I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE AGAINST
by David Sisler
Baptists Boycott Disney! Film at eleven! But you can not watch it if it is broadcast on ABC, ESPN, A&E or Lifetime, or read about it if it is published in Discover, Skin and Allergy News, or Family Fun magazine. Disney owns or controls those business and a three-page list besides.
After the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) resolution was passed, Disney issued a statement saying it could not understand how a group could ask the company to deny health benefits to anyone, a reference to Disney's extending health-care benefits to the homosexual partners of its employees. Disney's critics say the company's position is inconsistent since Disney does not make the same offer to the live-in partners of its unmarried heterosexual employees. Disney clearly discriminates in favor of homosexual partners, they say.
While the SBC resolution recognizes that "Boycotts are a legitimate method for communicating moral convictions," there needs to be something more.
The scene is Rogers and Hammerstein's musical South Pacific. It is 1943. World War II. Captain George Brackett is trying to convince a civilian, Emile de Becque, to lead a mission to a nearby island. The island is held by Japanese forces.
When all reasonable arguments have failed Captain Brackett cries out, "We're against the Japs!"
De Becque responds, "I know what you are against. What are you for?"
That is the problem with a "moral" boycott, no matter what religious group organizes it. What do you do to make the statement which the boycott sends — and it is a needed statement — a positive witness? What steps will the leaders of the boycott take to deliver that message?
I remember a cartoon in a church bulletin. Two boys were talking. "What do you believe?" asked Jim. "I believe what my church believes," replied John. "Well," said Jim, "what does your church believe?" "My church believes what I believe," replied John. "Tell me," asked Jim, "what do you and your church believe?" John answered, "We both believe the same thing!"
In a parody of folk songs, satirist Tom Lehrer declared, "We're against poverty, war, and injustice!"
In sales it's called "The Ben Franklin Close," or "The 5 & 10 Close." The customer is invited to list reasons why he does not like the product and reasons why he does likes the product. The salesman hopes that the positive features will outnumber the negative aspects so he can ask, "Then why not take it home today?"
If we tried "The Ben Franklin Close" in the church, which list would be longer, the positive or the negative? Or in Emile de Becque's words, the things we're against or the things we're for?
Nineteen years ago I worked under a church overseer who told me, "You do not preach enough against sin." I asked on what basis he made that statement, since he had heard only two of the almost 100 sermons I had preached in that city. He replied, "You do not preach enough against sin."
I thought I'd try a different tack. Remembering an illustration from the ministry of Charles Spurgeon, I said, "If I had two sticks, one crooked and one straight, would it be necessary for me to point out all of the twists and turns to demonstrate the crooked stick? Or would it not be better to lay the straight stick beside of it and the differences would become immediately apparent?"
Sounded good, I thought.
Well-reasoned, I thought.
Flawlessly logical, I thought.
He replied, "You do not preach enough against sin."
That man was representative of a great many people in the Christian Church. They can tell you everything they are against. They find it difficult to tell you anything they are for. They spend so much time telling you how bad you are that they forget to tell you how good Jesus is.
One day Jesus was traveling to the home of Jarius, a ruler of the synagogue. Along the way, a woman who had been sick for twelve years touched the hem of Jesus' garment and was healed instantly.
Recording the story Mark says, "She had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing better, but rather grew worse."
The woman had a fatal blood disease. It was killing her. She knew it. Every physician to whom she went confirmed that she was sick. If 100 doctors declared that she was dying, diagnosis number 101 would not heal her. Knowing how sick she was would never make her better. She needed healing, not further diagnosis.
Make no mistake. Sin must be confronted and condemned, but the message of the Gospel does not stop there. The way Jesus told it, the message has never stopped there. The full Gospel message says, "The wages of sin is death; the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
I know what you are against. What are you for?
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 6/28/97
Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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