We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. (Target corporate website)
Obviously this policy has created a firestorm of debate and outrage, especially among the evangelical community that holds to a traditional/biblical view of sexuality and gender identity. The American Family Association has picked up the culture warrior torch and started a petition to boycott Target stores (over 850,000 signatures at this point). Once again a moral issue has become a flashpoint between different factions within American culture, and once again this illustrates the waning influence of the church in American society at large.
So how do Christians respond to this policy? Do we continue shopping at Target? Is our business there condoning this new policy? Do we quietly move our retail business elsewhere? Do we loudly and vociferously protest the fact that a non-biblically based business is implementing what many Christians to believe to be a non-biblically based policy? Christians are split on this issue. Some want to protest, some want to move on. How would Jesus have handled this situation? Would Jesus boycott Target if he were alive today?
Obviously there is no way to know for sure, but I don’t believe Jesus would have boycotted Target today. The idea of retail chains and corporate boycotts had no place in the first century, so we’re left to infer timeless truths from similar situations that we see in the Bible. In the first century, there would have been any number of issues for a good Jew to protest against and boycott. Israel was under foreign occupation by the city of Rome, and many Roman cultural and religious ideals offensive to the Jews were foisted upon them. So our first clue is that Jesus never led a protest against Rome or Roman policies, even though many of those policies were decidedly anti-biblical.
If there was a group to lead a protest, it would have definitely been the Pharisees. The champions of the people and the guardians of conservative orthodoxy, boycotting would have been right in their wheelhouse. We actually see the Pharisees protesting against Jesus because they saw him compromising the oral traditions that had been in place for centuries (Matthew 12:1-2). They saw him as a sell out to a corrupt culture. In their zeal to protect religious orthodoxy they had strayed from the intent of the Law of God and turned Judaism into something twisted and corrupted. So in fact Jesus did protest against something, but it wasn’t Rome. He protested against the Pharisees (Matthew 23) and their corrupting of the worship of God.
Look at the gospels, and you’ll see absolutely no condemnation for the Roman occupation by Jesus. That was one of the things that drove the religious leaders mad with rage. Here was the elephant in the room, the one driving topic of conversation among the Jews: the occupation by Rome, and Jesus refused to wade in. Even when they tried to force him into picking a side with the controversial tax issue (Matthew 22:15-22), Jesus refused to take the bait.
Now, that’s not to say that Jesus didn’t protest against anything. Read the New Testament accounts and you’ll find that Jesus was incredibly passionate about and protested the corruption of worship and religion by the religious leaders. Whether in the synagogues or the temple itself, Jesus led the charge against a corrupt religious establishment. He could not be bothered to weigh in on Rome, but he had plenty to say about religious matters.
Based on that, I believe if Jesus was alive today he would be frustratingly silent on Target’s new bathroom policy, gay marriage, and a whole host of issues that have gotten evangelicals fired up in recent years. But that doesn’t mean that Jesus would be silent. If Jesus were alive today I believe he would hold church leaders, denominational figures and religious influencers to task for how we’ve strayed from the heart of the gospel. (And I know, no one ever thinks they’re particular church or denomination has strayed. Neither did the Pharisees).
I believe many today, even at the American Family Association, would be frustrated with Jesus’ refusal to jump into the culture wars. I believe he would focus his attention on clearing house in the religious establishment that has lost so much influence in society at large and is actively losing the next generation. If that’s what Jesus would do, should we as Christians focus our ire on a non-biblically based business for implementing what we believe to be non-biblically based policies, or should we get our own religious house in order?