Fifty Shades of Chick-Fil-A

I thought I had said all I wanted to say about gay marriage, being gay, and what Christians should do about it. I was happily going about researching other topics for you dear reader to think about. Then Dan Cathy, COO of Chick-Fil-A, answered a direct question in an interview and suddenly here we are. I’ve held off a few weeks for the feathers to settle. To give the media time to settle on a narrative and for the pundits to “pund”. By now, you’ve probably hear all you want to hear about CFA and gay marriage. However,  it is important for me to come back to this subject because of its relevance to what I said about gay marriage in previous posts:

My prediction is that gay marriage is an inevitability. I predict that same-sex couples will not settle for tolerance and being left alone with their right to marry. Instead many will demand non-discrimination from religious organizations . . . Christians who are tolerant of same-sex couples but who don’t want to be complicit in same-sex events as vendors, photographers etc. will claim freedom of religion and they will be ridiculed, persecuted, and hated for it. Christians who simply assert that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christianity for the same reason pork chops are incompatible with Judaism or a glass of wine is incompatible with Islam will be called bigots and worse.

Cue Dan Cathy. In an interview on the Ken Coleman show, Cathy made the following statement:

“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,'” Cathy said. “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

Now I have to admit that I find the “Pin the tail on the judgment of God” game to be less than palatable. I have only played it once when I said that the reason the Bible belt doesn’t experience true revival despite the number of revivals that are scheduled every summer is because of the sin of racism. However, I’m humble enough to admit that there may be genuine revival despite racism and that God may not “judge” the Bible belt in any way that I would recognize. So I think Cathy’s claim is a poor choice of words. Furthermore, the charge of audacity and “shaking our fist at God” while poetic and prophet-like, seems ill advised mainly because it implies that those seeking gay marriage are actively seeking to oppose God. I may not agree with them. I may think those supporting gay marriage are misguided but they fall into two camps mainly 1) those who for all practical purposes don’t acknowledge God at all 2) those who genuinely believe that they are doing the godly thing by supporting gay marriage. In other words they are either moral strangers or hermeneutic strangers . Let’s concentrate on the Moral strangers. To those who do not share the assumptions about the authority of Christian Scripture, how do Cathy’s statements sound? I imagine they sound arrogant and audacious. Why gay marriage and not that half of marriages end in divorce or because Fifty Shades of Grey is #1 on the best seller list. The fact that housewives are all aflutter about a man with Grey eyes and a penchant for domination. Grey’s only moral taboo is consent. He wants his victim to sign a contract. Perhaps the judgment is the slow disintegration of any moral boundaries. After all, as Douglas Wilson argues in the Huffington post,

The first concern is that if you create a world defined by the excitement of breaking taboos, then how is an insistence upon “mutual agreement” anything but the creation of the final taboo? And if there is no standard outside the mutually-expressed desire to play this game of destroy-the-woman, then there is no standard that will condemn somebody who decides to start playing this game for reals. It is dangerous to play rape in a world with real rape. In short, don’t start what you can’t finish.

In Romans 1 the judgment of God for sexual sin and idolatry is not necessarily something a secular world would recognize as judgment:

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice;

Instead of targeting same-sex marriage as the quintessential sin du jour, could we not say that same-sex marriage is merely one logical progression for a society that has pushed free from its proper sexual moorings in favor of the heady waters of pleasure and consent? However, none of this societal disintegration is seen as such by these moral strangers. This is because, those sexual moorings are theological ones full of theological presuppositions that completely reasonable but none-the-less inseparable from the Gospel.

But let’s be fair I may not like Cathy’s style of proclamation because of how it comes across to those who don’t share Christian assumptions about God, but Dan Cathy wasn’t addressing a bunch of moral strangers; he was addressing moral friends. He was not talking to moral strangers when asked to confirm Chick-Fil-A’s support on traditional marriage, Cathy told the Biblical Record, “Guilty as Charged.” However if there is one lesson we should take from the Chick-Fil-A controversy is that moral strangers are listening and they blog.

I’m fairly confident that Cathy’s statements would have remained nothing more than a passionate statement among moral and theological friends and looked on by moral strangers as nothing more than a narrow-minded diatribe by an evangelical neanderthal. But then LGBT group, Equality Matters reported on CFA’s donations to organizations such as Family Research Council who made the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups because of statements by Peter Sprigg about making homosexual behavior illegal and exporting gays.

Let’s face it when you want to export gay people rather than loving them with the truth, you have officially jumped off the gospel train in favor of a misguided attempt to preserve a culture.

So Chick-Fil-A gave donations to pro-traditional marriage groups that in turn gave money to organizations that employed some people who made some stupid statements on television. Since there were less than seven degrees of separation between donor and non-profit combined the Mayor of Boston and Chicago made some blatantly unethical and unconstitutional edicts that CFA would not be allowed to have a business permit in their cities. Thankfully, some of the moral strangers spoke up and condemned both mayors for their statements. Then the protests started. The powers that be in the gay rights movement declared Chick-Fil-A persona non grata instead of reasoning with CFA about their donation choices. While the gay community is perfectly within its rights to protest and vote with their feet, it really seems to be a Pyrrhic victory. The politicians have backed tracked on their threats and most of the moral strangers are embracing tolerance instead of fascism. It is unclear whether the boycott of CFA will have any effect since the delicious chicken and lemonade tends to reside safely below the Mason-Dixon line where culinary tastes usually trump ideological fervor.   The cultural backlash in the form of Chick-Fil-A appreciation day and long lines at franchises threaten to drown out the storm of opposition.

However, the storm left some scary aftermath. Like mushrooms after a bad rain, some nasty surprises came from this controversy. The statements by public officials are the most brazen disregard for free exercise of religion and freedom of expression I’ve ever seen. And one commentator actually thinks that this kind of censorship by permit is perfectly reasonable since corporations aren’t people and don’t have the right to free speech. As Glenn Greenwald points out, we really really don’t want politicians to have the power to bar businesses because of their ideological stance. Greenwald asks us to imagine how the  sword of fascism could cut both ways:

The IRS enacts an internal policy — and then implements it — which provides: any advocacy group incorporated under the laws of any of the United States (including Planned Parenthood or Americans United for Separation of Church and State) which express views hostile to Christians shall be automatically audited and subject to fines.

Texas Governor Rick Perry issues an Executive Order that proclaims (and the Legislature then ratifies): In light of the recent $2.5 million donation by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to enact same-sex marriage, Amazon is hereby barred from doing business in the state of Texas.

But beyond the frightening liberty issues, there is the concern over how to address things we don’t like. One gay man, Antoine Dodson laments that having been bullied for so long, members of the gay community are now bullying others. Though one notes that the whole idea of an economic boycott coupled with protests at various franchise locations is a strategy that the gay community could have easily have picked up from the Evangelical community.   The problem with ridiculing the employees of your local Chick-Fil-A is that they aren’t Dan Cathy or the corporate heads of Chick-Fil-A or Winshape. They are people trying to make a living. as this video shows.

Ultimately, Christians have a very real choice to make in how they handle this challenge to our values. We can continue the cycle of abused and abuser. After all, from Disney to K-Mart the strategy of boycott and franchise protest is a time honored one for Evangelicals. Or to paraphrase Paul, is there a more excellent way? I ask you, dear reader, what is the way of love in the midst of ideological animosity? What is the 21st century version of Peter’s admonition in 1 Peter 2:21: “And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”  Personally, I think the most graceful thing CFA could do is serve free skinny lemonade to the protesters. After all,  it gets hot out there on the picket line.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *