Remember the good old days when you could eat a sleeve of Oreos or twelve chicken sandwiches and were simply called an unruly slob without the fear of being labeled a zealot, bigot, or extremist?

This one may get me into a bit of trouble.

I must first admit that I am (like many of you) growing increasingly enervated by the constant and excessive politicization of nearly everything around us – including the blogosphere. This, however, is not new nor is it news. Some might argue that it is inevitable.

Despite the weariness I feel, I cannot seem to help but weigh in on the Chick-Fil-A controversy just a little.  The truth is, there is already a veritable smorgasbord of well written and highly researched blogs and articles written regarding the details of this scandal (from both perspectives) so I won’t spend much time elaborating on the specific elements here. It is my desire, however, to present what I hope is a balanced, truthful, and loving perspective.

When I awoke this morning it wasn’t long before my newsfeed was flooded with posts and images surrounding the Huckabee inspired “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.” For a while it literally seemed as though every third post had something to do with the controversy surrounding today’s events – filled with passionate supporters and opponents.

Chick-Fil-A seems to be on everyone’s minds today. – and with good reason.

Bloggers everwhere are driving their philosophical stake in the ground regarding gay rights, freedom of speech, and corporate personhood – but I cannot help but wonder if each of those arguments is missing the bigger, more important issues just beneath the surface.

A lot of people disagree with Dan Cathy. A lot of people disagree with the mayors who decided to ban Chick-FIl-A from their cities. A lot of people disagree with Mike Huckabee. A lot of people disagree with the hundreds of thousands of people who flooded CFA’s doorstep sometime today. And one of the beauties of having the liberties we do – is that we are absolutely free to grab on to those disagreements and white-knuckle it until we die. The freedom to take a position is a beautiful and necessary one.

But just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

As the number of pictures posted by my Christians friends rose throughout the day, I was repeatedly struck with the same question:

“Is this about winning a culture war or is it about Jesus?”

Let me be very clear about something. A number of my dearest friends and family members are gay and disagree with me on a number of these matters. But I also love them deeply and have been so blessed to learn from their wisdom and experience. After seeing dozens upon dozens of friends posting pictures of Chick-Fil-A on Facebook today, though, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the most productive way of engaging an extremely important discussion. In a lot of cases, it felt more like political positioning than Kingdom ethics. Most of what I saw were different “sides” shouting past one another instead of engaging in a balanced, loving discussion. This scandal has exposed our inability to dialogue.

This isn’t meant as a criticism toward anyone who participated – merely a dialogue.

In the wake of the Aurora shootings, Colorado fires, Penn State abuse, Syrian massacres, Middle East chaos, and the Olympics, Christians have enormous opportunity to partner with God in bringing about restoration and reconciliation to these difficult places. Such opportunity, in fact, that it honestly makes it hard for me to sleep sometimes.

Now, I don’t want to downplay the backlash that Chick-Fil-A has sustained either. It has most certainly been vicious and my heart goes out to the families and employees that have been victimized as well. From being banned in cities to accusations of peddling “hate chicken” by the mayor of Washington, D.C. – both sides of this debacle most certainly have blood on their hands. And truthfully, Jesus does tell us quite bluntly that the world will hate those who take a stand for Him, even if that stance is executed less than perfectly – it’s simply inevitable. In an age of growing moral relativism, I do have to applaud the leadership of Chick-Fil-A for standing their ground even when backed into a corner.

Which raises all sorts of questions about is truly homophobic or discriminatory. What constitutes a hate-crime and who defines such terms. And even asks if we as Christians have perhaps confused “rightness” with “holiness.”

But I am interested in a larger discussion.

We vote with our wallets and for many the vote has been cast.

I would assert that the real issue is not homosexuality, gay rights, family values, or first amendment rights. The real issue for many of us – is us. We have long struggled to put flesh and blood on the words of Christ toward anyone who thinks, acts, or worships differently than we do. As one writer put it,

“Too often, we demand conformity prior to connection. When we approach one another as brothers and sisters—image bearers of the God we claim to serve—and celebrate what we have in common, we better position ourselves to helpful dialogue in the midst of disagreement. 

We carry divine potential for healing and restoration. We have an opportunity and responsibility to allow our words and actions to surge with the power and energy of a life of love.”

We even do this with fellow Christians who disagree with us on matters of heaven and hell, baptism, or divorce. For many of us this is a knee-jerk reaction, almost muscle-memory that we enact on anyone we see as the “other.”

So what is the response? I assert that, as Christ-followers we have got to move beyond boycotts, political positioning, and social media hype. As difficult as it is, we’re called to love those who ostracize us – not shun back. Jesus is for all kinds of people – all kinds of sinners; from the CEO of an explicitly Christian organization to the sex offender down the block. His forgiveness is not limited simply to those who look, act, write, or think as we do – as hard a pill as that may be to swallow. It is our responsibility to scrutinize and discern, yes – but not at the expense of a deep and abiding love for the other.

Whether it is homophobia or Christophobia – the need for a better conversation is crucial.

We have to realize that our friends and family are not going to consider the claims of the gospel simply because we chose to eat some waffle fries in support of traditional family values.

The truth is – some of the information surrounding this scandal is misleading. Some of it is downright untrue – even malicious.  On both sides.

For me, this is the question. “What would it look like for us to begin reaching out and loving the other, instead of slinging the same anger we accuse them of?” Or better yet, “What if we moved the dialogue from the computer screen to the coffee shop – looking each other in the eyes and learning to love both in grace and truth?”

