My favorite fast food place growing up was the BK Lounge, as my mother would call it. My favorite order was the Bacon Double Cheeseburger with fries. There was a strategy in the order for me, and it had nothing to do with what came with the burger. Rather, it was because of what it did not come with, namely tomatoes, onions, and pickles.
My distaste for tomatoes is legendary, and led to my only scholastic reprimand in my life. While I still do not eat raw onions, I’ve learned to respect them, though I still think pickles are unnatural and an abomination! But that is another issue altogether.
Burger King has since marketed the fact that not only do they have a variety of options on their menu, you can customize anything to “have it your way.” It is great marketing, and one of the reasons that I always chose Burger King over other burger places. Chains like Chipotle, Subway, Starbucks and Peet’s are built on a model of customization.
From a business standpoint, this is a great thing! But for all of the reasons it is great for business, it is not for the rest of the world. The “have it your way” attitude is behind many of the struggles and cultural fights that we have going on in our society right now. This is not new. In the early church, there were a lot of ideas about “the right way to do church,” many of which placed power with an elite group, rather than with God.
Much of the New Testament, especially Paul’s letters, is set up as a tool for us to understand how to live in the discomfort of not always having it our way. We are often reminded that our way is not God’s way; that not only is God’s way not always comfortable, at times it can be quite bitter! But as Christians, we are called to set aside what we want for the betterment of society.
While the presidential election has been dominating the headlines¾and yes, at a certain level, that is important¾real problems are happening which are being overlooked, and no president is going to be able to address this on their own. We can look to South Dakota, and see how our dependence on oil and desire to fill our cars allows corporations to find profit in destroying the environment and causing irreparable harm to holy sites.
Our desire to have it our way is creating housing problems. We see people fight or delay the construction of low-income housing because they do not want it in “their backyard.” The lack of affordable housing is compounded by companies that don’t want to rent spaces for what people can pay.
Those are only two of the many issues that really start with our actions and desires to have it our way! While we pine for leadership to create a just world, we tie their hands when we do not accept the responsibility of not always getting our way. The truth is that this election will not solve any of our problems, from housing to the environment, Black Lives Matter to immigration, until we examine how we are living. The only way that we are going to make a difference is to start asking how our desire for comfort contributes to the problems in our world.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen