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Christianity Today editorial prompts further Disney debate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–An editorial in Christianity Today challenging the Southern Baptist Convention’s boycott of The Disney Company has placed two Baptist ethicists on opposite sides of the fence.
The editorial, in CT’s Aug. 11 issue, was written by David P. Gushee, associate professor of Christian studies at Union University, Jackson, Tenn., and former assistant professor of Christian ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
Gushee’s criticisms of the SBC boycott of Disney prompted fellow Baptist ethicist C. Ben Mitchell to write a letter to the editor of CT taking issue with Gushee. Mitchell is a consultant to the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and assistant professor of Christian ethics at Southern Seminary.
The earliest Mitchell’s letter to the editor could appear in Christianity Today, if the periodical’s editors decide to publish it, will be the Sept. 1 issue.
Gushee, in his CT editorial, criticized:
— “the continuing elevation of the issue of homosexuality on the moral agenda of Southern Baptists and evangelicals.”
— “the Christendom assumption” behind the resolution passed by messengers to the SBC annual meeting last June in Dallas, “the implicit belief that American society ought to be Christian, that the products of business and policies of institutions should reflect Christian values.” Gushee added: “That we Southern Baptists would make this assumption is ironic. Deeply embedded in Baptist history is the experience of persecution at the hands of Christian authorities both in Europe and America.”
Mitchell, in his response, contended:
— “homosexuality in American culture is clearly a major flashpoint in the culture war. And not because evangelicals or Southern Baptists chose to make it so. Ours is a sex-obsessed culture, and homosexuality is the abysmal perversion of choice among increasing numbers of Americans, including The Disney Company.”
— “Those who agonized over and finally penned the resolution on moral stewardship were under no illusion that Christians are made by public policy. At the same time, since the Bible is true and everything contrary to its message is a lie, Christians have no choice but to speak out on moral issues and stand with confidence on biblical morality. Isn’t that what it means to live authentic Christian lives?”
Gushee, in his editorial, noted:
“… we live in a wildly pluralistic, post-Christian society. Still, many evangelical Christians desperately yearn for the informal or even formal establishment of Christianity as the national religion. Christendom does not exist. It is not clear that it ever did. And it is not clear, in New Testament terms, that it even should exist. How angry we get at evidences that this is not now the case and that we must continue to live in the same society with people, religions, and cultural expressions that we profoundly dislike.”
To which Mitchell responded:
“Don’t Southern Baptists and other evangelicals get a place at the table? … And in a truly pluralistic society, others must continue to live with us even though they don’t like us. We will listen to others with respect. We should be able to expect the same.”
Mitchell added: “As a student of the Holocaust, Dr. Gushee should know very well the consequences of evangelical silence on the moral issues of the hour. Had evangelical believers been more vocal in Nazi Germany, perhaps the rest of the world would have known earlier about the atrocities perpetrated by Hitler’s henchmen.”
Reflecting on the early church, Gushee wrote that it “had no power to change society through boycotts or other political actions. The only power it had was the Holy Spirit, who brought an international assembly of men and women to salvation and formed that motley crew into a dynamic community that changed the world.
“We cannot coerce the entertainment industry into conformity with our values. And while we are probably better off avoiding what that industry gives us, our emphasis needs to be on living the story of Christian faith so compellingly and authentically, both individually and in our communities, that people of all types will be drawn to Christ,” Gushee wrote.
Mitchell’s view: “… Christians are called to boycott every day of their lives. We are to avoid the world, the flesh, and the devil, in whatever incarnation they appear. That a group of believers assembled together determined to boycott en mass is certainly more laudable than giving ourselves over to the spirit of the age. What many Christians fail to understand is that authentic Christianity is now and will always be countercultural. I confess I am under a ‘Christendom assumption.’ I assume I am to think, live, and act like Christ.”
Gushee acknowledged in his editorial: “Evangelicals are rightly committed to biblical convictions concerning homosexual conduct. However, the homosexuality issue does not exhaust the content of Christian sexual ethics … . We are fixated on the one moral issue most remote from the daily experience of our membership, while we ignore a wide range of offenses far closer to home — divorce and materialism, to name two examples. … One need only note the lack of attention to issues concerning ministry toward those struggling with homosexuality to see that this was a less-than-wholly Christian response to the issue.”
Mitchell, meanwhile, noted Gushee “fails to mention that the SBC resolution on moral stewardship was only one of a dozen resolutions at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Dallas, Texas. Unreported by the media, including many of the Christian media, were resolutions dealing with world hunger, genetic technology, religious persecution, home schooling, drug abuse, gambling advertisement and others. Also, though somehow Dr. Gushee seems unaware of the fact, the Convention approved a recommendation that the North American Mission Board explore means by which to facilitate ministry to homosexuals.”