12 Responses to “Chick-Fil-A”
  1. bethany says:

    Good thoughts, Ian. And under 1,000 words! Thanks for always seeking the heart of the issue, and sharing that with us.

  2. nicole says:

    Thank you for your post here. Well thought out and insightful, but a bit naive in some respects. Here’s why I believe so…Christ talked with people, as you say we should- everywhere. By the sea, by the fire, in homes, under the sky. He cared. He shared the Truth. He listened…He was put to death…why? Because sin does not always want to talk…it wants to fight. Many, many, many of us have tried to dialogue. The interest often isnt there. For those who denied Jesus, it wasnt there either. Yes, Christians can be pretty poor at connecting, building relationship. We can pounce…but lets not underestimate what we’re dealing with to think we can just all sit down in the local coffee shop and play nicey nice. Jesus said He was sending us out as sheep among wolves. We need to be wise as serpents, innocent as doves. Standing in line at Chick Fil A was a show of solidarity…a long over due one.

    • I argue one thing, and that is that a show of solidarity is not always a good thing. A group of people who feel hated by Christians will regard the show of solidarity as an affront. All they will see is that we are united in hating them. Our intentions count for very little in communication if the message is not received clearly. If the message of Christ is love, we need to make sure that message is clearly received above all other messages we may want to communicate. And as the author of Proverbs reminds us, a soft tongue is often better than a scream.

      • colette simkins says:

        i thought the show of solidarity was to the owners and patrons of chick fil a that there are great numbers that too support traditional marriage,not an intentional affront to gays,which took an intentional affront against the chick fil a ownwers and patrons.

      • ReverendRebecca says:

        I agree Reverend Beast that the show of “solidarity” was most certainly not a loving response for those gay and lesbian persons caught in the middle! Those who aimed to “defend the rights of Cathy” and those who were “defending the rights of our lesbian and gay children” seem to forget that they were using actual flesh and blood children to make their point! Whether from the right or left, the show of solidarity was misplaced and it only served to diminish and confirm the hatred of some of God’s children by a large number of people who claim to follow Jesus. In stead of showing support or love, it reminds me of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees who used a man with a withered hand to trap him into healing on the Sabbath. The Pharisee’s cared little about the man, they just used him so they could condemn Jesus! Jesus saw through their scheme and called them out on it. Regrettably the only “choice” for many children who are lesbian or gay when Pharisee’s so publicly condemn them for who they are, is suicide–which of course would be considered a “sin” too by Chick-Fila supporters! May God have mercy! Christ have mercy!

    • Jeremiah K Garrett says:

      It wasn’t the sinners fighting Jesus or putting him to death. It was the pious elite–we the Church.

  3. I’d love to meet you in the coffee shop of your choice anytime you wish to chat. I find you intelligent and insightful. Even if I don’t agree with everything you say, and have even found some of my “opinions” graciously shifted just by listening to you and gaining a greater understanding of the subject.

  4. I agree with you on all accounts. we need more love/grace/conversation and less polarizing politics, as naive as it may sound – it’s the truth.

  5. Christian says:

    I think that was very well thought out! One of the better responses I’ve read. I participated in the Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, and I have to say: it was surprising to see how loving the crowd was at the one I went to. I had a number of short discussions with people, and I don’t think I went into discussion about homosexuality once. It wasn’t an angry or hateful crowd at all- I, for one, can say that I certainly feel no hate toward gay people, and it seemed like no one else really did either. But we do have to stand firm on our beliefs and rights when trampled upon. I won’t repeat anything, because I think Nicole expressed the same kind of thoughts I had when reading your article – and she put it really well 🙂 …a show of solidarity… I like it 🙂

  6. Derek says:

    I’m a little concerned with this statement: “In an age of growing moral relativism, I do have to applaud the leadership of Chick-Fil-A for standing their ground even when backed into a corner.”

    Sometimes people are backed into a corner because they are actually wrong. They fortify their position so hard that even in the face of logic, evidence, or new discoveries, they are too far fortified in their position to consider changing. After investing so heavily into their argument, they are too proud to consider that they might be wrong.

    Its like you said about having a dialogue. A dialogue is great if both sides are interested in learning from the other and if both sides are willing to consider they might be wrong. If not, they are just going to be shouting over each other.

    While I don’t advocate complete moral relativism, I also can’t say someone deserves praise just for holding to a position in the face of massive opposition, if that position is wrong or immoral. A degree of flexibility must exist if people are to learn from each other and if we are to learn truth from others that we had not previously known or believed.

    Moral relativism isn’t great, but keeping an open mind and realizing your understanding might not be 100% correct in every instance, that IS great. Like you said, we would be better off having a dialogue. I just think that dialogue requires all parties to respect each other enough to at least consider the validity of opposing views. You don’t go in with the purpose of changing someone’s mind. You go in with the purpose of learning from others and sharing WITH them. Not AT them.

  7. Jeremiah K Garrett says:

    Although I wholeheartedly agree with the post, I must point out that not only are we called to love those who ostracize us; we are also called to take care of the needs of those who are ostrasized. Right now, I’d venture to say the Church ostrasizes the LGBT community more than any other. Jesus didn’t tell us to point out or discuss sin with the ostrasized, only to take care of them. If we go (as one blogger suggested) and say “Jesus loves you and so do I” at the kiss-in day, I think we’re being equivalent to the pious man praying out loud in the temple thanking God that he was unlike the repentant sinner next to him. We can quote Biblical values of heterosexual relationships to support our positions, or we could go out and feed the sheep. I really find it difficult to see people who do both.

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