The Meat of the Matter

I wasn’t originally going to write this. Honestly, I didn’t expect the whole Chick-fil-a thing last week to really take on the life it did. In many ways what took place a week ago was similar to the original remarks made by Dan Cathy nearly a month ago: something pretty innocuous and straight forward blown up into something much larger by a media frenzy.

In spite of the fact that we aren’t really fast food folks we decided in our family that we would take part in the wednesday thing. In America when we want to show that we agree with the position (political, social, environmental, etc) held by a business we support them by buying stuff from them. Or, in the case we don’t agree with what they’ve done we may cease buying stuff from them. It’s a common American practice. Using economic actions to attempt to make your voice heard in our country is as old the Boston Tea Party (maybe older) and very much in the spirit of capitalism.

When the news came out about Dan Cathy’s comments I found it odd that one would ask an outspoken fundamentalist evangelical Christian their opinion on a topic and then act surprised when their response aligned perfectly with the evangelical fundamentalist position on said topic. This is a company that leaves potentially greater than 1/7th of their revenue on the table because of a simple Christian principle (one that isn’t even a Christian requirement or moral issue) by being closed on Sundays.

Before I go further I should probably contrast Dan Cathy’s comments with the typical so-called Christian commentary being spouted out by someone like Pat Robertson. I presume most of my friends are aware of his many outlandish claims. I have no interest in supporting that approach and have no interest in being involved in anything that is purely inflammatory. Had Dan Cathy come out and said “we hate gay individuals at Chick-fil-a” we would not support that and may not support the company by purchasing from them ever again going forward. That wasn’t at all the case.

Hate is a strong word. So is love. These are heavily loaded terms. Their meaning has a tendency to shift based on context and the person using the term. Sometimes they are used loosely and become just “noise”. Sometimes they are used correctly to express strong human emotions. But, other times they are used like the pointy end of the sword to attempt to deliver the death jab to a civil discussion.

In the days following last Wednesday I have witnessed an unsettling response coming from many of those claiming to be Christians. The response goes like this… “well, I didn’t partake in Wednesday’s thing because I’d rather show the love of Christ and not hate”. Or, “we Christians should be ashamed of these hateful actions last Wednesday”. And finally, “if Jesus were here he would not be involved in this ridiculous Chick-fil-a day”. The “Jesus” question is the simplest one to address, but I’ll save that for last. Here we have an excellent example of the words love and hate being used as manipulation tools. Standing up for something you believe in certainly COULD be a hateful act. Let’s suppose this were the 1960′s and I believed that innately African American’s were a sub-human race. Let’s suppose I made it clear that I hated the idea of treating them as equal humans and I ran some sort of business where I supported this cause. In this case, having an “Appreciation Day” for that business on these grounds would be toeing the hate line if not leaping over it with both feet.

But was last wednesday a hate-fest? On the corporal level it certainly was not nor was that its intention. I won’t pretend I can speak for every individual. I’m sure there were people here and there acting out of hate. There are people acting out of hate on all sides of every controversial argument. But, for our family in particular last Wednesday was about supporting a family-run company with our dollars because they share our beliefs about the importance of the traditional family.

Additionally, just because the world around us decides to employ the “pointy-ended-hate-term” in dialogue, that doesn’t make it true or appropriate. If you partook in this thing with a clean conscience, don’t allow this manipulation tactic to suddenly have you second-guessing yourself. We should be introspective in all circumstances, but to be blown and tossed by the winds of outside opinion only leads to drifting in circles and before long your convictions are based solely on the weight of public opinion. It’s all well and good to call out Christians with statements like “shouldn’t you be feeding the poor?” (I’ll gladly accept any reminders to put my religion into practice in that way) but we live in a civil society where we the people help “make the rules”. Right now our culture in particular sits at the pinnacle of one of these rule-making decision points. It’s unfortunate that so many have moved towards the use of coercion and divisive speech to push the so-called gay marriage ball forward here. It really isn’t necessary. I am a firm believer in the reality that we become like that which we serve and based on the things this current iteration of our culture serves I have very little doubt which “side” will claim victory during this present age. In a world where gender is more and more seen as something that just emerged by chance out of nothing it doesn’t surprise me that many now want to free themselves from the bonds of assuming there is anything sacred or unique about the husband/wife relationship. Our culture (and the world in general) serves the god of scientific happenstance.

So, that leaves us with the question of what would Jesus do. To answer this question you must first understand the concept of the “American social jesus”. In this country in particular he gets invoked both by Christians and non-Christians. He gets used to market stuff and as a convenient smokescreen in times such as these. The real Jesus is very different from the American social jesus. For example, the real Jesus did not live in a democratic society with voting rights. Likewise, all of his actions on this planet were in support of his one mission which was to come and die. In the little time he had who’s to say whether he would have stopped in for a chicken sandwich last Wednesday. What we can say from His example is this… He would not bend the truth of God to match the prevailing cultural opinions. He would not redefine sin as no longer being sin simply because the general culture was willing to accept it. And finally, he would not shy away from making it clear that people are sinning and would eagerly point towards the way of salvation. Would he have eaten at Chick-fil-a last Wednesday? Who knows. Maybe not. Maybe he doesn’t like chicken. But if Christ were here there stands a pretty good chance he would face the same ridicule as many believers are facing for taking a stance in support of God’s design for marriage as a reflection of Christ and His church, and to a greater extent God’s design for life in general.

UPDATE: Following a great discussion on Facebook after posting this originally, I thought I’d add a few points of clarification that may get lost above.

  • I am not advocating a belief that the Christian’s primary responsibility is to “redeem the culture”. In fact, I’m pretty certain that is not possible nor is it God’s mission for the believer. Our mission is to spread the gospel and live out the Christian faith with love and consistency to the glory of God.
  • I do see the institution of marriage as unique from other human institutions. While it (marriage) may exist in many forms throughout societies and religions I see it as a foundational institution established by God as a human template exemplifying Christ’s relationship with His Church. The opposition to gay marriage is not about “Christians picking a pet sin” but rather it’s about drawing the lines around what is included in this institution. Maybe you could argue that since a majority of the world’s population doesn’t treat it this way (as a type of Christ and the church), that somehow it’s been “hijacked” and is now in some cultural public domain, but that’s a discussion for another time.
  • Our primary motivation for supporting Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-a is not political. My opening point (maybe unclear) was that the media and politics in general will take every opportunity to “set the message” and my intent here is to “reset the message” for my family in particular.
  • We bought food stuff from Chick-fil-a last Wednesday because we wanted to show support for a rare opinion that marriage is sacred, unique AND a lifelong commitment. I have just as much of an issue with many forms of divorce as I have with so-called gay marriage.
  • As believers we are different than the world around us. We serve a different God. If we think otherwise, that’s probably a problem.

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To continue this discussion or offer your disgruntled disagreements feel free to hit me up on twitter @swisslehman