Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Chick-fil-A War

Alright, I've been asked enough, so I guess I should speak out.  For those of you who don't know, I'm a Christian preacher who shuns the office at his church building for a spot at the local Chick-fil-A (proof).  If someone in my church wants to talk to me (or anyone, for that matter), face to face, without an appointment, they can come to Chick-fil-A from 1-6 on Tuesdays and I'll be there.  Because of that, I've gotten to know LOTS of Chick-fil-A employees and patrons alike.  With the current uprising of Chick-fil-A, and with my religious affiliation, people are eager to know what I think (because apparently sitting in a fast food restaurant for 5 hours a week makes you some sort of expert... though, I guess that's how CNN gets their experts on just about any issue).

First, I'll appeal to all the people who hate Chick-fil-A because of their "anti gay marriage" stance.  This *is not* Chick-fil-A's fault, and it's really sad for me to see Chick-fil-A embroiled in such a scandal.  Yes, I know Dan Cathy's remarks rustled your jimmies.  Yes I know that the Family Research Council isn't the friendliest organization to gays.  But I also know that Chick-fil-A is pretty much the most welcoming place to ANYONE.  Heck, I try to get my CHURCH to be as welcoming as Chick-fil-A.  Those people know how to treat people right and with respect and they *always* do.  Chick-fil-A, nationwide, has plenty of gay employees and even some gay owners.  They serve tens of thousands of gay patrons a year.  There is no discrimination within the organization of Chick-fil-A or within any of its restaurants against anyone, regardless of race, gender, religious creed, or sexual orientation (unless your religious creed is one that requires you to drink sweet tea and eat waffle fries on Sundays, then yes, I suppose Chick-fil-A involuntarily discriminates against you).

Dan Cathy's comments were unpopular, yes, but worse out of context which is what most people are reacting to.  Hey, I'm a Penn Stater, I know that's going to happen one way or another, so whatever.  It should have stopped there and eventually quelled out and died down… but it didn't.  Thomas Menino, the mayor of Boston threw the gauntlet down and wrote a letter to Chick-fil-A saying that they would not be welcome in his city.  Despite the illegality of such a claim and the surprisingly stupid fact that a mayor would discourage a business from bringing economic growth and jobs to his city, Menino also opened an enormous can of worms.  The mayors of Chicago and Washington followed suit (the latter's mayor, Vincent Gray even coined the term "hate chicken").  The "war" became political.

Now I'll begin to address the Christians reading this a little more directly.

I'm sure the Christians reading this post have felt persecuted.  It's a very tough line to walk when a strongly held religious belief is unpopular and decried as culturally insensitive or hate-filled, I get it.  The question is, how should this have been handled?  Jesus said to love our enemies and to bless those who persecute us.  That would have been a good start.  But the political bait was set, and one should know, whenever things get political, one can be sure that Fox News won't be far behind.  Enter Mike Huckabee, who has declared today to be Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, rallying promoters of "free speech" (after all, the website for this demonstration was to stand up and, "affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick Fil-A."  Um, Huckabee... I love you man, but that's not exactly supporting free speech.  That's affirming the values that Chick-fil-A holds.  Just so I'm not accused of taking Huckabee's comments out of context, here's the rest of that paragraph-- "Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same sex marriage, abortion, or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we're considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant. This effort is not being launched by the Chick Fil-A company and no one from the company or family is involved in proposing or promoting it."

Clearly, we've gone beyond free speech now.  But who cares, right?  So what?  Christians *SHOULD* be supporting traditional values and standing up to those who decry Christians as "homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant," right?  No, at least not in my opinion.  You see, I used the term "war" earlier in this piece, but until Huckabee drew his line in the sand, there was really only one side.  Chick-fil-A was never fighting.  Chick-fil-A was dutifully carrying on its task of serving the most incredible Spicy Chicken Sandwich Deluxes to anyone who wanted to come and order one.  Christians should have found a way to support Chick-fil-A AND love the people who stand against it.  But now that there is a rally to "push back," there are two sides, and whenever two sides exist, they necessarily exist against one another, at least in perception.

Whether or not it was Huckabee's intention (it wasn't) or the intention of Christians who are rallying today in support of Chick-fil-A (in most cases, it isn't), today's protest will be viewed as the next "battle" in this war between those who support gay rights and Christian Americans who hold on to their convictions.  Whoever said that these two sides *have* to fight one another?  They don't.  But by the actions of both sides, they are.

On Saturday, a counter-demonstration is being launched at Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country where those who self-describe themselves as "enemies" of Chick-fil-A will walk into the restaurant to ask for free water.  This will gum up the workings of Chick-fil-A establishments, forcing workers to maintain their usual jobs while running back and forth, filling up cups of water, and basically throwing money down the drain to pay for cups and water when those demonstrators walk out without paying for any food.  I'm not sure if it's company policy to give out free water without patronage, but if they do it, I'm sure Chick-fil-A employees will be doing it graciously with a smile on their face, and answering, "My pleasure," if anyone thanks them for their service.  If they don't do it, for company policy or otherwise, they will be met with criticism and the Bible verse, Proverbs 25:21, which lies at the root of the counter-demonstration-- "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink."

I hope that's the end of it.  I urge those who are critical of Chick-fil-A to just drop it.  To the Christians who are trying to support traditional values, I make this appeal: when your actions can be so easily "countered" by a verse from the Bible, one that's not really out of context, something has gone terribly wrong.  The next verse, Proverbs 25:22, reads this, "In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you."  We shouldn't need people outside of the Christian faith to remind us that we are called to love our enemies and not to look to them to validate our convictions.  For that, we should look to God.

Hold on to what you believe in, go to Chick-fil-A today, or don't, but think about what Paul writes at the end of 1 Corinthians 10 from this point forward-- "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved."