Focus on the Family Thinks Companies are Under Pressure to Be Pro-Gay

Responding to a 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 Because our society should have no room for outdated, cherry-picked Biblical views?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.

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  1. What continues to baffle me over and over again with these sorts of discussions, is HOW do extreme Christians know what Gods design for human relationships/sexuality is?! They are following a book written hundreds of years ago, that was never intended to be taken literally. These scriptures they keep so near and dear to their hearts to convince people to live like “Gods plan”, also talk about stoning your wife, having slaves, not eating shell fish, not walking bare feet on grass etc etc. Is it not passover that suggested each family kill their first born son and smear his blood on your door to be saved from the wrath of the Lord?? Now we just eat a big meal and celebrate on Passover. But heaven forbid we change our views on the ONE bible verse that mentions anything about homosexuality. As someone who grew up Catholic, I can never remember being told that you will go to hell if you are gay. But I can remember being told to always view the Holy Bible as a contextual read.

    They are simply getting their guard up because they realize the conservative views their religion still holds, is becoming an outdated view of humanity.There is only so long you can judge others and claim to be doing it in the name of God. If they refuse to revamp the contextual meanings of these scriptures, whether it be the coporate, political or personal world…they will continue to lose.

    • From what I learned at bible camp, Catholics read the bible as contextual and go from the interpretation of their priest/bishop/pope (depending on how religious you are) while protestants (or at least hard-line Lutherans) are encouraged to see the bible as a flawless masterwork meant to be taken literally, except where it suits them. IDK sounds like bullshit to me too.

      • Actually, most Protestants, especially the ones that read up on their science and are aware that the earth was not created in six days, take a more moderate to loose view of the Bible–meaning that the core message is true and we should follow its ethics but much of it needs to be taken in context. Plus they are aware that the term “homosexuality” could only be found in the Bible after 1900-something because the verses actually refer to drunken idolatrous orgies or prostitution of young boys.

      • But you’re right, my dad is a hard-line Lutheran and believes that the Bible is the, to quote him, “divine, inerrant word of God.” -facepalm-

  2. What’s missing in the whole “The gays hate us!” rhetoric is that it’s perfectly okay to be wary of groups that have a historical record of treating us like crap.

    I have this conversation with family quite a bit. Why do I not like your church? Because your preacher likes to call me an abomination on the regular.

  3. Hell yeah I’m going to pressure companies to be pro gay. Why is it wrong for me to demand that I be treated exactly the same as every other person on this planet? I’m not asking for special stuff like a million dollars, all your wives, and a kitten, I just want equal protection and equal rights under the law.

  4. I think there’s also a larger positive capitalist element to these sort of decisions in that it’s not just the loss of money from gay consumers that concerns companies, but that there are now significant numbers of straight consumers who will join in, which has to be a positive reflection of social change overall.

    Plus, to be fair, some of these CEO’s are probably socially liberal themselves, even if they are mega-conservative in other respects, like the Wall Street Republicans who lobbied for gay marriage in NY. So, the guy may have thought “well, shit, I don’t actually want to speak to these people” for himself.

    • Went to Willow for 18 years of my life… Don’t know if you ever went to Impact, but do you remember the band? They wouldn’t let me in the band because I auditioned with Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” NOT church appropriate, haha.

      Also that church just has so many problems. It’s like walking into a circus

  5. Feeling glad because I signed that petition and the fact that it actually made a difference is great.
    On another note, holy shit am I sick of people like this using the “but I have gay friends so I can say what I want!” excuse.

  6. I know the whole “WELL IF YOU HATE GAYS THEN YOU ARE GAY!! HA HA HAA!” thing is an immature approach and I swear that’s not how I mean it…but Tom Minnery and Stuart Shepard are giving each other the sex-eye. I would find specific examples, but basically it’s everytime they look at each other.
    I assume so anyway, I couldn’t watch past 4mins because of all the bigotry and sexual tension.

  7. Whenever I read shit like this, Lily Allen appears on my shoulder and starts singing ‘Fuck you’ in a tiny, squeaky voice. True story.

  8. “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.”

    I feel like John Scalzi was on to something when he pointed out that the “callous charlatans” are not really Christians, they’re a separate religious group that has little Christ-like about them:

  9. I am a gay consumer. I buy things with my gaygaygay money, so hell yes I see nothing wrong with pressuring companies I buy things from to be gay-friendly.

  10. I find it interesting that these companies are coming out as explicitly “pro-gay” by not speaking at hateful events and (presumably) hiring and promoting gay folks and supporting “gay causes.”

    Can’t help but wonder what it would look like to live in a world where fortune 500 companies committed to being actively anti-oppression, supporting equal access to affordable housing and decent employment, universal health care, and education reform. These are gay issues too, and important ones!

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