Wal-Mart has been the favorite target of the left for some years. Most of the time the fire has been rooted in criticism for how it treats it workers. Now the retail giant is under fire for the right for its corporate response to homosexuals. The protest comes from the American Family Association, which asks its supporters to boycott Wal-Mart stores during one of the busiest shopping weekends of the entire year, this Friday-Saturday. A second group, Operation Save America, plans prayer-and-preaching rallies outside Wal-Mart stores.

What triggered this response? Wal-Mart paid $25,000 this summer to become a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and donated $60,000 to Out and Equal, which promotes gay-rights in the workplace. Some conservative Christian groups see these actions as a betrayal of the family-friendly stance of Wal-Mart. One minister accused homosexual groups of “extorting” stores with their radical agenda. Maybe, and maybe not, is my response. My guess is that there is much more to this than people on either side understand.

Wal-Mart’s spokesman said the company’s outreach to the gay-rights groups was part of a broader effort to serve its diverse customer base. The spokesman said, “We do not have a position on same-sex marriage. . . . What we do have is a strong commitment to diversity. We’re against discrimination everywhere.” The president of the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce says conservative activists misunderstand the group’s real goals.

I have one question for serious missional Christians: “What on earth does this kind of boycott have to do with our advancing the kingdom of Jesus in this world?”

Must we always politicize the good news into a partisan and public protest against this and that group? Don’t misunderstand me. I oppose same-sex marriage on entirely different grounds, grounds that in the public arena can be articulated without reference to the gospel. But this issue is not really about same-sex marriage at all.

I wonder how multitudes of shoppers will feel about the Christian faith when they encounter these protesters, intercessors and preachers outside Wal-Mart this weekend? Somehow I can’t believe that this effort will incline one person to consider seriously the grace of God revealed in the incarnate Christ. The last I checked this was our corporate calling in this world, to deliver the good news to sinful people, not the bad news of negative political protest over policies that we find personally objectionable.

Engaging public policy issues is important for Christians, as I have argued for some years now. But this is not really about engaging public policy issues. It seems to me that it is more about losing a culture battle and not liking it. And it also seems to be about a form of intimidation and reaction that only harms our collective witness, which gives me another reason to want to tell my neighbors: “I am not that kind of Christian.” This all makes me want to explore how to become a “new kind of Christian.” Lord knows we are going to need such Christians more and more given the old kind of Christian and the witness they have given to the world.