Sunday, July 29, 2012

The kingdom of heaven shall be compared to a fast food chain?

Here is the problem with the whole Chick Fil-A business: it is a cop-out. I don't want to get into the sociopolitical aspects of the thing (leave that to the politicians to argue about), but I do think the church has something to say about all this, though it might not be quite what you think.
Let me first offer two complicating factors. The first is that, in our usual modern way, the whole conversation about Chick Fil-A is much more complicated than we are admitting. Questions about business and ethics are rarely clear, which is part of the reason "business ethics" sometimes seems like a paradox (it is also the reason, I think, the recent financial crisis ended up being so difficult to diagnose. Business is complicated). Chick Fil-A is a francise business, and it is certainly the case that not everybody who relies upon Chick Fil-A for livelihood shares Dan Cathy's opinion on gay marriage.
The second complicating factor is that as far as I can tell, the conversation about Chick Fil-A is not about traditional vs. gay marriage as much as the media is making it out to be. I do not care what the owner of the restaraunt at which I buy my lunch thinks about marriage equality; there are no gay chicken sandwiches. The conversation, at least as far as I find myself interested, is that profits from Chick Fil-A have been sent to Exodus International, a group that does much more than oppose gay marriage. Further complicating is that only a very small portion of the money spent on behalf of Chick Fil-A went to Exodus International as compared to the overall spending of the Winshape Foundation, the Cathys' charity. Even so, and this is just me talking, any amount of money spent on so-called "reparative therapy" is troubling, for these methods have been largely discredited and can, in fact, breed "prejudice and discrimination."

But neither of these complicating factors are the real issue. They are smoke screens for the real issue, for the issue is this: rather than confronting the issues at hand (homosexuality, the nature of the relationship betwen business and church, the way in which we treat our enemies), we are transferring our anger to a fast-food chain. Rather than working this out in the church, we have transferred our own responsibility to a chicken sandwich chain, as if the way in which we are called to live our faith is expressed most clearly in our fast food preferences. Those in favor of marriage equality have decided to boycott Chick Fil-A. Those opposed have decided to buy extra fast food on August 1, Chick Fil-A Appreciation Day.

I am not in the habit of speaking for God, but I have great trouble believing that God cares all that much about where you eat lunch. I don't think that the best way to show your support for an issue is to buy fast food.

Now, issues matter. I feel passionately about this particular issue, so I have found myself, at times, swept up in the hype. And as far as the Chick Fil-A issue is related to matters of personal integrity, it is an intereting exercise. Should you support companies that take public stances with which you disagree? How can you be a person of faith in a complicated world? These are important things to think through.

But the conversation is not about integrity: it is about Chick Fil-A. The conversation ought to be about the issue itself, not about Chick Fil-A. The problem is that it is WAY easier to get steamed about fried chicken than it is to work to advance an issue. It is much easier to complain about someone's money than it is to involve your own. I wonder how many people--on both sides of this issue--who have taken public stances on Chick Fil-A have put any of their money where their mouths are.

It is true: talk is cheap. Working to advance the Kindom of God is difficult (and, in fact, expensive).

Support marriage equality? Fine. Work for it. Spend your time and money advancing the issue. Forgoing a chicken sandwich is fine, but it is hardly a sacrifice befitting Christ, our Lord.

Disagree with gay marriage? All right. Work for it. Go buy a #1 if you want, but don't pretend you're doing church. Church is something else entirely.


  1. I am not angry with Chick-fil-a...most people I know are not...the media and a few special interest groups seem to be. It's a good place to eat and they have good values as far as their business goes, so I support them. The company didn't have a stance on the issue, by the way, their president did have a personal view.

  2. I know that you and I disagree on the church's stance (which doesn't, by the way, make me a political right-winger!). Nevertheless, I blogged about this last week (, which you might find interesting. I explained that this controversy reminds me that I'm a southerner—because, make no mistake, these politicians in Boston and Chicago are picking on Chick-fil-A, using words like "prejudice," "bigotry," and "ignorant," because the Cathy family are from the South.

    You don't believe me? Think of the large population of Catholics living in Boston and Chicago. Where are the similar accusations of bigotry directed toward Cardinals O'Malley and George, whose church is in complete agreement with the Cathy family and their church on the issue of homosexuality? Moreover, I'm pretty sure that Pope Benedict has visited at least one of those cities. Did they confront him for his "prejudice"? Have they accused him of homophobia? Did they call for boycotting the Catholic Church? Of course not!

    It can't be that the Cathy family (or the Southern Baptist Convention, for that matter) arrived at their stance toward homosexuality based on reason, principle, and a fair-minded reading of scripture. No, they must be deeply prejudiced because—you know—that's just the way those southerners are.

    Damn yankees!

    1. Brent, thanks for your thoughtful engagement, per usual. I do hear some code words in the Boston and Chicago nonsense. But honestly, I have trouble getting upset about being characterized that way. I'm more inspured to actually get up off my rear and do something.

  3. Steamed about fried chicken. I see what you did there.