Chick-fil-A has been in the news a lot over the past week and I thought maybe it was worth taking some time out to talk about it. I’ve been a Chick-fil-A customer for years and I have had nothing but good things to say about them, but now things are a little different and I find myself wondering if I’ll ever eat there again.
For those who haven’t been following the story, Dan Cathy (CEO of Chick-fil-A) gave a couple of interviews in which he laid out the company’s attitude vis-à-vis gay rights, specifically marriage rights. It came to the fore a few months back that Chick-fil-A was making donations to organizations like Focus on the Family, which aim to deny gays their civil rights. I’ll admit that the news did not prevent me from patronizing the restaurant. I wonder now if that was such a good idea.
Anyway, Dan Cathy went on to say that yes, Chick-fil-A was adamantly opposed to gay marriage rights, but he didn’t stop there. In another interview he said:
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’ and 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.
Here’s the thing: if you’re looking for advice on what constitutes a righteous definition of marriage, the Bible is actually the last place you want to turn to. The Bible is full of some pretty bizarre marriage relationship rules, my favorite being the one where a man who rapes a woman has to pay her family a penalty and then marry her, because everyone knows being married to your rapist is the right thing to do. There’s more, but if you’re interested in all the weird permutations there are plenty of places on the internet that lay it all out for you.
Anyway, I get twitchy when anyone starts talking about God’s judgment and defying God’s will, largely because we are not in a position as mortal people to know anything about the thought processes of a being so powerful that He created the entire universe and everything in it. We can’t even understand one another, so what makes us so cocksure that we can interpret the will of a supreme being? And, again, don’t tell me to look at the Bible, because the Bible was written by human beings for human beings and does not contain so much as one sentence transcribed by God.
The Bible is a terrific document in some respects, but it can be terribly misused. I am especially disappointed in those who cherry-pick passages from the Bible to justify their own judgmentalism, especially since the Bible specifically says we shouldn’t do that. Christians who lean heavily on Old Testament rules tend to ignore all the stuff they find inconvenient, like stoning disobedient children or avoiding pork and shellfish, and focus only on the stuff that bolsters their case. I’m sorry, but if you truly believe God has given us explicit guidelines about how to live, you are not in a position to second-guess.
These fundamental incompatibilities and downright contradictory passages in the Bible are less of a problem for progressive Christians like myself, who derive moral and ethical sustenance from the teachings of Jesus as they have been filtered through many years and authors. It’s an historical document. We’re not about passing judgment on the sins of others because we’re more concerned about our own souls. Jesus exhorted us to better ourselves before presuming to better others, and to live by his example. That example: accepting and caring for our neighbor so that they might live a more just life.
I don’t condemn Dan Cathy for his beliefs, no matter how much I disagree with them. At the same time, I can’t reward him or his company for behaving the way they do. A free market is also supposed to be a marketplace of ideas and those ideas that fail to pass muster with the majority of the public fade away. I believe Dan Cathy and people like him are on the wrong side of history.
As I said at the outset of this entry, I really like Chick-fil-A a lot. A lot. I think they have the cleanest, nicest stores of any fast-food chain. I think their service is superlative. I think their food is wholesome and tasty. It pains me to have to cut them off like this, but I don’t think my pleasure from eating their food and enjoying their hospitality is more important than standing up for the rights of others.
Might I break down and eat there, despite my misgivings? It’s entirely possible. I’ve wavered a couple of times already and it’s only been a week. I’ve been asked to make a sacrifice, however small it might really be in the scheme of things, and I would be rightly derided as a hypocrite if I said all of this and then decided to chow down on a delicious spicy chicken sandwich anyway.
It might be that Chick-fil-A won’t miss my family’s dollars. Already the culture warriors of the right are mobilizing a “buycott” to offset the lost business from more liberal-minded folk. If this is enough to keep the company’s coffers full then I can’t begrudge them that because they earned it fairly. And I won’t chastise Chick-fil-A if they never come around to my point of view. It’s everyone’s right to believe whatever they choose to believe, whether it’s objectively or subjectively wrong.
Just don’t tell me I’m being foolish when I say I’m letting Chick-fil-A go on without me. I have a right to my point of view, too.