I am told that many major companies in North America do it. One dictionary says that it means to take a conspicuous, noticeable, eye-catching, essentially useless action to support what is deemed a worthy cause. But instead of doing something about a cause, one does it to show how moral they are.
Here’s an example that I have borrowed: George has a Facebook account in which he profiles his support for refugees. But in fact, George has donated neither time nor money. He is not volunteering at a refugee camp, nor is he making his home available to house refugees. He is simply virtue signalling.
I mention this because I recently noticed that all the Starbucks’ in my town have put up a gay pride flag. I am told, and you can correct me if I am wrong, that this is done for one month. When the next month rolls around, it is removed, and things go on as normal. This is virtue signalling.
But what virtue is Starbucks actually signalling? If they are simply saying that they employ and serve all people regardless of their sexual politics, I couldn’t disagree. What thoughtful Christian would not want a society where people are offered employment and respect apart from their sexual moral choices? But that’s hardly a virtue, since to act this way is mandated by law. It is hardly a virtue when we only do that which is not only required but punished when violated.
And so, we need to ask, “What supposed virtue is Starbucks signalling?” It can’t be a message of inclusiveness. If that were the case, we would expect them to, on occasion, display a pro-life symbol or a cross. I will not hold my breath for this.
Again, what supposed virtue are they signalling? You might disagree with me, but I think they are signalling their deeply held belief that the practice of homosexuality is to be lauded as a moral good. Of course, they are also lauding the belief in the moral rightness that gender is not assigned by God, but by personal factors.
How do I, as a Christian, respond to the sign on Starbucks’ windows? I respond in two ways: 1st, I believe that in a free society, any business and organization is free to openly display their belief structures and moral values. As a Christian, I do not begrudge Starbucks’ right to lobby for the supposed virtues of homosexual belief and practice.
But I have a 2nd response. I am a follower of Jesus. Jesus frequently warned against sexual uncleanness (porneia in the Greek text). This means that all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is unclean. I want to signal my belief in the uniqueness and virtue of sexual fidelity as Jesus taught us. That is the virtue I wish to signal and to promote.
How then, should I respond to Starbucks? I have been a Starbucks customer for some time. At this juncture, I do not want to partner with them to promote homosexuality as a virtue. I have chosen to work and study in a different coffee shop.