Looking at All Sides of the Chick-Fil-A Issue

Looking at All Sides of the Chick-Fil-A Issue

The culture war was fanned to a brighter flame this week as the LGBT community reacted strongly to comments made by Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy. Defending traditional marriage, he said,

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.”

Cathy’s comments, as well as his chain’s financial support of anti-gay organizations, provoked a boycott. The Muppets now refuse to provide toys to Chick-Fil-A for kid’s meals. The mayors of Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston and San Francisco have issued sharply worded retorts.

In response to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, the Christian right responded in kind by promoting ‘Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day’ on August 1st. The chain was flooded by fired-up conservatives around the country and broke records for sales.

A healthy debate is happening among Christians on how the followers of Jesus should respond to the Chick-Fil-A issue. The complexity of the matter was exposed as I struggled to explain the headlines to my children.

The key question in my estimation is this: What issue are we debating?

1. Are we debating freedom of speech and religion?

Many conservatives joined the crowds at Chick-Fil-A to defend Cathy’s right to freely express his religious opinions. They were repulsed by the idea that a government official would threaten to restrict commerce based on an executive’s opinion.

On the other side, pro-gay activists boycotting Chick-Fil-A are repulsed at the idea of giving their dollars to a business that they believe supports hate and the continued repression of civil rights for gay people.

I do not criticize any citizen fighting for the preservation of free speech. Being an American means possessing the freedom to support or boycott any business that does not promote one’s particular values.

2. Are we debating the preservation of Christian values in America?

Many others on the Christian right came out to make a powerful statement. To them, Chick-Fil-A represents the values that have long marked America, specifically the values of traditional marriage and family. ‘Appreciation Day’, with its massive lines and record-setting sales, was a pat on the back in support of the chain’s defense of traditional values.

It would be unfair to caricature those who participated in the day as an angry, rowdy mob. To my knowledge, people waited in lines in a patient and friendly way.

I always speculate though if anyone is ever won over to traditional or progressive values through ‘Appreciation Days’ or boycotts. Further, as a Christian, I am not convinced that cultural muscle-flexing is a reflection of the spirit of Philippians 4:5 that commands me to “let my gentleness be evident to all.” I cast no judgment on those who disagree with me.

I chose not to participate in ‘Appreciation Day’ because it was clear to me that the issue at the center of the Chick-Fil-A debate is not that clear. Civil discourse is next-to-impossible when the issue is not clearly identified. I just couldn’t make heads or tails if we were talking about free speech or preserving a Christian America.

As it stands, everyone is talking past each other. Civility is quickly become a lost ideal. One response elicits a boycott from the other side, tit-for-tat, like a child’s game.

Our collective ability to discourse over hot topics is barely intact. Listening, processing foreign ideas and even evaluating long-held presuppositions are not skills we are fostering.

I fear we are losing those necessary habits that enable us to be good neighbors. And with that loss comes the inability to understand each other or welcome people who are different from us. I don’t think that is the kind of America most of us envision.

We are a people that take pride in being a nation of immigrants from diverse cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. We tolerate each other and strive together to build a better society for all people. Yes we have had our seasons of inconsistency and injustice, but historically Americans have done a fair job of struggling through the messy work of being neighbors. We used to call it hospitality and many of us are longing for a return to it.

Our little ones are growing up in a world that is increasingly fractured. There are lots of values, many biblical and others common sense, that I hope to pass to my children. I believe I will have done the world a disservice though if I don’t teach them civility, the ability to discourse, and neighborly hospitality.

So let us clearly define the issues we are debating. Misinterpretation of intention is always a possibility and does not have to stymie discourse.

If the issue is free speech then I’m all for eating a delicious chicken sandwich, waffle fries and 32 ounces of sweet tea. I may even grab a spoon and dip into a tub of Ben n’ Jerry’s Phish Food or down a cup of Starbucks coffee. I’ll stand in line with both liberals and conservatives to show my support for free speech.

But, if the issue is preserving Christian values through a statement of power by conservative consumers, then I will choose to exercise my freedom to not participate. I’d rather have a values conversation over dinner or a drink and not in a fast-food line.

I am a citizen of another kingdom: a loving, gentle and yes, powerful kingdom; one that welcomes and loves outcasts, rebels and those who were once the enemies of God. The all-powerful King Jesus allowed himself to be crucified by ‘powerful’ rulers. He laid aside his power, becoming weak to the point of death so that the war between God and man might be ended and a new reconciled kingdom inaugurated: the Kingdom of God.

I believe the way we best witness to this kingdom is through love, not acts of power. Paul told the church in Galatia that the only thing that counts now is faith expressing itself in love.

I would rather stay at home than run the risk that one of my gay neighbors or liberal city friends would accuse me of not being gentle, of being a cultural warrior, of being unloving. I fear they might misunderstand the statement and question the love I claim to have for them. The potential for hospitality and civil discourse would be over and that to me is not worth the risk.



4 Replies to “Looking at All Sides of the Chick-Fil-A Issue”

  1. Very powerful statement… “if the issue is preserving Christian values through a collective act of power by Christian consumers, then I will choose to exercise my freedom to not participate in Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day or anything like it.” The consumer-oriented approach to this may be what bothers me the most. We have become a people than define everything about ourselves in terms of what we will and will not consume.

  2. Aaron, as a believer, I disagree with you on a few pts, but I highly respect your heart in this matter, and your desire to be salt & light as a winsome witness.  Kudos brother. 


  3. The devil is a great deciever. He will use worldly events just to get a persons focus everywhere that he can, just to draw our focus from JESUS, just read your BIBLE, and see how he did it to the Apostle Peter when he caused him to take his eyes off of what really counted. The great deciever even used a man that GOD loves, (J.Sandusky) to pull a lot of our focus off of THE NEW BIRTH.
    Lets stop being wayward Christians, and start accepting the truth that GOD is not pleased with men sleeping with other men as if they were woman, and vice versa. You can have all the love in the world for another person but if you continue to tell them that GOD loves them(which) HE do, but fail to let them know that THEY MUST BE BORN AGAIN-John 3:

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