Starbucks CEO Pulls a Mycoskie, Cancels Willow Creek

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has withdrawn his name from the speaking schedule at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit thanks to an online petition at—the same site credited with convincing TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie to issue his puzzling apology to the anti-Focus of the Family crowd last month.

Starbucks officials have reportedly denied that the petition had anything to do with Schultz’s decision to withdraw, but circumstances suggest otherwise. In June a customer’s open letter to Starbucks regarding “one of the most brazen and unapologetic displays of homophobia I have ever witnessed in my entire life” went viral when the customer blogged about seeing a Starbucks manager reprimand a gay employee. In 2008 Joseph Hooks and Dorothy Baker sued the coffee company, claiming they had been fired for being gay.

While Mycoskie’s response to the outcry over his appearance at a Focus on the Family event was clumsy given the shoe company has no history of activism or controversy, Schultz’s withdrawal is at least predictable.

Ironically, this comes just as Willow Creek is rumored to be rethinking its views on homosexuality:

Willow Creek Community Church says it cut ties with Exodus in 2009…

Church spokeswoman Susan DeLay told the paper that Willow’s views on homosexuality had evolved.

“They were one of the few Christian organizations having conversations with people who struggle with being gay,” she said.

Of course, these rumors may really be just rumors:

Willow Creek Community Church, a trend-setting megachurch in suburban Chicago, has quietly ended its partnership with Exodus International, an “ex-gay” organization.

Willow Creek decided to sever ties with the Florida-based ministry in 2009, Christianity Today reported, but the decision only became public in June.

Church officials described the move as a shift in approach rather than a change in belief. Susan DeLay, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek, said the church continues to welcome those who are attracted to people of the same sex.

“Willow Creek has a whole host of ministries for people dealing with these issues, and we would never intend for them to feel sidelined,” she told Christianity Today.

Either way, Starbucks’ and TOMS Shoes’ hesitation to be linked even indirectly to those who minister to homosexuals make it clear that other ministries should expect to be increasingly undermined by both business and political interests—even if those interests are unrelated to the ministry’s work.

image via flickr


Is Christianity a Metanarrative?

Lyotard famously summed up postmodern philosophy as “incredulity toward metanarratives.” Despite the varying strands of postmodernism that have emerged in recent decades, one unifying factor is a suspicion of the “metanarrative.” This leads naturally to the question, “What is a metanarrative?” And for the Christian, “Is Christianity a metanarrative?”

Many evangelical leaders have argued that Christians must reject postmodernism precisely because Christianity is a metanarrative. If postmodernism rejects metanarratives, then it obviously rejects Christianity. According to James K. A. Smith, professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, this is incorrect. In his book, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?, Smith argues that Christianity is not a metanarrative. What Lyotard meant by “metanarrative”, says Smith, is not a grand, all-encompassing story. That would simply be a mega-narrative. “Meta” does not mean “big” or “all”, it means “beyond” (Metaphysics is not the study of all physics, it is the study of that which is after or beyond physics). A metanarrative is a story that claims not to be a story. It is a story that claims to simply be the bare, uninterpreted facts, or “just the way things are.” In short, a metanarrative denies its own narrative character and appeals to a neutral, objective “reason” for its grounding, unencumbered by any cultural or linguistic context.

As Smith argues, this does not describe Christianity. Christianity is a story. It is the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is also the story of “the way things are.” However, unlike a metanarrative, the Christian story recognizes that it is a story. Only God can know “the way things are” totally unencumbered by culture and language. As human beings who are necessarily situated within a certain cultural and linguistic context, we can only see things from a certain perspective, to the exclusion of all others. Thus the way we describe the world is simply our interpretation (story) of it. Recognizing this fact, however, does not cut us off from reality. Smith parts with many of the more extreme strands of postmodernism by recognizing that, while everything is an interpretation, some interpretations are truer than others. Thus Christianity would not be a metanarrative, but simply the narrative that most accurately and truly describes reality from a human perspective.

