commanded us to offer nothing but rebukes until those endorsing evil turn back to God:
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.’” (Luke 17:1-4 NIV)
When riotous mobs attack firemen on their way to save those caught in burning buildings, they are actually murdering the victims of the fire. In much the same way, we must not forget that attacks upon the Church are, in the end, attacks upon the lost and dying people who rely upon God’s work through His Church to find eternal life.
We are commanded to turn the other cheek, and we must do it when appropriate. The doctrine of forgiveness is the greatest proof of God’s love which exists on earth. But we have no right to turn the other cheek for harm done to others. To do so is to ethically align ourselves with the wrongdoer.
A fireman being held back from saving people in a burning building may forgive the violence done to him personally, but his duty lies in struggling against those who oppose him, in calling the evil that they do by its proper name, and in taking every measure necessary to overcome them for the sake of those who are dying. When the Church defends herself for the sake of those whom she exists to comfort and to save, that too is proof of God’s great love in action, whether unbelievers call it “anti-gay” or not.