And we never should have expected it to.
“What do you think about this Chick-fil-A thing?” Those were the first words out of my mentor’s mouth when we met earlier this week and for good reason. Chick-fil-A’s recent announcement that the corporation would stop donating to groups who don’t support gay marriage is relevant to Equip’s work but for the wrong reasons.
Christians have dutifully resisted the temptations of other chicken sandwich purveyors while neighbors waited for hours and then weeks to get their hands on the forbidden fruit. Faithful Christians testified passionately in #PopeyesVsChickfilA arguments on social media, welcoming martyrdom. They fasted every Sunday from their favorite fried manna to focus their tastebuds on the true provision. In return, Christians expected the Lord’s Chicken to invest its profits with the same convictions, no matter the public outrage. Before this week, Chick-fil-A’s commitment to the culture war seemed like one victorious front in a failing struggle.
But the controversy over Chick-fil-A’s recent decision is merely a late-stage battle in a lost culture war. For decades, Christians seemed to hope governments and private businesses would convince Americans to live righteously so the Church wouldn’t have to do her job. Instead of using biblical teaching to compel Christians to follow God’s wisdom, regardless of society’s laws, churches let secular institutions use cultural pressure to push non-Christians to live in ways they would find foolish.
At the very least, Christians hoped the culture war would serve as a symbol of cultural power, reassuring Christians that they were winning and didn’t have to examine their own sexuality. Yet all signs suggest the culture war has been lost. Precious energy and attention have been spent dying on the wrong hills, and, in the process, millions of non-Christians have become more convinced Jesus isn’t for them. This begs the question: Why did Christians wage a culture war? And what should we do differently going forward?
Why did Christians wage a culture war?
Over the decades that Christians resisted gay marriage in America, churches have wanted Christian business professionals and Christian politicians to use their power to influence culture so all people would live according to God’s teachings—not because they are convinced of the beauty of God’s wisdom, but because they are scared of the public consequences of not following cultural Christianity.
Painfully, the campaign to impose biblical wisdom on all people, Christian or not, seemed to be based on Americans’ disgust for gay romance—not their reverence for Christian marriage. If we had really cared about the sanctity of Christian marriage, we would have been just as passionate about breaking American Christianity’s porn addiction, convicting Christian marriages to be open to God’s gift of life, and ending unbiblical divorce and remarriage between Christians. If we really cared about the sanctity of Christian marriage, we would have been just as passionate about teaching and supporting singleness for the sake of the Kingdom as an equal alternative to Christian marriage. I didn’t see Christians advocating for constitutional amendments about porn. Christians weren’t threatening on Facebook to vote out their congressman because of his opinions on divorce. In the eyes of many Americans, the only explanation for our passion was that we hated gay people.
Christians didn’t humbly search Scripture to discover everything God had to say about marriage and sexuality. Christians weren’t eager to apply God’s wisdom about our bodies to all Christians, gay or straight. Christians weren’t careful to respect God’s warning not to judge non-Christians.
Why? We know that government marriage is merely a legal and financial agreement. The benefit of most value is God’s blessing, but only God decides which marriages He enters into, joins, and sustains. The government can’t force God to make a legal marriage a Christian marriage. So if we really cared about the sanctity of God’s marriage blessing, why didn’t we appeal to Christians in their churches to administer and cherish the blessing of Christian marriage more obediently, regardless of the opinions of non-Christians?
Because then we’d have to be honest that it’s not just gay marriages that are missing out on God’s blessing. God’s blessing is just as absent from the marriage of your opposite-sex non-Christian neighbors. God’s blessing is just as absent from the opposite-sex Christian marriage using their vows as a permission slip for sex while blocking the possibility of children. God’s blessing is just as absent from the opposite-sex marriage of Christians who were previously in different Christians marriages that ended for unbiblical reasons. We don’t want to be honest about how jealous God is about Christian marriage and what He blesses. We’re willing to speak the truth when it offends gay people on the streets but not when it offends straight people in our churches.
Christians didn’t want to accept gay marriage, but they also didn’t want to shine a light on their own sexualities. Christian leaders were afraid their churches would lose members and money if they actually applied God’s wisdom for our bodies and bedrooms to every Christian. So they asked Uncle Sam to do the dirty work for them. But this deal came at a cost: today, Christians’ attitudes toward gay people is the top reason non-Christians—straight and gay—aren’t interested in giving Jesus a chance.
What should we do differently going forward?
We may have lost the culture war, but Christ has defeated sin. It’s not too late to convince Christians to live according to right teaching for the right reasons. We can teach what the Bible really has to say about marriage and singleness for the Lord. We can invite all Christians, gay or straight, to steward their sexualities according to God’s wisdom, no matter how inconvenient it is. What if we channeled the outrage over Chick-fil-A’s decision into helping our non-Christian friends fall in love with Jesus? What if we were passionate about making sure our married friends were stewarding their union in a way God would bless and sustain? What if gay Christians saw their straight Christian brothers and sisters just as willing to obey God’s teachings, even when it costs them?
Perhaps then our righteousness would actually produce good fruit. In addition to enjoying our relationships more deeply, our willingness to be weird would serve as an undeniably winsome witness. What if Christian sexual stewardship became the primary reason non-Christians—gay or straight—wanted to learn more about our celibate Savior?
Governments and fast-food chains were never going to do the hard work of offering God’s best to all people. That’s the Church’s job. Yet the same challenges that scared churches away from doing this important work decades ago still persist today.
That’s why Equip exists: to come alongside churches and provide expert teaching and coaching. Connect with us today to learn how your church can become a place where gay people thrive according to a historic sexual ethic.