I once travelled to Brazil with a group of Americans. Our trip corresponded with an international soccer match between the USA and Brazil. If you’re a soccer fan you’ll know that Brazil has one of the strongest legacies of soccer greatness in the world. If you’re an American you’re probably aware that there aren’t many sports at which we think we ought not to be the best–except, say, badminton. Apparently, we’re willing to leave that to the Chinese.
It just so happened that our group took a trip to a mall in Brasilia…while the big match was happening. A friend and I became separated from the group. Shortly thereafter we heard, to our horror, chants of “USA! USA! USA!” Yes, our new friends had taken it upon themselves to show their national pride in the mall where a group of Brazilians were watching game.
Now, I’m American, but I’m also English and spent the first fourteen formative years of my life in English society. In England, the only people who chant nationalist chants in public at or around soccer matches are hooligans–shaved head-sporting, Carlsberg-swilling, Union Jack-wearing thugs. It seems not only obnoxious, but also somehow disrespectful to attempt to seize control of public space in another country in order to vocalize your desire for the triumph of your national team. If you want to chant, if you want to celebrate, do it quietly or better, inwardly. “Supporting Chick-fil-A” by eating their food en masse and posting photos of packed restaurants feels like the equivalent of shouting down the opposition, as does gay couples kissing publicly in Chick-fil-A dining rooms.
This is what I find to be problematic about the Chick-fil-Activism (on both side) that has gotten so much press of late. The country is close to evenly split on this issue–there is no consensus.
It’s important for followers of Christ to realize that we are living in a post-Christendom society. In other words, the received vies of Orthodox Christian communities are no longer the central narratives of the society. They have been usurped by others and the kingdom narrative of Scripture is no longer the dominant story being told in our culture.This reality changes the way we communicate, or it ought to.
The Good News of the Gospel has not changed. God has not changed. The context in which a timeless Gospel and an unchanging God are proclaimed, has.
Sitting in a bar on State Street in Madison (WI) watching the World Cup, it would be perfectly appropriate to chant “USA! USA! USA!” I’ve done it–joined in as part of the dominant narrative in support of a common view. However, as evangelical Christians we’re not on State Street anymore. We’re in a foreign society and, as a result, a little more tact is in order. Or, to borrow the words of Scripture, “gentleness and respect.”