Some will take issue with Smith’s account. Smith is particularly critical of Christians who embrace Foundationalism (the theory that everything we know is ultimately based upon a few certain foundational beliefs). Certainly Smith’s talk of everything being an “interpretation”, and not strictly speaking “objective” truth, will worry many Christians who will see such capitulation to postmodern language as a surrender to relativism. While I sympathize with this mentality, I believe that Smith has a number of good insights, and I hope to engage his arguments in more detail in the coming weeks. For now, it will suffice to say that Smith does make a reasonably strong case that Christianity is not a metanarrative as Lyotard originally defined the term. At the end of the day, no matter how squeamish we may get at some of Smith’s postmodern language, we are forced to admit that fallen and finite human beings are incapable of a genuinely neutral and unbiased perspective of the world, and that the gospel is first and foremost a story. If nothing else, this should help to enable modern evangelicals to move forward in dialog with their postmodern cousins.

Proposal: The Ensured Family Health and Disease Prevention Act

President Obama:

Finally we have a President that wants to actually protect wellness of citizens and immigrants. I am pleased to see your progress towards nationalized health care despite harsh criticism. Much of this criticism noticeably concerns money. What kind of person would put money above life?

You and I know that no one should have to die.

Yet even aside from that, money does not need to be a point of contention. There is a simple solution: Make us live in a healthier way through regulation and necessary coercion. Or, to put it in PR terms, ‘encourage’ wholesome living through ‘health standards’.

I was ecstatic to see the measures that you recently took with tobacco regulation. What a superb beginning for achieving a healthier America.

I suggest you now focus on caffeine. Think of it—young American children guzzle more espresso shots every year than they are (literally) able to count. Caffeine is always masked by syrups that entice our children. Greedy corporations like Starbucks, Peet’s, Monster, Red Bull, etc., need to be held accountable. American teenagers gain caffeine dependency before armpit hair. And it does not end there. These teenagers will become adults with stunted growth, arrhythmias, attention disorders, restless leg syndrome, and a variety of cancers all because of their caffeine intake. A university study has proven it.

Because affordable national health care requires healthy citizens, this caffeine travesty cannot continue. I respectfully propose that a bill be written requiring all cafes to serve only black coffee within six months time. Torino syrups, warm milk, and sweeteners must be confiscated. The bill will prohibit coffee sale to minors under the age of 15.

‘Energy-drink’ companies must enter a two-year dismantling program. By the end of the first year, all drink containers must be black. All cans must be labeled with a hazard symbol and list of consumption risks in English, Spanish, French, and German. Advertisements should be prohibited within four miles of any educational facility. By the end of the second year, the company would be given the option of either selling all assets or converting their factories for multivitamin production.

I hope that this plan meets with your approval. If enacted, I am confident it will lead to a healthier, happier America. As a former caffeine addict who occasionally falls off the wagon, I can personally affirm the necessity of these measures.

Respectfully Yours,


Blurb Meme — Ten years ago Rob Suggs wrote a humorous article for Christianity Today that mentions the (entirely fictional) book, “The Collected Blurbs of J. I. Packer. Any book worth reading has a short dust-jacket recommendation from J. I. Here are hundreds of the best cover endorsements from the ‘King of Blurbs’.” A decade later, the octogenarian theologian is still viewed as the most prolific blurber in Christendom. (Just today I received a book to review titled “Sex, Sushi, & Salvation” and prominently displayed on the cover was a recommendation from…J.I. Packer.)
Since I have hundreds of books in my library I thought I’d have a dozen titles endorsed by Packer. So I checked them all and to my surprise I found only nine books had his stamp of approval. In fact, Packer came in second to Chuck “Prince of Blurbs” Colson who had ten blurbs. Coming in a distant third and fourth was Dallas Willard with six and J.P. Moreland with five blurbs. Five other blurbers (James Sire, Jim Skillen, Mark Noll, Os Guinness, and Richard Mouw) tied for fifth place with four each. (The most unexpected blurb I found was seeing Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s name on Ron Sider’s Just Generosity.)
Who are the most prolific blurbers in your library? Any names in your library pop up more than ten times?


Countdown to the ESVSB Launch — My friend Justin Taylor recently announced the launching of the website for the ESV Study Bible. The ESB doesn’t come out until October but it’s already getting rave reviews. And no, Packer didn’t blurb it–he’s the theological editor for the edition.

