What should Christians do when a corporate icon dismisses the biblical view of marriage and family?
With alluring coffee-based confections that tempt even the most price-conscious taste buds to indulge, Starbucks has taken the world by storm since its founding in 1971 to become a global Fortune 500 icon showcasing American innovation and ingenuity.
Its 2011 revenues of $11.7 billion, generated by the hard work of more than 149,000 employees in 17,000 stores, make Starbucks a company that can profoundly impact local communities in the 55 countries where it operates.
According to their website, Starbucks seeks to do good and be “a catalyst for positive change”. Its vision is to help customers “thrive” – while “respecting and bringing value” to the communities it serves.
But what if Starbucks – through its corporate actions – shows disrespect for a powerful and rapidly emerging group of consumers? What are the consequences if Starbucks actively invests in public policy initiatives that not only oppose a group’s values and worldview but ultimately undermine its prosperity and freedom?
In recent years this very situation has unfolded with Starbucks’ position toward the 46 million Americans known as Faith Driven Consumers. Although they represent 15 percent of the population, spend $1.75 trillion annually and drink plenty of coffee in their homes, offices and churches, Starbucks has supported state and national political efforts to redefine sexuality, marriage and family away from the natural, organic and biblical model.
Here, Starbucks was one of 203 companies to sign on to a brief encouraging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), both of which define marriage as being between one man and one woman.
In 2011, under pressure from gay activists, CEO Howard Schultz cancelled at the last minute a contracted keynote speech to Christian leaders sponsored by evangelical megachurch Willow Creek in Illinois. And just last week at its annual shareholder meeting in Seattle, Schultz told a Faith Driven Consumer who questioned the impact of a Christian boycott on corporate performance to “sell your shares and buy stock in another company.”
He stated that the company’s actions support diversity. However, many people question how you can have true diversity by including some groups while excluding others, like Faith Driven Consumers, from the rainbow? While views among Christians about how to respond to Starbucks’ support of political efforts that undermine the sanctity of marriage and family range from boycott and petition to a shrug of the shoulders, others encourage a “buycott” of companies that are more faith-compatible.
It’s clear that Starbucks has chosen sides in the culture war and communicated to Faith Driven Consumers that their biblical worldview is neither welcomed nor respected.
Just as Starbucks has the freedom to choose which market segments it will pursue, so, too, do Faith Driven Consumers have the right to choose which companies they support based on their faith and values. And just as God cares about a ten percent tithe, is He not also concerned about how well his people steward the remaining ninety percent entrusted to them?
This begs the question: Is it good stewardship to spend money with a company that directs significant proceeds to activities that undermine God’s created intent for sexuality, marriage and family – and ultimately threaten the cherished American religious freedom?
If not, perhaps it’s time for Faith Driven Consumers to take positive steps to choose a more faith-compatible alternative to Starbucks. While the options will vary from one community to the next, some to consider include Caribou Coffee, Dunkin Donuts and coffee produced by groups like Thrive Farmers Coffee.
Faith Driven Consumers know that every choice matters and has stewardship consequences. The corporate behavior of Starbucks presents Faith Driven Consumers with a decision point: Choose this day whom you will serve.