Its been about a week now, and I’ve been a bit slow getting to put my thoughts in writing on this one. And there are so many directions that I could go, I’m as spoiled for choice as I am when I visit the local bakery.
The thing that stood out to me most in the visual image is the extreme unhappiness, or grumpiness (depending on how you see it) of the man wielding the pie. But once I got past that, the thing which I reflect on the most is exactly what this man was trying to achieve.
Many Christians are getting very frustrated with the political and social direction of the country at the moment, and the way in which traditional values (especially those that align with Christian values) are being swept away. And the feeling is that these values are not just getting swept away, but approving of these traditional values is fast becoming criminal.
To see a Roman Catholic Bishop being hauled before a government tribunal for explaining Christian teaching is one thing, and having a boycott called on a brewery is another. But to see companies like Qantas apply pressure to their employees to support same sex marriage via token jewellery seems to be stepping into the everyday working lives of individuals in a way which is not only intrusive, but quite menacing. Will Qantas employees who don’t wear the promise rings (or whatever they are being called) going to be questioned by their supervisors or fellow-workers? Are their private views on the definition of marriage going to now be visible and impact on their promotion prospects, or the shifts they are given? What if a pilot refuses to fly with a crew on board unless they are all supportive of the company position on this social issue? There are a whole lot of issues at stake here for the average Christian in the pew. These things aren’t just affecting ministers of religion, or corporate high fliers. They are now primarily being felt by the average Christian in different companies.
So one Christian decides he wants to protest in a particularly prominent way. To vent his frustration on the CEO of Qantas with a pie.
I can understand this. When you feel frustrated that you aren’t being listened to, and things are going away from where you want them to do, you can feel a little desperate. Especially when it seems that the other side can behave in whatever way they want with impunity – witness the incessant name calling, the removal from boards of companies those Christians who do not support same sex marriage, and on and on the list goes.
But the problem with taking this approach is two-fold.
The first problem is one of perception. It looks like Christians are sore losers. That Christians are just throwing a tantrum. That Christians have no sense of humour (and the look on the pie thrower’s face says all of that and more). It makes it seems like Christians think that those who disagree with them should be silenced or humiliated or shut down in some way. In short, it makes Christians look exactly like our opponents. And if there is one thing that Christians should embrace, its that we don’t play by the same rules that everyone else plays by. Our God calls us to suffer for his sake, just as he suffered and died on the cross. Our God told us to turn the other cheek. To love our enemies. To pray for those who persecute you. And if we can’t offer anything but the same sort of thing everyone else does, why would anyone need to become a Christian.
The second problem is actually a more serious one. Its a matter of substance. This sort of approach stems from the idea that Christians can’t allow society to move away from God (as Christians perceive that in terms of laws which in some way confirm to what God has revealed through the Bible). That we must stand up and defend, to our last pie (or perhaps more) some Christian standards being enshrined in law.
And this is false. Christians should understand that laws do not make people Godly. That the laws of the land don’t make a country Christian. We should know that Christians have always, everywhere, around the world, been at odds with laws and cultures and societal values. And that given time, every legal system is going to naturally drift away from God. Our battle is not, and should never be, primarily about laws – even if from time to time it is important to advocate for and pursue legal change. Our battle is to point sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus.
This is what our pie thrower seems to forget. That the church doesn’t stand or fall on Qantas’ support for same sex marriage. That Alan Joyce isn’t the one we fight against. That ours is a spiritual battle waged with spiritual weapons, not a physical battle waged with physical weapons (even if those weapons are as harmless as pies). Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world. For that we must celebrate, and learn to accept change, however harmful and however ungodly that may be, knowing that Jesus will keep all of his own to the very end.
Regardless of what airline we fly.