Of Girl Scout Cookies and The Gospel
When I opened up my email this morning I got my most recent edition of the Mayfield-Hillcrest Patch, a local source which highlights mostly (rather bland) local news and opinion. But this morning there was one article that went beyond the usual local fare, and which really jumped out at me. This article was entitled: “Pastor’s Plea: Boycott Lesbian, Communist Girl Scout Cookies.” In this article I read these words:
“Kevin Swanson, the host of a conservative Christian radio program “Generations with Vision,”unleashed a bit of internet hell-fire with a plea to Americans to boycott Girl Scout cookies. Swanson is particularly worried about the promotion of socialism, lesbianism, abortion and female independence that, in his estimation, the Girl Scouts of America are all about.” (Source: http://mayfield-hillcrest.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/pastors-plea-dont-buy-lesbian-communist-girl-scout-cookies-mayfield-hillcrest?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001&evar4=picks-4-post&newsRef=true )
Sigh…Where to even begin responding to this?
As might be expected, the news sources to which this article linked were clearly not sympathetic to this pastor’s concerns, and the readers’ comments in those sources included the predictable scoffing, scathing vitriol and personal attacks that one has come to expect from unbelievers whenever well-meaning but unwise Christians make these types of questionable or off-the-wall comments. One can admire the willingness of this pastor to take an unpopular stand on something he believes sincerely, a stand which he no doubt knew would make him look absolutely nuts in the eyes of unbelievers and which would invite their scoffing and vitriol and venom. But is this really what bold and outspoken Christian pastors want to be known for? Would it not be better for Christians and their leaders to be known as being for the gospel, rather than against those dreaded Girl Scout cookies? Would it not be better to be scoffed at for being for the biblical gospel (which is more offensive to the unregenerate than anything else in the world), rather than being scoffed at for being against Girl Scout cookies? And does not this focus on Girl Scout cookies (as a “culture wars” issue) trivialize the gospel (which I trust this pastor also preaches) by making Christianity look simply silly and really distorted in its priorities?
I like Girl Scout cookies (especially the chocolate mint ones), mainly because I have a sweet tooth and like cookies in general. But I have also heard similar accusations about the Girl Scouts like the one this pastor alleges (that it pushes “feminist” values; that it supports Planned Parenthood, etc.). I haven’t done any research to see whether or not such allegations have any basis in fact, but as a matter of personal choice (and also because they are overpriced), my wife and I have decided to act on the cautious side and not to buy Girl Scout cookies. At the same time, I as a pastor would never want to abuse my position of ministerial authority by urging or pleading with my congregants to boycott Girl Scout cookies, as the pastor in the article has done with his radio audience. My decision about Girl Scout cookies is purely a matter of personal choice and liberty of conscience, but it is not (nor ought it to be) a hobby-horse I ride or a moral standard by which I sit in judgment over my fellow believers who choose to exercise their Christian liberty by purchasing Girl Scout cookies. This is one of those Romans 14 matters of conscience in which Christians may come to differing convictions, for nowhere does the Bible expressly command, “Thou shalt not buy Girl Scout cookies!” If I make my congregants feel guilty or less holy because they bought Girl Scout cookies, then I have abused my ministerial office and placed pharisaical burdens upon God’s people.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not at all in favor of Planned Parenthood, abortion, radical feminism, lesbianism or communism, nor would I want to support any organization which clearly and unambiguously supports or promotes such things as part of its central mission. But aside from the fact that I am not at all sure it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the Girl Scouts do in fact promote such things, even if they did the question that comes to the forefront of my mind is this: What on earth is a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (and, sadly, a fellow OPC Minister at that!) doing preaching against Girl Scout cookies? Shouldn’t he be preaching Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for sinners (i.e., the gospel), instead of what amount to a new law (neo-legalism) urging believers to join a boycott against Girl Scout cookies? Shouldn’t the faithful preaching and teaching of the Word be at the center of his ministry, rather than such politically-focused, “culture warrior” ranting? Shouldn’t he be leaving that kind of political stuff to the Fox News and MSNBC talking heads of the world? Shouldn’t his focus be more on the spiritual and eternal, rather than the social and temporal?
Holy Scripture indicates that the world of the ungodly will mock us, scoff at us, and consider us to be fools. We should not be expecting accolades or praise from the world; instead, we should expect trials, tribulations and persecutions. In one sense I admire this pastor for being willing to endure such mockery. But at the same time, I fear his well-meaning rant against Girl Scout cookies will ultimately backfire and be yet another occasion for the devil to give the church of Jesus Christ an additional black eye. (His comments have already provoked much ridicule on the internet, and, regrettably, they have given the enemies of the church further ammunition in their “Bible-believing Christians are just plain nut-jobs!” arsenal.) As for me, if unbelievers mock me, scoff at me, call me an idiot, and regard me as insane, I would much rather they do so because I have faithfully confessed and boldly proclaimed the gospel truth that 2,000 years ago God brought a dead guy named Jesus back to life, a dead guy who claimed to be God and who was crucified because of that claim. I’d rather be mocked for that than for making some unwise, over-the-top, or questionable statement about some petty (in the eternal scheme of things) culture wars issue. If I must be mocked, let me be mocked because I proclaimed Christ as the only way to salvation, as He claimed to be (Jn. 14:6), not because I proclaim the Girl Scouts to be an evil organization or their delicious cookies to be forbidden to faithful Christians. I believe the devil smiles when the Church and her Ministers get their focus off of these main things and onto hobby horses like this one. Ministers of Jesus Christ in particular and the Church of Jesus Christ as a whole must not get their focus or main emphasis off of the one thing that matters the most: the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Brothers and sisters, let us not get sidetracked or derailed from the only thing of eternal, lasting value: the gospel! Only as we are thus heavenly-minded will we be of any lasting, earthly good to this fallen, sin-cursed world.