I hadn’t planned to write further on the Chick-Fil-A flap (er, bad pun sort of intended). But professorpook left a comment on my Saturday open thread trying to argue the case that Barnabas Piper made good points in the article to which I linked so negatively. So I decided to take a leaf from Thomas Aquinas by laying out this post in the form of “objections” and “responses.” We’ll go systematically through professorpook’s comment and answer each objection he raises. Maybe this will be of some use to somebody by organizing the issues at stake here in a clear, easy-to-follow format. I also encourage readers to check out this Moody Radio program where Chris Fabry took calls from Christians on both sides of this issue, including a segment with Barnabas Piper himself. It’s a great one-stop place to hear both perspectives get a full hearing. I think the young lady who called in around minute 35 nailed it.
Objection #1: “We are not in competition with the world. We know how it ends. We win. There is no contest. Our purpose here is to communicate the gospel. Jesus said they will know us by our love.”
Response: Reader Lydia has already given her thoughts in reply to this, and I concur. While it is technically true that Jesus is going to come back and bring the world to an end, souls are hanging in the balance in the meantime. We shouldn’t be so eager to show “love” to unregenerate, aggressively hostile sinners that we neglect the people they are impacting for evil. I glanced at a Facebook thread where these people were talking about Friday’s “kiss-in” in relation to children, and they were essentially chortling over the young souls they had already corrupted to the point where they would be comfortable with seeing two men or two women kiss each other. “Yeah, my 5-year-old wouldn’t bat an eye, because she totally ‘gets it.’ ” Now if we don’t take a vocal stand against this corruption, who will? Just because Jesus will ultimately overcome the forces of darkness in the end doesn’t mean that they are not working VERY hard to take as many souls with them as they can. And the devil knows his time is short even if they don’t, so he is mobilizing them like an army to do as much damage as possible as quickly as possible. Jesus has some pretty harsh words for people like this. Which brings us to…
Objection #2: “Go through the Gospels, and you will see that Jesus was gentle and fellowshipped with those outside the church, and frequently got angry with those in the church.”
Response: First of all, the Jewish establishment at the time of Jesus does not equal “the church” of today, so the parallel is poor and anachronistic. Different issues, different power structure, different culture, different everything. I think (and this is a particular affliction of pastors looking for sermon fodder), that Christians can sometimes be over-eager to find “applications” for everything they find in the scriptures. The problem is that this doesn’t always work very well.
Secondly, this one-sided focus on the gentleness of Jesus with regard to sinners overlooks something important: Jesus was an INCREDIBLY powerful personality. Turning over the tables of the money-changers is one obvious example that comes to mind (and that, by the way, wasn’t against “the religious people” — in fact, it was an example of Jesus being rather “religious” himself). But even if we look elsewhere, the Bible gives us a picture of somebody who had a tremendous amount of coiled-up force and energy behind every word he spoke. It was almost magnetic. Sinners who saw him were moved to repent because they felt about as big as a pea in his presence. They were humbled by him. When he called to Zacchaeus with a gleam in his eye to come down from the sycamore, Zacchaeus wasted no time obeying and amending his ways.
I think we should be willing to admit that there is some fear going on in stories like this—the kind of holy, awe-filled fear that we are supposed to have for God. Jesus, as God incarnate on earth, inspired that kind of fear. Nevertheless, it was fear mixed with love. It was both at the same time. But regardless, we need to dispense with this fantasy of “Jesus hanging out with completely unrepentant sinners so he could love on them and listen to their stories.” It was more like “Jesus confronting unrepentant sinners with their sin in such a powerful, direct way that they were almost invariably moved to repent.”
Objection #3: “I think Barnabas Piper is concerned that we communicate the gospel truthfully but without *needlessly* dividing people. As he says and as the Bible makes clear, division is going to happen anyway. The Word of God is a double-edged sword. We do not need to add salt to the sword – simply to be willing to use it – the sword of the Word – not the sword of activism (however mild that activism might be).”
Response: Again, Lydia addressed this objection quite well and referred to another blogger who’s written up his own response to Piper. I have little that’s new to add to their responses. As they’ve pointed out, at no point has Chick-Fil-A been the aggressor in this fight. Cathy, like many conservatives, had the question pressed upon him, and he simply answered according to his convictions. It was then that the homosexuals decided to make a fight out of this. Conservatives responded by simply showing up to extend their support. (And again, I must reiterate the unintentional humor of all this. “We just finally had enough, and in fact we got so fed up that we… went out and bought a chicken sandwich!” We’re not seriously having a debate about this, are we?)
Here’s my question to those who would take Piper’s position: What do you expect would have happened had the mass response NOT taken place on August 1st? Do you really think it would have made a huge difference to the gay community’s approach? Do you think they would have suddenly had a change of heart and thought to themselves, “Huh, looks like they’re not showing up in force to support Chick-Fil-A. How restrained of them. You know, maybe we ought to rethink this aggressive agenda of ours and start backing off, just like they’re doing.” I kind of doubt it. Fact: When you give in to a bully, he doesn’t go away. He makes more demands. He gains more ground. When you look at it that way, it makes perfect sense to simply… not give in. Suppose you had a gay friend who asked you on Wednesday “So, are you going to Chick-Fil-A today?” and you, having decided that it was an obnoxious “activist” move even though you agree with Cathy in principle, said “Nah.” What’s your friend’s reaction going to be? Naturally, he’s going to feel a little bit smug and hope that maybe he’s influencing you to move in his direction. He’ll be all the more encouraged in all the wrong ways.
I want to say something else, which kind of expands on something Mary said. She was saying that she appreciated the feeling of solidarity with her fellow Christians that she felt on Wednesday, and that it was akin to being in a battle and seeing reinforcements arriving over the hill. I entirely understand and agree with where she is coming from. Soul-winning is not the only worthwhile thing Christians can do. There are many worthwhile things we do as Christians that don’t happen to have the winning of souls as their goal. If we made that our only goal, what would be the point of hymn sings, or Bible Bowls, or any sort of activity that involves nothing more than sharing fellowship with other Christians? The Bible instructs us to be always building each other up. We can’t allow our timidity in the face of bullying perverts to rob us of our joy or our impulse to encourage a brother in Christ.
Moreover, if that happens to offend some acquaintance of ours who is living in sin (which I saw one blogger cite as a reason why he felt torn regarding how he should react on August 1st), there’s a place for bluntly saying “Too bad.” As one caller pointed out on the Moody talk show, the bitter pill that the gospel presents to the proudly unregenerate is one that must be swallowed sooner or later. Well-intentioned Christians who take Piper’s stance would obviously never say that they intended to witness to their gay acquaintances under false pretenses, but once we begin talking about how this gesture might “burn bridges” or “be seen as adversarial,” we have to discuss what exactly that means when it’s all parsed out.
Whether knowingly or not, young Barnabas Piper and his ilk are sapping the strength of God’s foot-soldiers on earth. And while I have yet to see Piper Sr. say something quite this radical, I do think there’s a connection to what he said in his sermon as a reproach to churches and pastors who are “too politically active.” How did that affect pastors who had hoped for Piper’s encouragement? It made them feel abandoned. The last thing that we need right now is for a sub-group of Christians to be frowning and nagging and wagging their fingers at the rest of us like a bad nanny the moment we dare to demonstrate a little push-back in the face of relentless persecution. We need encouragement, not discouragement. The discouragement of our friends will only advance the cause of our enemies.