Jacob, a podcast listener in Louisville, KY, writes in to ask this: “It seems like America is moving toward a culture where businesses such as Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-A, and Burger King are taking vocal stances on issues on which the Bible speaks very clearly. Should Christians proactively seek to patronize businesses that appear to line up with Biblical positions and avoid those that would contradict the Bible’s teaching?” A second podcast listener writes in and asks, “Pastor John, you recently tweeted ‘Goodbye, Burger King’ because Burger King has gone supportive of homosexuality. By that tweet, did you imply that Christians should not eat there again?”
In that tweet on July 4, I said, “Goodbye, Burger King. If you wonder why, watch the last five seconds of the video and weep.” And I put a link to the video that Burger King was spreading. What I meant by that “Goodbye” was “I don’t intend to eat there anymore.” Now that could change. They could change. I could change. But for now, I am done with Burger King.
But it did not mean, and it did not say, that others have to make a similar judgment. I think Christians are free to eat at Burger King without my judgment upon them. The answer to that question is: No, I did not say that Christians should not eat at Burger King. I said: I am not going to eat at Burger King.
Why I Said Goodbye
Now here is a question: Why did I arrive at that decision? What took me there? And, to be honest, it is two levels. There is a gut-level, and then there is a reflective-level, and the reflective, biblical-level always has to check the gut-level. But I will share the gut-level with you because I think most of our lives are lived at the gut-level, and it is shaping our minds according to Scripture so that guts are good. It is the big business in the Christian life.
Realistically I am moved by my gut as much as any other way and, therefore, I have to always go back and check. So here is the gut level: I thought the promotional video for Burger King that I linked to in the tweet was disgusting because of its language; immoral, because of its advocacy of sexual sin; and heartbreaking, because of its exploitation of children — closing with a little girl, maybe four years old, hugging two women and saying: I love my two mommies.
“We must always check our gut reactions by Scripture.”
So at the gut level, I was revolted, and I was angry, and I wanted nothing to do with that kind of crude and destructive propaganda. But one must always check one’s gut reactions by Scripture since we are all imperfect in the way we respond to things. So here is the more seasoned thinking that leads me to stay away from Burger King. It is an application of 1 Corinthians 10:27–29. Let me read it to you; See if you think it applies.
If one of the unbelievers invites you to a dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice to idols,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience — I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? (1 Corinthians 10:27–29)
When Eating Is Endorsing
So here is the application I make to Burger King: They invite me, by their existence and their advertising, to come and eat their burgers. And I am free to go. I have been happy to go without doing any research at all as to what the beliefs of the management are about anything. I don’t care. That is behind the scenes and they are just serving up burgers. I like burgers. I will eat the burgers. It doesn’t matter, you know, if they are covetous, or racist, or sexually illicit, or whatever. I am free to enjoy the burger as a hamburger, not as a promotion of an agenda that I might consider offensive and sinful. Their upper management may be philandering and racist all over the place, and I don’t know it. I am just enjoying the burger, and my conscience is not implicated by that, and I am not responsible for their motives. And I am not defiled by their sin.
“Burger King wants it known that they represent the championing of homosexual intercourse.”
But then comes this video where the leaders of Burger King are going out of their way to make sure that people know what they stand for. In other words, Burger King wants to make it an issue. They are making it an issue. They are making it an issue that their burgers stand for the endorsement of homosexual intercourse. This is not about the reality of same-sex attraction merely. We all have to deal with that. That is a reality. It is a broken reality. We have written lots of blogs and we have talked about the heartache and how to reckon with same-sex attraction. This is not about that. This is about the endorsement, with great fanfare, of same sex intercourse.
Burger King wants to go on record, as publicly and as blatantly as possible, that their restaurant represents the championing of homosexual intercourse. When that happens, I am put in a situation like the person in 1 Corinthians 10, who is told by his dinner host, “Oh, by the way, this meat that you are about to eat, we are celebrating the sacrifice to an idol.” And Paul says, “Okay, now at this point your freedom to eat at an unbeliever’s house, which you certainly have, is overruled by an act of love that says, ‘The meat is no longer mere meat. It is a symbol of sin.’ So to avoid confusing your host, or anybody else watching, don’t eat it, because now the idol connection turns your eating into a kind of endorsement or, at least, a statement of indifference to idolatry.”
So my calling is not to crusade against Burger King. I am not called to lead a boycott. My calling is to have a clear conscience and to be a clear testimony. Burger King has chosen to make their restaurant a public, brazen symbol of the endorsement of sin. That is why I said, “Goodbye.”