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The latest stage for the debate over homosexuality, religion and culture has taken up to roost in the land of deep fried chicken and I think it’s time we all took a breath. The inevitable backlash against the hype is growing and in the midst of this chicken fried kerfuffle, I’m left wondering…what is God up to in all this?

Dear Democratic and Republican Extremists…

Extremist Democratic city mayors, please stop it. Stop it right now. Since when did the party that encourages civil liberties become the party that bans restaurants because of what their owners believe? Does the owner of a Chili’s have to submit to a personal beliefs inventory before opening in Chicago, San Francisco or Boston? What you’re doing is discriminatory. Shame on you.

Extremist Republican pundits, please stop it. Stop it right now. People boycotting Chick-Fil-A because they disagree with the organization is supports isn’t restricting anybody’s free speech. If people were boycotting the news organization for airing the interview or if they were suing Mr. Kathy (it feels weird to write “Mr.” followed by “Kathy”) for what he said, that would be a violation of free speech. You can protest the protesters all you want, but let’s own up to what this issue is about.

Straining at Pennies

Let’s just be honest about this. Those who have chosen to boycott Chick-Fil-A are people who do no want a portion of a penny from their lunchtime purchase to support causes that are discriminatory against the GLBT community. They aren’t protesting Mr. Kathy’s ideas (well, some might…but I don’t get the impression that’s what this is about). They just don’t want their money to go to something with which they disagree. This is an act of conscious–not an effort to limit someone’s free speech.

Those who do continue to eat at Chick-Fil-A are people who are okay with a portion of a penny going to support causes that are discriminatory against GLBT community. While I do not discount the hurt felt by many in the GLBT community (and I am deeply appreciative of Rev. Eric Folkerth’s blog for raising the ways in which this can be hurtful to many who are GLBT), not everyone who eats at Chick-Fil-A wants gay people to suffer, nor do they necessarily want gay people to be discriminated against. Their brain has just decided (consciously or not) that they are okay with a portion of a penny going to causes that act on the belief that homosexuality is wrong. While I acknowledge the hurt this causes for some folks in the GLBT community, I’ve also seen posts like these from gay friends of mine whom I respect:

I ate at McDonald’s today—not out of protest…I just had a hankerin’ for the best French fries that I can find. If I think about it, my $4.63 went to a lot of places.

  • A couple pennies went to support the 2012 Olympics
  • A portion of a penny contributed towards Brazilian deforestation
  • A portion of a penny supported Ronald McDonald House that affords parents of sick kids the chance to be with their children over extended hospital stays
  • Several pennies went to McDonalds marketing which is responsible for significant increases in childhood obesity, early onset of type II diabetes and Lord knows what else.
  • A couple pennies supported jobs for unskilled workers who will likely cycle out of their job in the next 6-12 months
  • Several pennies went to make really rich people a lot richer while their minimum wage employees are paid a pittance and can barely scrape out a living
  • A portion of a penny went to a potato farmer and his family.

The reality is, all of our purchases have an impact on our world. In our increasingly globalized economy, our money trails grow longer while the world gets smaller. Chick-Fil-A’s decision to provide money to discriminatory organizations is just what has our attention right now.

Our money spreads through the globe–some of it doing good things, others doing bad and sometimes I’m paralyzed by the weight of responsibility that flows out of my wallet. I can’t possibly keep track of it all! Sometimes I just want to throw my hands up in the air, make my own food and live on a commune.

Sometimes I wonder if our efforts to strain at portions of pennies is like straining at gnats. Rev. Frank Drenner spoke of it well on his blog:

There will still be the command of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves, and there will still be folk who question, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer will have nothing to do with fast food.

The Sad Thing

A very tiny percentage of purchases at Chick-Fil-A go to support these controversial organizations.

If McDonald’s announced that tomorrow, 1% of all revenue would support clean water initiatives in Africa or to build Domestic Violence shelters around the world, would we see lines like we saw at Chick-Fil-A?

For all I know, 1% of McDonald’s revenue might already support non-profit organizations. Sadly, I don’t believe we’d see that kind of turnout. Even so, I’m staking my ministry and money (and other people’s money) on the notion that we can call people to something better.

What God is Doing

When I look at this controversy, I give thanks to God–not for one side or the other, but for the debate as a whole. There is clearly a growing desire among people to know where their money is going. People are waking up to the awareness that how they spend their money is both a spiritual and moral matter. Thanks be to God! That sounds like the kind of thing that the church and Jesus can work with! The challenge to the church: can we address this growing sense of financial responsibility and morality? Can we find ways to preach about this tomorrow and engage people with economic spirituality while the spirit is moving?

Shameless Promotion

I’m not interested in straining at economic gnats, but I am deeply interested in supporting businesses that put money to kingdom work. That’s what we’re trying to do with our new kind of new church start, Union—a coffee house that will adopt different causes every quarter with 10% of all revenue (not profits…revenue) going to non-profit agencies that do good things. Good things like:

  • Addressing Domestic Violence in ways that assist children, victims and abusers
  • Helping the homeless in Dallas
  • Eradicating Malaria
  • Rebuilding communities after natural and political disasters

We’re not straining at pennies. We’re talking about quarters and dollars from every purchase. By 2015 we hope to donate over $200,000 to non profit agencies. We’re hoping that Dallasites will consider where they want their moony to go and will choose to purchase their beverages and food at Union.

Every purchase also helps to sponsor ministry with young people in Dallas so that the community can benefit from positive interaction between the established church and surrounding culture.

Union isn’t the first to do this. Newman’s Own, Tom’sand others have taken up such endeavours. I pray that we have more businesses like them where significant portions of our funds can support causes that make a significant positive difference in our world. I pray that Christians can encourage such positive business development so that the marketplace can be a place of justice, of hope and of love.

Union is a new kind of new church start in east Dallas that seeks to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world through outstanding coffee, significant community and engaging causes that make a positive difference in the local and global community.

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