I’ve been a bit slow on the uptake with this one. I think the key developments took place in the run up to Christmas, though the ramifications will no doubt linger on. It wasn’t until the holidays that I caught up with it. We were staying with friends over New Year. We needed one or two extra bits for supper. And so I suggested that we pop out to grab them from the local supermarket. But our host then explained that he was boycotting Tesco. I asked why. And he brought me up to speed.
Apparently Tesco has dropped its financial support of the mainstream charity ‘Cancer Research’ to become the headline sponsor of the London Gay Pride Festival. That’s an interesting call. One with a faint whiff of the ‘political’ about it.
The Christian Institute reported on this development on 15th November. They wrote this,
The supermarket giant has supported Cancer Research for more than a decade, helping the charity raise hundreds of millions of pounds towards combating the illness – estimated to affect one in three of the population.
But now the retail chain has signed a deal to become a major sponsor of Pride London, and will host the festival’s family area for the second year running. The family area will provide entertainment and activities for younger children.
The situation became increasingly heated when Nick Lansley, the Head of Research and Development at Tesco, posted some inflammatory remarks on his Flickr site. He wrote
‘I’m also campaigning against evil Christians (that’s not all Christians, just bad ones) who think that gay people should not lead happy lives and get married to their same-sex partners’.
At the request of Tesco, those comments have since been withdrawn. On 23rd December, the Christian Institute then reported that Tesco were re-considering their support of Gay Pride. A couple of days ago, in a needlessly provocatively piece in the Guardian, Martin Prendergast responded. He said that the idea that Tesco was about to repent was unfounded propaganda.
[To my mind, Prendergast's article is unbelievably irritating. It's laden with hopelessly inaccurate and jaundiced presentations of the Christian position. Just calling someone a fundamentalist, a bigot or homophobic doesn't mean that they are. He shouldn't be allowed to get away with such sloppy journalism, let alone the misrepresentation of the carefully articulated historic biblical position. But perhaps that's a rant for another post!]
Upon reaching his decision, my holiday host wrote this on the Tesco Facebook wall,
‘Sadly I will not be shopping at Tesco anymore; not when one of its senior staff, Nick Lansley, describes Christians as evil. If this becomes widely known, I would imagine it would put most Christians off from shopping at Tesco’s’.
Six minutes later this response was posted,
‘Hi (his name), This is a personal view and in no way of reflects the views and opinions of Tesco. Regards, Kaz – Customer Care’.
There were then some less conciliatory responses that were posted; mostly rude. None came from Tesco!
I applaud Tesco’s decision to distance themselves from Nick Lansley’s comments. And yet, it remains an odd decision for a mainstream retailer to give up supporting a charity and start funding an organisation that promotes homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle. They’re not naive. They knew what they were doing. So what to do?
I don’t have to shop at Tesco. We often do. But will we continue? I’m not sure, but I suspect not. There are alternatives. And if it’s good enough for Jamie, it’s good enough for me! So, awaiting Tesco’s repentance, it’s fair to say that we shall have a few more orange plastic bags in the Perkins’ under stairs cupboard.
The simple reason I’m going to stop shopping at Tesco is that I don’t support the LGBT agenda to redefine marriage. Marriage is marriage. It’s the union of a man and woman in an (ideally) permanent monogamous public relationship. A gay relationship isn’t marriage. It’s a gay relationship. It may be loving. It may be monogamous. It may be permanent. It’s just not marriage. It’s not homophobic to say so. I’m not irrationally fearful of people who face same sex attraction. I don’t even have a rational fear of homosexual people. I just think Tesco should be using their profits to lend their support to a charity like Cancer Research rather than promoting the homosexual political agenda.
I’ve asked myself what I hope to achieve by any boycott and whether it would make any difference. I don’t think that Tesco will change their policy simply because I’ve stopped shopping. We have a large family and a healthy appetite, we like the finer things in life but we don’t spend that much! Nor indeed will the letter I plan to write make that much of a difference. But if every Christian thought like that we shouldn’t expect anything to change. So I’m going to do something and not nothing. But I really don’t want to. It’s costly. I adore their beef, stilton and chutney sandwiches and their Devonshire fudge yoghurt is to die for. But I simply want to register my principled displeasure at the course of action that they’ve taken. I don’t think that they should be using their profits to celebrate a non-Christian lifestyle; one that when practiced habitually leads to exclusion from the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9&10). All sin does that, of course. But we tend not to celebrate other sins and play them onside. We call them for what they are; greed or drunkenness or anger and so on. We may be (and often are) immoral in our habits (and therefore in need of salvation by grace) but we at least don’t celebrate them for being immoral! But that’s what our culture is doing with homosexuality. We’re taking something which the Bible describes as immoral and redefining it. As J.I. Packer says ‘we’re sanctifying sin’. And so out of love for homosexual people everywhere we cannot simply go with the flow. All sin is serious. And it doesn’t stop being sin by saying that it isn’t!
So if Christians love people, then they’ll cop the flak for challenging the legitimacy of homosexuality and all sorts of other kingdom incompatible lifestyles. We know that people won’t be saved by avoiding these lifestyles. Jesus does that. But Jesus saves those who, in repentance and faith, repudiate their immoral lifestyles and try to turn from them. We never do so perfectly. But we do so really. I’m a Christian, an imperfect and inconsistent one for sure. But I’m repentant. In dependence upon God I try to turn from sin. The Bible is clear that the homosexual sexual lifestyle is not one that’s compatible with living as a disciple of Christ. It’s a lifestyle that’s to be repented of not celebrated. And so surely I can’t in good conscience support an organisation that redefines sin and seeks to make it mainstream. I know that this will make me hugely unpopular but sometimes it’s best to do what’s right not what’s popular.
So will I post on the Tesco wall? Unlikely. I don’t like getting abuse. Call me gutless if you must. I’m pretty sure I’d invite it without being able to carefully and lengthily explain my rationale! So after you! We’re going to get shot at. It’s going to be, and has been already, interpreted as bigoted and homophobic if we decide to shop elsewhere. Neither of which is true for me or any of the Christians I know. We love sinners (like us). It’s just that we not only believe the Bible, we live by the Bible. And we want to encourage others to live by God’s life giving word as well, so much so that we’re prepared to oppose those who discourage others from taking what it says seriously even if that means that we come across as anachronistic fundamentalists.
I’m not going to tell the congregations of which I’m the Senior Pastor that they have to boycott Tesco. But I’ll probably suggest that they should think seriously about it.