Protesting Ice Cream is Not Where the Action Is

The folks at Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream have come up with a new flavor — “Schweddy Balls” — that’s an “ode to a classic ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch comedy” routine. A conservative group is calling for a boycott of the company. “The vulgar new flavor has turned something as innocent as ice cream into something repulsive,” read a statement released by One Million Moms, a division of the Mississippi-based American Family Association. “Not exactly what you want a child asking for at the supermarket.”

Is this what it’s come to? Couldn’t one million moms put their well-intended efforts into something that will have lasting national effectiveness? How about if they use their energies and talents to get Christians to take politics seriously? There are probably thousands of churches that preach against Christian involvement in politics for a variety of supposed good reasons. All types of excuses are used. Politics is dirty. There’s a separation between church and state. Jesus didn’t get mixed up in politics. We’re not supposed to judge. We can’t impose our morality on other people. Jesus is coming soon, so why bother.

Ben and Jerry’s new ice cream flavor isn’t the problem; it’s Christians who seem only to be able to play defense. They react to Google and PayPal for shutting out Christian groups that are against homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Where are the Christians who could have developed Google and PayPal? Where are the competitors to Ben and Jerry’s? Of course, I’m afraid what they might come up with: PrayPal, Peter & Paul’s Ice Cream, and Joogle. Too many Christians have created a ghetto version of Christianity. They believe that if they don’t push against the culture, no one would bother them. Boy, were they wrong.

Cal Thomas, before he was a regular commentator for FOX News Watch and a syndicated print columnist, was the vice president of the Moral Majority from 1980 to 1985. While Thomas is still a conservative Christian, he has for some time called on Christians to modify their interest in politics. His first contribution to evangelical disengagement from politics was a book he co-authored with Ed Dobson, who was also employed by the Moral Majority in the early 1980s, titled Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Change America?

The one thing I remember from Blinded by Might was the statement that after ten years of political activism by the Moral Majority, what does the church have to show for it? Thomas is asking the same question today: “Nearly 30 years after religious conservatives decided to re-enter the political arena — after abandoning it as ‘dirty’ and leading to compromise, what do they have to show for it?”1 They have a lot to show. Just think where we would be today if Christians had not entered the political arena in the late 1970s during the disastrous Carter years.

I wonder if Cal has thought about how long it took to get the United States into its moral and political mess. I bet it took more than 30 years. He writes that “the country remains sharply divided.” This is a good thing. It means we are holding off the forces of evil. With little or no Christian witness in the political realm, there is no telling what the world would look like today. This is not to say that evangelicals have always done the right thing politically. They haven’t. But at least they’ve done something. Much of the lack of sustained success is because Christians give up after a few victories or a few losses. Too many Christians think the war is over when a single battle is won. When hit with a loss, they throw in the towel because “Jesus is coming soon.” Secularists never quit.

Cal argues that “Christians must first understand that the issues that they most care about . . . are not caused by bad politics, but are matters of the heart and soul.” True enough. Let’s assume that 60 percent of the American population opposes abortion and homosexuality but disengages politically. We could sill have abortion on demand and homosexual marriage. Contrary to Cal’s assertions, Christians I know never saw politics as a way to “save America” or convert non-believers. The goal was to define the proper limits civil government. The goal has never been to save America by political means. That’s what liberalism is all about.

  1. Cal Thomas, “Stick to the Gospel,” Florida Today (May 7, 2007), 7A. []