The Chik-Fil-A Controversy – Reframed

 

I started writing this article a week or so ago. Today the news broke that a 28-year-old man shot a guard who stopped him from breaking into the Washington D.C. headquarters of the Family Research Council. The FRC figured prominently in the recent Chick-Fil-A controversy and the gunman was reported to be carrying a sack of Chick-Fil-A sandwiches.  I bring this up because it is important to take this opportunity to remind people that violence is not the answer. Violence is not the way to share your voice. No matter what cause you support, violence only serves to stiffen the backs of your opponent and further entrench them in their existing positions.

Please understand that this article was not written to convince you to support one position or the other. My goal for this article is to reframe the question, to provide some additional information and context that I believe make a difference in the way that we view this situation.

A clear sign that there is actually something to see here.

It isn’t difficult to have an opinion on the recent Chick-Fil-A brouhaha, but it does appear to be difficult to have a well-researched one. I’ve always prided myself on thinking for myself and not just believing what other people say to me. This was a big pain for my teachers growing up but it has served me well as an adult. Because I’m willing to keep an open mind I find myself thinking deeply about things that others tell me there’s nothing to think about. That’s why I’m trying to think about the Chick-Fil-A controversy for myself instead of listening to the rhetoric of either of the two sides. According to many conservatives and Christians there is nothing to think about here, Chick-Fil-A is a Christian organization standing up for Christian beliefs. According to many liberals and LGBT people there is nothing to think about here Chick-Fil-A is a hate group donating money to hate groups. What’s right and what’s wrong? Truthfully it’s hard to tell. I’m a born again Christian, some would call me a radical Christian, but that doesn’t mean that I check my brain at the door. It is my duty to listen to both sides of an argument, to dig deeper and to try and find the truth

Because of the resources that we use to communicate in today’s world like Facebook and Twitter we have access to each other’s thoughts and activities to a far greater degree than at any other point in history. In regards to the Chick-Fil-A situation Facebook has become a very sad place. Good people from both sides feel like they are being attacked and they are acting aggressively defensive in sniping at the other side to make sure that everybody knows what they think. I have to admit that this is very hurtful to me as a Christ follower. Christ taught us to be meek and to win people for the kingdom of God with love. The body of Christ seems to have forgotten this. If Christ can accept physical attacks against his person with grace and love surely we can accept a verbal attack against a favored restaurant.

That is exactly what Chick-Fil-A is to Christians like me. It is a favored restaurant, one of the few businesses in a secular world that is openly Christian. Certainly CFA is a wonderful fast-food restaurant. Their service is the best in the industry and their food is great. But to a Christian they are more than that. They are owned by honorable people who donate significant amounts of money to Christian organizations. Eating at CFA is like supporting a company owned by a family member, you know that your money is going to a great place.

Interestingly, that’s what really appears to be at issue here. This situation was kicked off when Dan Cathy, the CEO of CFA, said the following in an interview, “Well, guilty as charged. 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.” Those are the words that kicked off the firestorm.

I’m sure that the firestorm caught Dan Cathy by surprise. CFA is well-known to be a Christian organization that supports Christian organizations. Somehow I doubt that this is the first time that he has made comments like this. Additionally, these are comments that are very common in church pulpits all over the country. So what really set off the uproar?

Before we get there, let me say what did not cause the uproar. This situation has nothing to do with the first amendment right to free speech. The gay community is not telling Dan Cathy that he does not have the right to say what he’s said. The fact is, the gay community was using their right to free speech to rally people against Chick-Fil-A in the same manner that Dan Cathy was using his. The only group that is trying to block anyone’s first amendment right to free speech are the Chick-Fil-A supporters who are trying to get the gay community to shut up. If you want to support CFA then that’s great, but please don’t think that you are doing it in support of Cathy’s right to free speech, all that does is muddy the issues.

And there are real issues. The primary issue has been labeled “gay marriage”. Christians and Christian groups have asserted the belief that homosexuality is wrong. A popularly quoted verse describes it as an “abomination”.  As a Christian I’ve come to believe that homosexuality is a sin through what I’ve been taught and was I’ve studied for myself. I know that this statement is divisive and that it is hurtful to many people. I am sorry. It is not my intention to cause anyone pain. However I cannot be true to myself and honorable towards you if I hide what I believe to be the truth from you. My personal belief is that homosexuality is not what God intended. It’s not how we were designed.

With that said, I also believe that homosexuality has been blown out of proportion as some unforgivable sin. That’s ridiculous. Is Homosexuality on the order of murder or rape? The answer is no, yet it has been vilified and this vilification has been adopted by the government even though the government refuses to adopt many Christian attitudes or beliefs. Why is that? The best answer I can come up with is that people think it’s gross. That may be over-simplifying things, but I think that’s the root. It is easy for people to be against homosexuality because it grosses them out and it’s always been such a small minority that no one worries about currying that community’s favor.

I find myself very disappointed with the current state of this situation. Thanks to the way our country is designed I expect that any church has the right to say what they do and do not support and who they will and will not marry. This is acceptable to me and I bet it’s acceptable to most reasonable people. Here’s what I don’t understand, what does the church’s belief have to do with the government? It is the church’s job to win people to the kingdom of God. It is the government’s job to create and enforce laws on our behalf to make our lives better. As of right now, the government is failing its job in this regard and as a result the gay community has reached a point where they are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore.

