Friday, January 20, 2006

Christian Boycott

As many may have heard by now, Pastor Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church is calling for a nationwide "Christian boycott" of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and "other business" that have stood in support of equal rights for gays and lesbians in Washington State. Some of these business include small companies like Nike, RealNetworks, Corbis, and Vulcan.

Even ignoring the fact that a successful boycott would leave Christians without computer access, printers, and shoes, I have to say I'm disappointed and unfortunately not surprised.

There are two approaches: either you believe homosexality is a sin, or you don't. If you don't, then I don't really need to say anything. If you do, let's consider the following example from Jesus himself. I tell this story a lot because it illustrates many core principles of Christianity. You can read it verbatim here in John 7:53-8:11.

So in the passage, several things are established. First, one of the prime directives of Jesus:
let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Is this a command that Christians should not stand up to injustice, cruelty, and power? No - after all, "what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8). People mess up - God knows this - but we're not called to be paralyzed by our guilt. Instead, I believe Jesus' message here is that as we go about speaking truth to power, we need to do so in reconciling ways that bring people together, healing across divides. The Pharisees application of the old Law of Moses (to stone to death any woman accused of adultery) was clearly not unifying, and Jesus so spoke against it.

Second, Jesus says (humorously, I think), "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She says, "No one, sir." And now the kicker: Jesus Christ tells the woman, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again." Here, Jesus recognizes that the woman has done something wrong, but stops at that. Condemnation is not the goal - reconciliation is. I think this tells us that God is not interested in punishing us for this or that - rather, as soon as there is a mutual recognition of hurt, the next step becomes healing.

Finally, the entire story comes in the context that the jealous Pharisees (the Roman-appointed Jewish elite) only brought this woman in front of Jesus in order to set him up in a trap: as they saw it, if Jesus told the crowd to let the woman go, he would be breaking the Law of Moses and would lose credibility as a Jewish leader. But if he said she should die, he would be usurping Roman authority to issue the death penalty and would be liable to be arrested. But Jesus cleverly wrangled his way out of the box. (See better explanation here.)

My priest (Fr. Steve Garratt) interprets this in a very interesting way. He says that again and again throughout scripture, Jesus is put in traps by various people and every time, he wiggles his way out except for when he chooses to accept the trap (the Crucifixion). He says that especially in political arguments, liberals and conversatives try to box Jesus into their side, both saying "What would Jesus do?" in support of completely opposite positions. Father Steve's point: every time we try to do this, Jesus wiggles free. The message of Jesus is not to justify what you're doing, it's to challenge what you're doing. The Gospel says to me, "Whatever you think, think again."

So let's interpret the latest efforts of Ken Hutcherson: is a boycott of companies that support gay rights promoting reconciling dialogue? No. Does opposition to legislation that would protect a heavily discriminated group of human beings heal rather than condemn? No. And does doing this all in the name of Jesus Christ avoid the entrapment of Jesus? No! Conclusion: Pastor Ken, it's time to re-think the way you act out the Gospel. If any "Christian boycott" is going to happen, it should be a boycott of consumerism, a boycott of injustice and systems of oppression. This boycott here is anything but Christian.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Very well written, Alex. Someone with more influence than me should be reading this.