My article yesterday suggested that some day we may see signs in store windows saying: “gay friendly only.” Some might conclude that it is unlikely that the remark of a CEO that really was not even of a persecutory nature can lead to official persecution. Allow me to walk out a hypothetical situation logically and let us see how one thing leads to another, resulting in blacklisting and banishment.
The first step is what has happened. Thomas Strobhar, a Christian activist speaks out at a Starbucks shareholders meeting, questioning the wisdom of the company’s endorsement of the legalization of same sex marriage in Washington. The CEO, Howard Schultz, responds by telling him that if he does not like the company’s policies, he should feel free to sell his shares and invest them elsewhere. (By the way, any time a Christian proclaims the truth in a context where falsehood is followed, he should not be surprised to be offered the exit.) What happened is that the shareholder had enough of a voice that the CEO could not ignore him, but not enough of a voice to receive a respectful response.
When a confrontation like this happens, two possible results may ensue. If the shareholder’s supporters rally behind him, his voice becomes larger and his cause gains momentum. If they do not, the voice of the CEO becomes louder and more influential. In this case, the CEO received a rousing ovation for his comments. What might happen next? It is only reasonable that the CEO will be emboldened by the round of applause he received to continue making public statements against shareholders and others who oppose his position. When you know you have the support of the majority, you become more bold and outspoken.
Now for the hypothetical situation. What happens if a Starbucks customer orders a frappe and while it is being prepared says, “I don’t think Starbucks should be endorsing gay marriage”? Perhaps nothing, because his voice is not significant enough to require a response. What if he visits a Starbucks every day for a month and does the same thing, and what if this ends up on the local news? Now the customer’s voice requires a response. What do you think will be the response of Starbucks?
Is it improbable that the official public response of Starbucks might be similar to the one Strobhar received, especially since it is likely that the response will come from the desk of the CEO? If Starbucks does not think the customer has enough of a voice to deserve a respectful response, it may “respectfully” suggest to the customer that if he disagrees with their policies, he should consider imbibing at a different restaurant.
If so, then what happens next? Let’s say the customer has supporters and others follow him and start proclaiming their message in Starbucks stores. Now the company has an issue on their hands. Either negotiate a compromise with the agitators or shut them out completely. Which they do depends on the strength of the customers’ voice. If the voice is so strong that shutting them out will threaten the continued success of the company, then they will compromise. If not, they will shut down the voice of the agitators, even if it means shutting them out of their business. Schultz knows he has the applause of his shareholders, the support of the majority of his customers, and even the backing of the government and the judicial system. What is to stop him from banning all agitators from his stores and putting signs in his windows, saying, “gay friendly only”?
Perhaps Shultz will do nothing of the sort. He may have no intention of shutting Christians out of his stores. Even so, how long will it be before a similar situation arises and the CEO does decide to shut Christians out of his stores? If his shareholders will not stop him, the general public will mot protest, and the government will not step in and prevent it, then who will? Only the voice of the agitators can stop the trend toward public persecution.
It is the moral responsibility of the church to be a voice of righteousness in a sinful world. The world knows that ultimately, that is the only voice that will oppose it, so they will attempt to drown out or shut up that voice. Today it is getting drowned out by public applause. If the church’s voice does not become louder, it will be shut up by public policy and federal law.
Hypothetically, what might Christians who support Thomas Strobhar do when they face the threat of being excluded? If their convictions tell them to make their voice heard, they will not back down from the threat. They will visit the stores where the threat exists and proclaim the truth there, whether that means an offhand comment to an employee, a heralding of the gospel to the masses gathered there, or simply witnessing to individuals in the establishment. Of course, boycotting the franchise is another possibility. At the least, Mr. Strobhar’s supporters should all encourage him to maintain his stand and not allow the company to bully him out of the place where his voice can be heard. They should respect his willingness to go on the front lines and should pray for him to have success.
The battle has already begun. The hypothetical questions refer to the immediate future. What will those who support Mr. Strobhar’s actions do? Will they join the ranks and fight? Will they stop frequenting Starbucks restaurants? Time will tell, but what they do will determine how loud a voice Mr. Strobhar will have in future confrontations with the Starbucks establishment, and eventually, it may determine whether the church has a voice at all in this dark roasted world.