Christian Rock Rocks — Daniel Radosh, author of “Rapture Ready: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture” has compiled a list of “Ten great Christian rock songs”:

This is a list of 10 great Christian rock songs. Really. I know what you’re thinking. I’m a secular Jew who always took it for granted that Christian rock stinks. Indeed, until a couple of years ago I knew virtually nothing about Christian rock except that it stinks. But after spending time inside the “evangelical bubble” I had to admit I was mistaken. It turns out there’s Christian music that never gets played on those radio stations you accidentally stumble across on road trips — and that doesn’t reduce all expressions of faith to crass evangelism, anodyne praise, or crypto-romance.

On his website, Radosh even has audio versions of each of the songs on the list.


Friendly Spam How to Deal with Hyperactive Friends on Facebook

Mitt Romney, Comedian — At the recent Radio and Television Correspondent’s Dinner, Mitt Romney told the assembled crowd the top 10 reasons why he quit the race:

No. 10: There weren’t as many Osmonds as he thought.
No. 9: Got tired of the corkscrew landings of his campaign plane while under fire
No. 8: As a lifelong hunter, I didn’t want to miss the start of varmint season.
No. 7: There wasn’t room for two Christian leaders in the presidential race
No. 6: I was upset that no one bothered to search my passport files.
No. 5: I’d rather get fat, grow a beard and try for the Nobel prize.
No. 4: Got tired of wearing a dark suit and tie, and I wanted to kick back in a light colored suit and tie.
No. 3: When my wife realized I couldn’t win the GOP nomination, my fundraising dried up.
No. 2: I took a bad fall at a campaign rally and broke my hair.
And the No. 1 reason Romney dropped out: His campaign relied on a flawed campaign strategy that as Utah goes, so goes the nation.

Surprisingly funny. Looks like Romney got Huckabee to write his material. (HT: Holy Coast)


Know Your White PeopleStuff White People Like is a blog devoted to taking a “scientific approach to highlight and explain stuff white people like.” Take a peek at the full list of SWPL and you’ll see that it’s an uncannily accurate assessment. The blog should add itself to the list.


Garfield minus Garfield — What happens when you remove the title character from their own comic strip? You turn a terribly unfunny strip into, as Garfield minus Garfield says, “an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life.”

Internet Radio Appearance — On Monday night I’ll be joining Rick Moore of ON THE AIR to discusses presidential politics. The show airs at 7pm PST/10pm EST but you you can listen online anytime or download it to your iPod.

New Blog Alert — I think I’m one of three people in the Reformed community whose favorite Piper is not named John. Though Dr. Piper comes a close second, I’m partial to his son Abraham, the web content editor for Desiring God. Abraham recently launched his own blog, 22 Words, in which each post is limited to 22 words or less.

New (Old) Blog AlertSouthern Appeal, one of my favorite group blogs, has returned from hiatus as a solo venture.

Free Stuff — For a limited time, Modern Parables films are available for free viewing in iPod/iTunes format. (I’ll have a review of the complete series posted in the next few weeks. )

Wheatstone Academy — Matt Anderson sends along a promo video for Wheatstone Academy, an offshoot of the Torrey Honors Institute of Biola University. John Mark Reynolds calls it a “boot camp for the mind.” I’m looking forward to sending my daughter there in a few years.


Stem Cell Silence — Neither Clinton nor Obama commented on the recent news about the stem cell breakthrough. Mark I. at RedState thinks he knows why they remained silent:

These Democrats are the ones who claim to have so much compassion for the suffering and afflicted and who label their political opponents as heartless and cruel. So, why the silence on this advancement? In some cases it could be because the campaigns are seeking a way to appear to praise the announcement while not offending embryonic stem cell research advocates among the their supporters. For Sen. Hillary!™ Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, it may be because in a crucial vote for ethical stem cell alternatives taken earlier this year, they voted no.

Although I follow this issue fairly closely, I wasn’t aware these Senators had voted against the HOPE Act. Democratic voters should ask why their leading Presidential nominees voted against funding such promising research.


