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?”