I recently came across this message from Willow Creek’s Bill Hybels. Apparently Willow Creek wanted to invite Starbucks president Howard Schultz to come speak for a leadership seminar, but the constituency of Starbucks had other plans. Believing the church to be “anti-gay,” over seven hundred angry petitioners came together in protest, threatening to boycott Starbucks unless Schultz declined the invitation. So he did.
At this point, Willow Creek had a choice as to how they could respond. You would like to think they would have said, “Well yes, as a matter of fact we are ‘anti-gay,’ and very proud of it too. Gee, isn’t it nice to be hated by the right people?” Unfortunately, Hybels’ response was a little different:
Where to begin? We could start by the fact that at the end he’s citing Matthew 18 (??) as their basis for trying to “meet with” the petitioners in order to “seek a better understanding” and perhaps come to a point of “mutual respect.” The petitioners, who are (we presume) not even remotely Christian and not associated with the church in any way, shape or form. That sounds like a private grievance with a Christian brother, not. But Matthew 18 seems to be the go-to thing these days… no matter what the situation, Matthew 18 must apply, somehow.
So that’s just weird, right there. But of course there’s a big picture problem here, namely that Hybels is somehow trying to have it both ways. Notice that he does say at one point that the church “challenge(s) homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics of the Scriptures,” and he even elicits some applause. However, he immediately continues with some fluff about “grace-filled spirits” and “honoring everybody’s journey,” whatever the deuce that means.
I see this as just one more part of an emerging trend: Christian entities (churches, organizations, etc.) are becoming more and more eager to invite completely secular speakers for secular purposes, in an effort to “find common ground.” Compare with Focus on the Family and Blake Mycoskie. The Church is actively extending these kinds of invitations: “Hey, let’s forget about our differences and have you come and talk about leadership, or giving shoes to poor children, or anti-AIDS charity, or [insert something else generic]?” When those secular leaders yield to pressure from their base to refuse the invitation because of the officially conservative values of the Christian entities extending it, said Christians react by saying, “Oh, we’re so sorry. We’re good little liberals, honest! Er, yes, well, we do officially have standard Christian principles of morality, but can’t we w0rk something out anyway? Pleaseohpleaseohplease? All together now: WE ARE NOT EXCLUSIVE.” Instead of which they should realize, “You know, maybe that’s what we get for trying to work with somebody who doesn’t particularly share our values, at least not enough to stand up to a vocally complaining left-wing base. Let’s invite x solidly Christian speaker next time instead.”