I would have loved nothing more than to let this Chick-Fil-A debacle blow over without adding my silly voice to the cacophony. I tried to ignore the endless stream of comments in my social media streams, to avoid the topic while hanging out with friends… But, here I am, laying out my perspective for approximately 3.5 people to read. (The fraction is for that guy who always quits reading halfway through.)
Today I was finally prompted to write because of one particular Facebook post from a quasi-family member (oh, the tangled web of the modern family) who I hardly know at all, but with whom I share a Christmas dinner once a year.
Right after posting a picture that shared her support of Chick-Fil-A, she said, in so many words: So tired of people commenting about Chick-Fil-A. It was pretty obvious before Mr. Cathy admitted anything anyway, considering that the restaurants are closed on Sundays.
While making assumptions about anything posted on the Internet almost always leads to errant conclusions, I’m going to risk it in this case. Using the magic of extrapolation and my knowledge of my extended/quasi-family’s faith systems (along with the fact that this person happens to be a Chick-Fil-A employee), I’m going to assume that the message she is conveying falls somewhat in line with this:
Why are people in an uproar about Chick-Fil-A funding groups that advocate against same-sex marriage and in support of reparative therapy? It’s always been a Christian company – of course they’re going to fund those things! Everyone knows that’s what Christians do.
This may or may not accurately reflect the perspective this girl was positing. Regardless, it is a sound byte that resonates with enough of the chatter out there right now that I feel confident in concluding a fair number of Christians feel this way. There appears to be a sense that “we mainstream Christians, who have always been clear about our feelings on this issue, are suddenly under attack for simply living out what we believe to be true. Chick-Fil-A is a company that shares our values, so we’re going to show our support in the middle of this outcry against it.”
Naturally, I have something to say in response to this way of thinking. And my response is…
You’re right. Mainstream evangelicals have never pussyfooted around the fact that they believe marriage is a religious sacrament, not a civil right, and that God restricts it to a lifelong union of one man and one woman. The seemingly sudden blow-up (which has actually been stewing for many months within the LGBT community before Mr. Cathy’s admission caused it to boil over into the mainstream) has, once again, painted Christians as bigoted, homophobic, hateful people when all you’re trying to do is live out your convictions. It would appear that the “gay agenda” to restrict Christian free speech and do harm (in this case, financial harm) to God-honoring believers is in full swing.
It’s not fair and it’s not right – the boycott has led to a lot of mud-slinging that casts all Christians as evil people.
Not what you were expecting me to say? I’ll admit, it wasn’t what I first wanted to write. It wasn’t even really what I expected to write when I sat down to start this post. As I’ve watched this particular battle in the culture war unfold, I’ve found myself – as I so often do – straddling both sides. As a Christian who believes that the way of Jesus is our best model for how to live a healthy, holy, happy life, I’m saddened by the raging of my LGBT comrades who have chosen to use the opportunity to make nasty statements about all of Christendom.
Likewise, as a gay man who believes that God loves me as I am, I am saddened by the raging of Christians who use terms and speech completely unbecoming of Jesus followers as they angrily react to the Chick-Fil-A boycott.
There has been plenty of sad, sinful behavior on both sides. That’s what a culture war does – it enables each “side” to demonize the other. And it’s wrong.
The plain and simple truth is that we are all perfectly capable of raising awareness about our concerns without becoming assholes in the process. It’s not the easy way, which is why we so rarely choose it, but it’s the best way. I have chosen not to give Chick-Fil-A any more of my own personal business because I know that at the end of the day, the dollar I spend there is being passed along to organizations that support reparative therapy for LGBT people. As someone who was in reparative therapy for several years, I know firsthand that it is an extremely damaging and dangerous approach to how the church has “dealt with” it’s LGBT members, and I won’t knowingly allow my money to fund such programs. I also feel responsible to make sure others are aware that by eating at Chick-Fil-A, they are funding programs that are harmful, especially to youth raised in the church who feel compelled to change an unchangeable sexual orientation.
However, if you choose to support Chick-Fil-A, I will not treat you like a bigoted, hateful homophobe. I will respect your decision and your right. I can’t say that I’m happy about it, and I think it reflects a very common deeper misunderstanding among Christians of what it is to be an LGBT person, but at the end of the day, you earned your dollar and are entitled to spend it as you wish without harassment.
There is one more thing that I feel bears consideration in all this. Looking back at the comment made by my quasi-family member above, there is nothing blatantly hateful or harmful in it. On closer inspection, though, it subtly underscores a pervasive problem among the Church. The assumption is made that the world should have already been aware of Chick-Fil-A’s stance toward gays because it already knew that Chick-Fil-A was a Christian company. Meaning, Christians have a strong reputation for the positions we take against homosexuality.
This is a truth few would dispute. In fact, my family member, who is a Christian, seems to acknowledge this herself: we’re known for opposing homosexuality, so why the surprise?
This is insidious, for 2 reasons:
- Not all Christians believe same-sex relationships are wrong. A majority might, but there are many of us – no less Christian than our brothers and sisters in mainstream circles – who see another way. Christianity is not “owned” by those who define marriage as one man, one woman.
- Regardless of how we interpret Scriptures and form our beliefs about gay marriage, there is a calling – both in Scripture and in our hearts – for Christians to be known by our love. When 91% of non-Christians respond with “anti-homosexual” when asked what word best describes Christianity, we have more than a PR problem. There is something wrong with our hearts.
My challenge in this and the countless other battles of the culture war (besides “Hey, let’s stop the culture war!”) is to exercise more love. And if that’s asking too much, maybe we can start with mutual respect. I’ve failed at this in recent days, but I know I can do it. It is the best way.