Responding to a Change.org petition, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz recently pulled out of a speaking engagement at The Global Leadership Summit, a Christian faith-based event organized by The Willow Creek Association. Petition author Asher Huey wrote that Willow Creek "has a long history [of] anti-gay persecution;" though they finally severed ties with Exodus International earlier this year, it was due to a "shift in approach rather than a change in belief."
Focus on the Family is, predictably, unhappy with Schultz's decision not to attend the summit. In their most recent Citizen Link report, hosts Tom Minnery and Stuart Shepard discuss it as part of a growing trend of activists putting pressure on companies to be pro-gay. They're not wrong; Toms and Apple were both the subjects of recent stories that resulted in companies coming out as explicitly gay-ok. For more information on the appalling new fad, check out the video itself.
If you'd rather not spend 14 minutes listening to people talking absolute hogwash about how their church really and truly isn't homophobic, here's a recap:
+ Willow Creek isn't anti-gay! We have gay friends! "If the organizers of this petition has simply taken the time to call us, we would have explained to them, as we have to many others, that Willow is not only not anti-gay, Willow is not anti-anybody... Just ask the hundreds of people with same-sex attraction who attend our church every week."
+ Gay people are really just confused straight people/Gay people should follow different rules from straight people (I can't figure out which one he's going with here.) "Now what is true is that we challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out a sexual ethics taught in the scriptures which encourages full sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage and proscribes sexual abstinence and purity for everybody else."
+ Christians don't hate homosexuals, they hate us. "Well I would say it's more than that. They're not just throwing stones they want him to get off the street. They want Christians to go away."
+ Gay activists are hypocrites. "It is a tolerant conference. But here we have a gay activist which is on the side of "tolerance" and diversity and that sort of thing saying, "You can't go to that conference because."
Because why, Mr. Shepard? Because our society should have no room for outdated, cherry-picked Biblical views? Because Willow Creek is doing an excellent impression of those mean girls in high school who, having realized that nobody likes a bully, resort to sneaky ways to be cruel? It's because being intolerant of a belief that some people are less than human is not the same as being intolerant of a morally neutral intrinsic characteristic.
Citizen Link's commentators point out that Schultz decided not to attend the Summit after only 700 people signed the petition. They note that if they were conducting the petition it would have been considered a failure and are astonished that it was taken seriously. What I take from that is:
A) the fact that LGBT individuals and our rights are now considered important enough that a Fortune 500 company would worry about the impact of speaking at the conference is amazing. Say what you will about the purity of Schultz's intentions being corrupted by capitalism, but I think that's reason to celebrate. Even if Starbucks were only worried that associating with an anti-gay group would cause their earnings to take a hit, that would mean we have more allies than ever before! Rich queers or not, we're still a pretty tiny minority.
B) The second most important part of this statement is that Christians are not a minority. As much as Focus on the Family and other groups like to talk about how they're losing the culture wars, it's simply not true. Christians aren't losing (they're fighting the good fight), callous charlatans who like tying their backwards beliefs to Christianity are. Mostly. The whole Pretty Little Liars, General Mills, RE/MAX fandango serves as a pretty unwelcome reminder that for every step forward, there seems to be at least one back to right where we started.
It's not just Focus on the Family who think that LGBT people are a little too uppity. Jonathan Merritt and Tim Willard at the Huffington Post recommend that they dial back on the use of the word "hateful" to describe anti-gay behavior. "When gay activists wield the label of hate against such organizations, their efforts turn counter-productive. They simply reinforce the conservative talking point that gay activists cannot be satisfied shy of full capitulation to their positions."
"Full capitulation" sounds like we're asking for demands to be met before turning over hostages and, as far as I know, we haven't got any. We're asking to be recognized as people, no more no less. It's hard for corporations or anyone to wrap their heads around what strange (but common) bedfellows religion, human rights, and money make. All this concern over choosing the right words, striking the perfect balance of radical and moderate, or buying from the right company is just a byproduct of what's really missing: respect for everyone.