Christians & Government — Matt Kaufman has a very good article at Boundless that provides a basic understanding of the biblical role of government and how it should affect our vote. Kaufman contends that the primary purpose of government is protection of its citizens.
On Boundless’s blog, The Line, Motte Brown adds some useful thoughts on the subject:

We see elsewhere (Proverbs 8:15,16; Romans 13:4) that God established government to make and enforce laws specifically so “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives.” Beyond protection, there’s no clear mandate for governmental responsibility found in Scripture, even when it comes to the physically poor. Proverbs 29 and Psalm 72 speak of rulers dealing justly with the poor. So the government has some responsibility. But not much. According to the Bible, the needy are to be cared for first by the family, and then the church.

Both Kaufman and Brown appear to take the “conservative” view of the Biblical mandate for government, a position on which I largely agree. I’d be interested to hear how politically liberal Christians use Scripture to justify the expansion of the role of government.


Politics as Vocation — At Theolog, the blog of The Christian Century magazine, David Heim has an excellent post on Christian engagement in politics. He begins by noting that some “significant voices on the right that are disillusioned about political engagement.”

Skepticism about politics is always healthy. But it strikes me that [David] Kuo’s and [Gregory] Boyd’s comments reflect a broad, unhelpful tendency in American Christianity to oscillate between two poles: either a fervent engagement in politics for the sake of the gospel and the world, or an equally fervent detachment for the sake of the purity of the gospel and the health of the church. Isn’t there something between the two poles?

Calling Greg Boyd a “voice on the right” will surely raise a few eyebrows. But aside from that minor quibble, Heim makes an important point worth considering:

Meanwhile, however, individual Christians have their particular vocations. In a democracy, all people have the vocation of citizen and so are in some degree called to the work of politics. Beyond that, a certain number of individual Christians are called to a more specific vocation: to study, analyze or participate in the day-to-day workings of politics. They make arguments and pay attention to data. They look for affinities between the gospel and political philosophies and programs. They listen to what constituents say and arguments other people make. Their work is fallible, limited, pervaded by sin, always subject to revision—but so are lots of vocations.

I think this is exactly right. My particular vocation (both my career and, to some extent, this blog) focuses on politics and public policy. And while I think it is important work, I certainly don’t think it is any more or less important than most other vocations (though it can certainly be much duller than other fields, such as business or ministry). I also agree with Heim that the work is fallible, limited, pervaded by sin, and always subject to revision. If only we could be reminded of that fact every day before we begin our work, the world would be much better off.
(HT: A Thinking Reed, which also adds some useful thoughts to the discussion.


The Full Bard — The BBC is planning to produce new versions of all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays:

[The BBC] has enlisted Sam Mendes, Oscar-winning director of American Beauty and Road to Perdition, and his Neal Street company to produce the entire canon over a 12-year period.
Some of the country’s biggest stars – including Kate Winslet, who is married to Mendes, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Jude Law, Dame Helen Mirren, and James McAvoy – are being tipped to take part in what will be one of the BBC’s most expensive and ambitious drama series.
With quality television drama costing up to £900,000 an hour, the final bill could touch £100?million.

Outtakes 09.07.07

Hey, Big Spenders — The average Democrat in Congress sponsors more savings bills than the average Republican, says the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. An examination of the cost or savings of all bills introduced in Congress found that on average, a typical House Democrat sponsored 5 spending reduction bills, versus 2 for the typical Republican.
Unfortunately, each House savings bill was outnumbered over 20 to 1 by bills to increase spending. For each bill introduced in the Senate that would reduce federal spending, there were over 30 bills to raise spending.


A Little More Jesus, A Little Less Amway? — Brian Hollar, from Thinking on the Margin, wonders, ” Whatever happened to Christians believing in the power of the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts of men? Why is it necessary to supplement the gospel with cheesy slogans and blatant manipulation?”

The Geek King of Hip Hop — Move over Timbaland. The greatest hip-hop composer in music today is Ronald Jenkees, a brilliant, goofy white kid with wicked keyboarding skills.

Check out more on his YouTube Channel

Continue reading Outtakes 09.07.07

Evangelism Linebacker

The National Institute for Student Ministries has discovered a new method of evangelism. The Evangelism Linebacker deals directly with student fears about sharing their faith. As the EL says (after knocking some people out who don’t evangelize), “Get off the floh’ and go doh’ to doh'”
(HT: The Thinklings)