A few final thoughts on the Chick-fil-A fracas

6 August 2012 — 6 Comments

I promise this will by my last Chick-fil-A-inspired post. Just a few clarifying thoughts because, well, there’s more to this issue than what can be covered in a single post.

1. Most who participated in Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day are not hateful or bigoted. That said, I still believe we should consider not just our intentions but how our actions are perceived by others. We may not have intended a certain action to be mean-spirited, but if someone tells us, “That didn’t feel a lot like love to me,” we owe it to them (and ourselves) to at least ask ourselves if there was anything we could have done differently.

Still, it’s true that many who participated in Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day weren’t that bothered about gay rights one way or the other; what got them fired up was a perceived assault on liberty.

To that end…

2. Dan Cathy has the same freedom of speech that you and I do. The mayors of Boston and Chicago would do well to remember this, as would anyone who wants to punish Cathy (or his company) for exercising his constitutional right to express his convictions. Remember, tolerance and free speech are two-way streets.

But let’s not get too carried away here. A few careless mayors threatening to make questionable use of zoning laws to keep Chick-fil-A out of their cities hardly constitutes a full-throttle assault on the first amendment. And in fact, liberal supporters of gay marriage such as the ACLU were among those who stood up to the mayors of Boston and Chicago.

3. There’s still the whole matter of “fighting for our rights.” I believe that when you become a Christian, you give up the right to fight for your rights. You take up a cross. You turn the other cheek. You bless those who curse — even Rahm Emanuel. (And he curses a LOT.)

And yes, to those hurt or offended by his comments… even Dan Cathy.

4. Let’s choose constructive dialogue over any of the alternatives. Not all who turned out in support of Chick-fil-A last week intended to make a statement against gays and lesbians, but given the larger backdrop of this never-ending culture war, it was bound to be taken this way.

What if, instead, churches organized a day to reaffirm our love for members of the gay community? To maybe call your lesbian daughter or your gay uncle and tell them you love them, or to share a meal with them and just listen to their story?

There will be plenty of opportunity to wrestle through the larger theological and political questions at stake. But maybe today we could start laying a foundation for a healthier dialogue. Maybe both sides could start building trust and mutual respect.

In an earlier post, I said many Christians hide behind the cliché “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I think that’s true. But I also think there are a great many who know that’s not the way, but they’re not sure where to go from there. We should engage them in respectful dialogue so we can find a way forward together.

5. Regardless of our individual motives or actions, we have to own this. You may have never spoken a hateful word to a gay person in your life. (If so, I hope others will learn from your example.) But I guarantee you somebody has, and it’s somebody claiming to speak for the church. Which means, like it or not, we all own this problem.

The church is not just a collection of individuals; it is a body. We speak and act as a body. When one part of the body says or does something harmful, we all have to take responsibility for the mess.

6. Most gays aren’t out to curse God or destroy marriage. Whether or not gay marriage is wrong, it wasn’t fair of Dan Cathy to depict an entire generation as “shaking their fists at God.” Most gays and lesbians fighting for same-sex marriage just want to get married and live a quiet life. Whether they’re right or wrong to want that, their intention is not to defy God. It’s not to destroy marriage for everyone else. It’s just not. So let’s take our favorite bogeymen out of this very important conversation.

Of course, the flip side is…

7. Most opponents of same-sex marriage aren’t out to oppress gays. They’re just not. They believe that marriage as we know it is embedded in the very fabric of society and in the Bible as well. They believe we are tampering with something established by God himself.

This debate is more complex than “those who hate gays” vs. “those who don’t.” Many who oppose same-sex marriage on moral or religious grounds are quite happy to support other civil rights for gay and lesbian couples, including some benefits that aren’t presently available to them because they’re not able to get married.

We can (and should) debate the best way forward without painting one side as a bunch of godless reprobates or the other as a bunch of haters. Finally…

8. “Love your neighbor” cuts both ways. We need to do a better job loving our gay and lesbian neighbors; there’s no question about it. But let’s make sure we don’t needlessly hurt someone else in the process. That’s why I’m uncomfortable with calls to boycott Chick-fil-A. The only person that’s going to hurt is the fry cook working a minimum-wage job.

In the end, this isn’t a choice between lining up to support Chick-fil-A or boycotting them. This isn’t about being “pro-marriage” or “pro-gay.” The question facing those of us who seek to follow Christ is this:

What path can we walk that demonstrates love for ALL our neighbors?

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6 responses to A few final thoughts on the Chick-fil-A fracas

  1. 

    At first I thought “oh no, not more about the Chick-Fil-A controversy!” – But your post is really well written, and makes some exceptional points now that the dust has settled a bit. I especially like this statement: ” I still believe we should consider not just our intentions but how our actions are perceived by others.”

  2. 

    Ben, it probably isn’t the best idea to bring Chick-Fil-A to a gay person… seriously, think about that one first. Depending on their opinion of the whole thing,it could be like rubbing salt in the wound. Would you bring a steak sandwich to the teen niece that has decided to go vegetarian?

    Your intent may be good, but what they’d hear is “I’d like us to get along, so I’ve brought you food from an establishment that contributes to anti-gay causes…”. It would be a mixed message, at best.

    I appreciate what you’ve said, but if it had just been Mr Cathy’s opinion, I’d have no problem eating there again. Since I don’t want my money working against me in anti-gay causes, I won’t. If others want to, that’s fine … just don’t ask me to join you there for lunch ok? :)

    • 

      Hi Cat. Sorry…I meant that comment to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. I wouldn’t really think of asking a gay friend to accompany me somewhere they weren’t comfortable… or encouraging others to do so. I’ve deleted that bit to avoid further misunderstanding.

      And I appreciate your point that, for many, this is about more than one man’s personal views. I’ve heard the argument that Chick-fil-A as a corporation is not anti-gay, in that they don’t discriminate against gay employees or customers. And that may be true (though when only a few states have any laws prohibiting such discrimination, one could argue the bar is set pretty low). But like you said… they do fund organizations that oppose to what they might refer to as the “gay agenda.” While it’s Mr. Cathy’s prerogative to fund the causes and organizations he believes in, we can choose, by eating somewhere else, not to support those causes with our money.

      We could, in fact, kill two birds with one stone (sorry, yet another bad pun) by choosing instead to eat somewhere that serves humanely raised meat! :)

      • 

        LOL that’s ok, Ben… I did hope you were joking, but I’ve been wrong about that before, with others. I’ve tried joking myself … once said there was no “gay agenda”,other than taking over the world and someone thought I was serious! There really is no gay agenda… just a desire to be treated the same as everyone else & have the same rights. They don’t give us a handbook when we come out, either … and we don’t go to monthly agenda meetings, nor are we required to go to gay or lesbian bars and march in parades … lol … most of us blend in pretty well.we’re in churches,, too.

        Take care!

      • 

        But don’t you know? The jig is up! LZ Granderson already spilled the beans on the gay agenda. He even showed us the handbook! :)
        http://www.ted.com/talks/lz_granderson_the_myth_of_the_gay_agenda.html

      • 

        Oh my! That darn LZ let the cat out of the bag! Lol…. very good, loved it! Btw, I live in one of those clear States. I own my own house & my job is secure, but one lesbian I know was scared to death her conservative landlord would figure things out and evict her. A lot of us are very closeted at work for the same reason.

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