The true source of the angst

That’s why a standard boilerplate statement by a Christian business owner can spark such controversy and animosity. It’s because a group of people who feel oppressed have reached their boiling point and are crying out for justice. As a fair-minded person we owe it to ourselves to listen to this cry and see if they have a valid point.  I think they do. Have you ever heard of DOMA? It stands for the Defense of Marriage Act and it was signed into law in 1996 by Bill Clinton (ironic that a person who didn’t respect the sanctity of his own marriage signed a law regulating the sanctity of other marriages).  This law specifically “codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriage for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns” (quoted from Wikipedia). If you look at the details you will find a host of rights that are spelled out as rights of marriage that are summarily denied to homosexuals. In simple terms, you can’t have these rights unless you’re married and you gay people aren’t allowed to get married so by definition they will always be denied these rights.

If you think that sounds unethical and discriminatory then you aren’t alone. The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution contains a statement that has come to be known as the Equal Protection Clause. It says that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This is the amendment that came into play in the famous Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education where the court declared that laws establishing that separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional. The fourteenth amendment is the embodiment of the statement that “all men are created equal”. Apparently, according to DOMA it should actually say that all men are created equal unless they are gay, then it’s ok to treat them differently. As an American I find this to be personally offensive. Either we are equal or we are not.

But Jonathan, you’re a Christian, are you saying you support gay marriage?

I’m saying that I am in support of equal rights, period. Will I support the government telling my church that it must offer to marry same-sex couples? No, I won’t. But the government has been joining people in marriage with no church involvement and subsequently sundering many of those marriages since long before I was born. The government ignores so many biblical principles that it’s laughable. I can’t even find a political candidate who comes close to what I believe as a Christ-follower. Why would the church hold so much sway on this issue? The truth is that this is not an issue of the church driving this issue; the government has full ownership of this. Earlier I said that I believe that homosexuality is a sin. What other sin can prevent you from getting married? Can you imagine being told that you do not qualify for marriage because you are too greedy or that you are jealous of your neighbors? It’s ludicrous, but that’s exactly what is happening when we single out the sin of homosexuality the way that we have. Certainly the government could establish some kind of recognized union of a same-sex relationship. It doesn’t matter if the church recognizes it or not.

Maybe now we can see why the gay community has reached a boiling point. The situation is hypocritical and I cannot justify it. That is the stage that has been set for the situation with Dan Cathy and Chick-Fil-A. Earlier in the article I mentioned that CFA was known to donate money to all types of Christian organizations. One of those organizations is the Family Research Council. In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization known for legal battles against hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, added the Family Research Council to its list of active hate groups for pushing “false accusations linking gay men to pedophilia”. Beyond that, the FRC’s Senior Researcher for Policy Studies has been quoted saying that “criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior” should be enforced.

I can’t begin to say how asinine this thought process is. But personal feelings aside, imagine it was your lifestyle that was being attacked by an organization in this manner.  I’ve discussed my faults extensively in previous articles, I’ve never had anyone suggesting that I be put in jail for being mean or for being hurtful. Yet those things have a more powerful negative impact on the people around us that the mere fact of being homosexual.

This is the spark that lit the fire. When Dan Cathy makes statement about supporting Christian family values what the gay community hears is Dan Cathy saying proudly that he’s donating money to try to criminalize their lifestyle. And when thousands of people visit CFA to show their support for the organization what the gay community sees is thousands of CHRISTIANS who support the idea of criminalizing their lifestyle.

As I’ve thought about this situation extensively I’ve come to conclusion that I would like Chick-Fil-A to stop supporting the FRC financially. There are thousands of Christian organizations who do wonderful things in the word and in their communities without being divisive and controversial. I would be willing to join with people who would petition Dan Cathy to make this change.

I can’t tell you whether or not you should eat at CFA, that’s your decision. But I can tell you this, the issues at hand are more complex than whether or not you think homosexuality is right or wrong. It’s more complex than whether or not you are a liberal or a conservative or Christian or atheist. I urge you to take some time and try to understand what the issues truly are. I also implore you to treat everyone involved in the discussion with respect and love. It is only through love that we can create a true dialogue and progress a future worth pursuing.

 

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Posted on August 16, 2012, in Real Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Jonathan, you’ve been able to put into words thoughts I haven’t been able to define. They’ve been rolling around in my head and I knew what I was TRYING to say but just couldn’t organize my thoughts. Well done, my friend. Well done.

  2. Thank you Christy. This was a hard one.

  3. Very well written article. I invite you to read this article and you may see that your position that homosexuality is sinful may not have a biblical basis. I agree with every point in your article but this one, so check it out and see what you think:

    http://www.matthewvines.com/transcript

  4. You have touched – or rather brushed against – the nub of the problem. Marriage is a religious concept not a legal one. There are almost as many definitions of “marriage” and as many combinations of individuals who may be included in a “traditional marriage” as there are religious organizations on the face of the earth.

    Depending on the religious organization providing the definition a “traditional marriage” may include one man and one woman; one man and up to 4 women; one man and an undefined number of women; and in some isolated societies one women and multiple men.

    The rub comes when one religious organization or combination of religious organizations seeks to impose its definition of traditional marriage upon the rest of society through the imposition of a legal definition of the term and regulates relationships through the law.

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