The letters keep coming to the Holland Sentinel, responding to the July 23 ad placed by Request Foods and the Family Research Council. By August 4, Request Foods, pressured by their parent company, Campbell Soup Co., had disavowed the ad, saying it was placed by one of their investors “without our management team’s permission or approval” (see http://www.hollandsentinel.com/newsnow/x84682494/Request-Foods-disavows-controversial-ad). Organizations local and national had called for a boycott of Campbell products. Money talks, and Request Foods heard that conversation loud and clear; soon, they disavowed the ad.
Still, comments on the Holland Sentinel website and letters to the editor continue. This morning, the July 23 ad (see my column http://dampfang.com/x-57594-Grand-Rapids-Protestant-Examiner~y2010m8d5-The-Use-of-Power-in-Community-and-Christian-Discourse–A-Series) and response to it continue to grab two of the top ten commented articles on the Sentinel site. Last Saturday’s paper only had room for letters responding to the ad, as they continue to fill the paper’s mailbox. Some reasons are clear: the issue is newsworthy, in that the ad took a stand on a local issue before the City Council. Additionally, the ad, in the context of local conversations ongoing in recent years about homosexuality, civil rights and Christian responses, has stirred up already-simmering tensions (see my column http://dampfang.com/x-57594-Grand-Rapids-Protestant-Examiner~y2010m8d8-POWER-SERIES-II–Use-your-power-to-CHOOSE-and-FRAME-the-Issues). People are talking about this, so the paper is recording current “buzz”.
This may be a democratic way to roll; “it’s a free country”, people say, so “whatever” people want to say, they should say – that is the essence of free speech. Disciples of Jesus are held to a higher standard. We are not to say “whatever” – but to be thoughtful in what we say, and even that on which we choose to comment, in all things striving to identify “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise”, to “think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Disciples are also called to think on and struggle with whatever is troubling, concerning, or wrong, flawed and failing in our society – and to think on and comment on these things, ADVOCATING for remedy, action, work to right the wrong and to heal people, society and land. The issue of equality of civil rights for all is clearly of importance in a democratic society. AND, in today’s Sentinel, an eight-week institute on Healing Racism was promoted; plans for a new alternative school in nearby Hamilton, MI, to serve students who fall through the cracks or learn differently than the norm was reported; and continuing investigations into the death of a 10-year-old from Zeeland, MI, whose death may be a result of abuse, was noted. While these issues are on the minds of some in our community, I do not believe they will garner the amount of community reaction of the July 23 ad. So we must question – why?
Christians have to ponder power, the use of power, and how power is being used in our midst. Christians must determine that for which we are called to use OUR power as well. What is God calling us – you – me to use our power of speech about? There is an old saying that we should “pick our battles”. While I wonder about whether that makes it past the bar of the Gospel standard, we do serve a Lord who sends us out as “sheep among wolves”, who advises that we be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We have power, and we are called to use it in service of the goals of the Gospel.