Chafed Over Chick-fil-A

July 30, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


The firestorm is burning white hot.  And it didn’t take much to spark it either.  All it took was a passing statement from Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy in an interview with the Baptist Press:

We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.[1]

Cathy’s qualification of “family” as “the biblical definition of the family unit” upset and offended many of those who support same-sex marriage, which, by all traditional Christian accounts, falls outside the pale of “the biblical definition of the family unit.”[2]  But Cathy wasn’t backing down.  In an appearance on “The Ken Coleman Show,” Cathy solidified his stance:

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 try to redefine what marriage is about.[3]

The reactions to these two statements have predictably ranged from the genuinely offended to the bombastically outrageous.  Equality Illinois, an LGBT advocacy group, plans a “kiss-in,” akin to the “sit-ins” of the 1960’s civil rights movement, in front of selected Chick-fil-A’s to protest Cathy’s statements.  The group has also launched a “Flick the Hate” campaign, saying, “Rather than spend money at hateful businesses like Chick-fil-A, support businesses that support LGBT rights.”[4]  Rosanne Barr tweeted, “Anyone who eats *Expletive* Fil-A deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating antibiotic filled tortured chickens 4Christ.”[5]  She later apologized for her incendiary statement.  Then there was Juliet Jeske, a comedian, who posed the perennial hermeneutical quandary: “I don’t quite understand how Christians who cite these six scant verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality conveniently ignore some of the more extreme laws. How is one verse the ‘WORD OF GOD’ and another discarded as being out-of-date?”[6]  She cites a slew of peculiar-sounding passages from Leviticus and opines on why Christians no longer follow the Good Book’s restrictions concerning menstruating women and clothing made of more than one fabric while insisting on following the Bible’s moral verdict on homosexuality.  If she is interested in the answer to her conundrum, I would suggest she read Tim Keller’s insightful article, “Making Sense of Scripture’s ‘Inconsistency.’”  Considering how many times this question concerning the so-called “inconsistent” application of the Bible has been raised, however, and how many times it has been answered – quite well, I would add – I have begun to wonder if this article, and others like it, is not more of a cheap shot at Christian biblical interpretation rather than a genuine question about Christian biblical interpretation.

What disturbs me most about the Chick-fil-A controversy is not Cathy’s statements, for the immorality of all sex outside the confines of a marriage between one man and one woman is a longstanding Christian tenant.  Nor do the objections of many in the LGBT community to Cathy’s statement disturb me, for such objections are to be expected.  What disturbs me most about this controversy is the eventual response of Chick-fil-A as a corporation to the stir.  The company issued a statement that read in part, “Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”[7]  Though people may debate whether or not it is prudent for COO’s of large corporations to express their theological convictions to news outlets that often make a habit out of subjecting theological convictions to the acerbic accusations of public opinion, I would submit that Chick-fil-A made precisely the wrong move when it so willingly relinquished this debate to the arena of government and politics.

At its heart, the debate over homosexuality and gay marriage is not a political debate, but a moral one.  To relegate this debate to the realm of politics and wrangling legislators is to cheapen it and, ultimately, to give it less consideration and credence than it deserves.  Moral debate should not be settled by majority vote, but by robust and respectful conversation grounded in something steadier and more transcultural than November’s ballot box – something like Holy Scripture for Christians, or, in broader society, natural, moral law.[8]  Morality by democracy can lead only to disaster, for it encourages people to breezily act according to what is right in their own eyes (cf. Judges 17:6).

The mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, had it at least partially right when he said, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.”[9]  Though, as a Christian, I heartily disagree with Rahm Emanuel’s values as they pertain to same-sex marriage, on this much we find common ground:  this is about values and morals, not politics and opinion polls.  Let’s not turn it into anything less.


[1] K. Allan Blume, “‘Guilty as charged,’ Cathy says of Chick-fil-A’s stand on biblical & family values,” Baptist Press (7.16.12).

[2] Read Concordia’s stance on same-sex marriage in “A Pastoral Statement on President Obama’s Endorsement of Same-Sex Marriage.”

[3] As cited in “Dan Cathy, Chick-Fil-A President, On Anti-Gay Stance: ‘Guilty As Charged,’The Huffington Post (7.17.12).

[4] www.facebook.com

[5] Cited in Paul Bond, “Roseanne Barr Responds to Critics After Controversial Chick-fil-A Tweet,” The Hollywood Reporter (7.26.12).

[6] Juliet Jeske, “Chick-Fil-A, Do You Really Want to Run Your Company on Biblical Values?The Huffington Post (7.26.12).

[7] Cited in Shan Li, “Chick-fil-A steps out of public debate on gay marriage,” The Los Angeles Times (7.19.12).

[8] An examination of same-sex marriage in light of natural, moral law can be found in “A Pastoral Statement on President Obama’s Endorsement of Same-Sex Marriage.”

[9] Cited in Bill Barrow, “Chick-fil-A sandwiches become a political symbol,” The Associated Press (7.27.12).

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