Taking a week off certainly can cause news to back up on you, and that’s the case this week.
There are lots of great stories from the past couple of weeks, and it will be challenge to touch on all of the ones I found interesting, but I’ll do my best.
I want to lead with a blog post from Christianity Today that I saw late Saturday. Many of you have probably heard of the company TOMS Shoes, but if you haven’t yet you should look them up. The company basically donates one pair of shoes to the poor of the world for every pair that someone buys. It’s an incredibly practical, service-guided organization that is making a true impact around the globe.
The company’s founder, Blake Mycoskie, recently had to post an apology on his blog after a fairly significant firestorm erupted after Christianity Today wrote in a cover story that TOMS was working with Focus on the Family. The story quoted a Focus employee as saying that the organization was trying to become a TOMS distributor in Africa, and Mycoskie apparently also spoke at a Focus event.
Focus on the Family is certainly opinionated when it comes to social and political issues, but they do participate in aid programs. So it wasn’t really an unnatural partnership for TOMS Shoes and Mycoskie, especially since Mycoskie appears to be a Christian who attends Erwin McManus’ Mosaic church, according to Christianity Today.
But a major part of TOMS Shoes customers and supporters are social justice proponents and civil rights activists, and they had a big problem with the company partnering with Focus, an organization that opposes gay marriage, abortion, etc. After enough of an outcry, Mycoskie posted this on his blog:
Had I known the full extent of Focus on the Family’s beliefs, I would not have accepted the invitation to speak at their event. It was an oversight on my part and the company’s part and one we regret. In the last 18 months we have presented at over 70 different engagements and we do our best to make sure we choose our engagements wisely, on this one we chose poorly.
Furthermore, contrary to what has been reported, Focus on the Family is not a TOMS giving partner.
So there is no misunderstanding created by this mistake, let me clearly state that both TOMS, and I as the founder, are passionate believers in equal human and civil rights for all. That belief is a core value of the company and of which we are most proud.
Two things: 1) How could Mycoskie – again, who I’m assuming is a Christian – not know where Focus on the Family stands on social issues? And even if he really didn’t, wouldn’t he have researched them at least a little bit? It’s not hard to find out details about that group in particular, just Google them … 2) Why did Mycoskie apologize anyway?
To expand on the second question, his statement was clearly only a reaction to the criticism he endured. If there was no backlash there would be no apology, so I don’t put a lot of stock in his response. And, so what if Focus on the Family is against gay marriage and abortion? Does that have any bearing on helping poor children around the world receive shoes and other supplies they need?
Focus on the Family is an incredibly influential organization, and the new support TOMS Shoes would receive from being promoted through the Focus network would likely far outweigh any loss of support from critics unhappy about the partnership. If TOMS Shoes is only concerned about its mission of improving the lives of children, then working with Focus on the Family would only help that cause, not hurt.
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush have teamed up to raise millions of dollars over the years to help countries recover from disasters, including the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific and the earthquake in Haiti. Wouldn’t it have been a shame if they had decided to stop raising awareness and aid to help others because Bush, who thinks abortion should be illegal, was upset that Clinton vetoed a bill banning Partial-Birth Abortion?
They would never dissolve their alliance over an issue like that, because it’s non-essential to their mission. Mycoskie should look at his partnership with Focus on the Family in that light.
Personally, it doesn’t matter to me what groups TOMS Shoes decides to work with in its mission. I’m just disappointed that a few outspoken people pressured this guy into breaking off a partnership that could have greatly benefited those he is trying to help.
For those who are interested, this is the Christianity Today story about Focus on the Family where the TOMS Shoes connection was first mentioned. It’s pretty long and chronicles how the organization is positioning to move forward post-James Dobson.
And ironically, as I was writing this post, CT posted the response from Focus on the Family to Mycoskie’s statement.
- The Gospel Coalition put together a pretty insightful series of opinions about church buildings, asking why are they important, how much should be spent on them, etc. Here’s the intro post to the series, with links to the other posts at the end.
- Continuing the idea of social justice that I briefly mentioned above, Relevant Magazine had a recent story trying to settle the tension between evangelism and social justice.
- Christianity Today, as part of its string of interesting stories and posts the past two weeks, chronicles the recent homosexuality debates, including the law that recognized same-sex marriage in New York.
- C.J. Mahaney, one of the most influential pastors and ministry leaders in the country, is taking a leave of absence. According to his own blog, he is taking the leave because of accusations of pride and poor leadership – among other things – that former pastors of Sovereign Grace Ministries (his organization) have levied against him.
Mycoskie was wrong to partner with a hate group like Focus on the Family. He’d lose a ton of support from the young, socially-conscious segment that makes up his market. He made the right moral and business decision. You don’t want to be known as a guy who plays footsie with bigots.