Larry Alex Taunton,
In July 2012 I was speaking at a youth retreat in the mountains of Tennessee when I received a call from CNN. It seemed that Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy had publicly commented on the issue of same-sex marriage and now the gay mafia were out to destroy him and his restaurant chain. Would I, asked CNN, be willing to offer the orthodox Christian perspective on homosexuality and defend Chick-fil-A in this controversy? After reviewing Cathy’s remarks and concluding that they were neither outrageous nor biblically incorrect, I agreed to the interview and, later that day I defended the Christian position on the network as vigorously as possible in the time that I had.
Shortly thereafter, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee called for Christians to mobilize and show their support for the embattled fast food restaurant with “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” They did. Lines at the restaurant stretched for blocks. This event marked the first time I could remember Christians fighting back rather than meekly submitting to the media and special interest bullies.
But not all evangelical Christians were supportive of the Home of the Chicken Sandwich. In an article for World Magazine, Barnabas Piper, son of prominent evangelical pastor John Piper, wrote:
“I will not be attending ‘Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day’ on Wednesday. Here’s why… Convictions, especially biblical ones, will divide people. That is inevitable, but not desirable. The separation of believers and unbelievers, when it happens, must be a last resort or an unavoidable result. Actions to the contrary, those that clearly promote an ‘us versus them’ mentality, are most often unhelpful. There is a time for Christians to engage in boycotting, such as when a business deals in obviously immoral areas or is clearly unethical in its methods. But for a mass of Christians to descend upon Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country tomorrow to support the leadership’s view on this issue is, I believe, a bold mistake.”
I was stupefied by these remarks. Piper is young and was, no doubt, well intentioned here.
But, brother, if you can’t be relied on to show up and order a combo meal in support of a company under attack for its commitment to Christian principles, when exactly can we count on you? This wasn’t about “the leadership’s view” on homosexuality; this was about the biblical view of marriage and society. Besides, Huckabee wasn’t asking Piper or other Christians to die for their faith. He wasn’t asking them to take to the streets and destroy property as protestors on the Left have recently done in such places as Ferguson and Berkeley. He was asking them to do nothing more than eat a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries for Jesus. Has any protest in history been easier or tastier?
A generation ago pop star Bonnie Tyler famously asked: “Where have all the good men gone?”
Since then, the situation has only gotten worse, Bonnie. As C.S. Lewis noted, men in the English-speaking world have largely been emasculated, and men in the Church are seldom an exception to this decades-long trend.
To stand strong for one’s faith in Jesus Christ and push back against a culture that, in the words of Isaiah 5:20, “call[s] evil good and good evil” is to be “divisive,” “unloving,” “bigoted,” and “intolerant.”
This is because evangelicals have confused Christ’s command to love others with being likable, as if that were an attribute of God. (It isn’t.) As such, they endeavor to be, above all else, inoffensive and polite. This doctrinal malpractice has given us a generation of men who are what Lewis called “men without chests.”
I am a child of the military. I was born at Fort Benning, Georgia and grew up at such places as Fort Gordon, Fort Campbell, and Fort Lewis.
The idea of fighting for things that matter has never been foreign to me. I fully recognize, as the Athenian statesman, Pericles, observed, “Happiness depends on freedom, and freedom depends on courage.”
My father, a career soldier, had a phrase he liked to employ whenever he saw a man behave in a manner that was less than manly. He would say something like, “That was candy-assed.” Of course, my father didn’t invent the idiom, but in his use of it you didn’t need further explanation. You knew exactly what he was talking about.
The term fits the kind of Christianity that has infected the Church and sapped it of its vitality and strength. The expression might offend the sensibilities of some of my readers to which I can only say, it might fit you.
I urge you instead to be offended by the way our God’s name is blasphemed in our country every day; by the 54 million children murdered in the holocaust of abortion since 1973; by the sordid sexual agenda that is eroding the very fabric of Western civilization; by the fact that Christians are dying for their faith, largely at the hands of Muslims, at a rate of 100,000 per year; and, most of all, by the reality that these things are being ignored, trivialized, or celebrated. These are things that offend me deeply, and I hope they offend you, too. Righteous anger has a place within the Christian life. Tap into it. In the words of Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin.”
Evangelical Christians comprise a hefty 26 percent of the U.S. population. I fully believe that if they were to find their voices, their courage, and were to dispense with candy-assed Christianity, that we would see a Great Awakening in America. Indeed, we would see America become truly great again rather than superficially so. But it will, as I say, require courage, because the forces opposing us seem determined to burn this country to the ground.
That cannot go unchallenged.
When Jesus said to turn the other cheek, he did not mean to turn a blind eye. The highest calling of a Christian is not to be civil; it is to be salt and light.
Larry Alex Taunton is the author of The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist (2016) and the Executive Director of the Fixed Point Foundation.