It’s a tricky and fallen world we live in. When I get a craving for a taco (or a chicken sandwich and waffle fries)–it would be nice if I didn’t have to worry that the profit from my business was going to support something I strongly oppose. But good luck with that! Anytime I buy anything, part of that money is going to support something I don’t agree with/condone/support/etc. If I hold to the standard that every company I support with my purchasing power must align with all of my convictions and beliefs, then I’ll never buy anything again. So, what’s a girl with $3 and a taco craving to do?
I could look at it this way: I want a taco. There’s a restaurant that has tacos. I give them money, they give me that taco. Once that exchange is made, the money is no longer mine and the taco is no longer theirs. They can do with that money whatever they wish, and Imma eat that taco! That, friends, is consumerism at its finest. They have something I want, I have the cash. The exchange is made, no strings attached. They prosper from my money, and my belly prospers (more than what I’d care to admit) from their tasty tasty tacos.
Ooh, but is it really that simple? Unfortunately, no.
When I spend my money, and when you spend yours, it goes to all kinds of places and activities we would not contribute directly to if given the choice. That antibiotic I bought for my kid last month? And the migraine medicine you might have bought a few weeks ago? The drug company that produce those medicines are supporting and utilizing stem-cell research. There’s a lot of misinformation about stem-cell research, folks. Did you know that scientists can do stem-cell research using skin from a live, human hand or from tissues taken from the heart or liver? In other words, there is no harm to a fetus anywhere in the process. Oh, well, that’s not so bad, is it? But how do I know that (what was once) my money is going to the okay kind of research as opposed to the not-okay kind? I don’t. And, really, last month when my kid was sick and hacking her head off in the middle of the night and was generally miserable, did I even care about where the money went, or did I just want my baby to feel better? No. And I’d make the same decision over and over again. Why? Because I am a better parent than activist, and rightly so.
But what if it’s even more complicated than that? What if it’s not just a few pennies (of what was once my money) going to a mega-million dollar lobby toward an issue which I’m not certain I completely and fully understand the science behind, anyway. What if the taco company’s founder has opinions that I disagree with, but I recognize that he has done a lot of good work to help his community and disadvantaged people? Do I withhold my money from his company based on his opinions, despite all of his honorable actions? What if the company, not (I repeat, NOT) the man, gave a measly $1,000 to a group that has put out some extremely biased and discriminatory information that I strongly disagree with. A group whose “research” is tainted with their bias and is likely not up to academic nor scientific standards. If I keep getting my tacos there, I am indirectly supporting someone else to put out a message that I fundamentally, deep down in my marrow, disagree with in the strongest possible terms. But if I stop getting my tacos there, it also means that I no longer support the man who founded the company, who holds some opinions with which I disagree, but also who uses his own money to do things that I definitely admire.
Well, I could say that my measly $3 in tacos isn’t going to make a big difference one way or the other. This is true. But is that really the point? What if there are a million others like me who are trying to sort this thing out, too? Or even just, say, 150,000 others. Do we all get a free pass to stop thinking about this issue because our $3 doesn’t amount to much? When you put our $450,000 together, that makes a pretty big statement. So, back into the hot seat I go.
I don’t want to sound naïve and skirt the issue by suggesting that what we really need, rather than boycotts and rallies, is a “Cumbaya” moment where we all get together, talk about our feelings, and maybe share some tacos. Money is power. But you know what else is power? Our words. Our actions. Our compassion. It’s so much easier, isn’t it, to drive through the Chik-fil-a and grab a $3 sandwich to show support for Dan Cathy and his right to speak his convictions. Or, it’s so much easier, isn’t it, to stay at home and boycott Chik-fil-a because of their financial support of the Family Research Council, which has said some horrible things about homosexuals that have had detrimental effects on real people and their families. To buy a sandwich or not by a sandwich?
Boy, if it were only that easy.
What is harder, much harder, is to reach out to friends or family members who seem to sit on the opposite side of the issue from where I am and straight-up ask them what their position is. So here is my challenge to myself and to anybody else who wants to accept it, regardless of where you or I are, whether we agree or disagree, on this issue:
Assume nothing. Ask someone with whom we disagree–with the sincere desire to understand them and their convictions—what they think and why they think it. Put our own convictions and opinions out there for others to challenge. If you, like me, have a personal connection to or experience with this issue, talk about it. Let us not be afraid to talk about our gay parents/children/siblings/cousins/nieces/nephews/aunts/uncles/friends/neighbors/teachers/co-workers. Don’t flatten the issue—complicate it. Don’t be afraid to reach out in order to better understand.
I believe that in this dialogue, most of us will find that that the convictions of others mostly come from a place of well-meaning. Disagreement is extremely uncomfortable to me, but we need to dwell in the uncertainty between the multiple sides of this issue. We can strongly disagree and still avoid condemnation and judgment. We can still acknowledge and lift up the best in each other. We can listen. We can be humble. We can still serve our Lord together, despite the fact that we disagree. When we do this, we become better parents/children/siblings/cousins/nieces/nephews/aunts/uncles/friends/neighbors/teachers/co-workers, and more importantly, better Christ followers. We become bigger than the issue and we start to exhibit that love and unity that sets His people apart from all the others. We can hold on to our opinions and convictions as long as we hold our love for Him, and by extension His love for others, tighter.
This, and not boycotts nor rallies, is what is sorely needed. And for pete’s sake, let us not allow the politicians, the pundits, and the talking heads to speak for us. No disrespect intended, but I can not speak from my own heart with someone else’s mouth, and neither can you. We need to drown out the mega-phone voices, turn off the television and radios, get into our quiet spaces, and pray. Discover what the Spirit is saying to our hearts. Then, speak it in love and do not be surprised or offended if we still disagree. We are, after all, fallen sinners. We must trust that we are all doing our best.
The fact of the matter is my friends and family who supported Chik-Fil-A by buying a chicken sandwich today will not feel any differently because I did not. Nor, did their decision to do so have any real impact on me. We took our positions today, and the heartache over the GLBT issue will continue. Our money and our alliances do nothing, nothing at all, to reconcile us or even help us to understand each other. And I concede that some people have taken their positions on Chik-fil-a after a lot of thought and prayer. That’s great. But the hard work, the real transformative power of our convictions and beliefs comes from the dialogue, the walking it out and talking it out, the relationship. Just like our walk with Jesus.
If we let our money and alliances do all the talking, somewhere down the line we’d be saying all kinds of things we would never utter with our mouths. If we really want to be like Jesus, it’s better that we all do our own talking.