The Elephant… er, Chicken… in the Room

My, how the feathers have flown in the past couple of weeks in response to a Biblical Recorder interview with Dan Cathy, COO of Chik-fil-A, where he claimed he and his family believed in the “traditional family” (i.e., the biblical, heterosexual marriage). Homosexual advocates cried fowl foul and planned on boycotting the chain henceforth, which then ruffled the feathers of culture-warrior evangelicals who claimed reverse-discrimination. I have hesitated to say anything about the issue, however the clash between social liberals and conservatives seems to have reached a boiling point and to ignore it would be to ignore the flames of what seems to me a gross injustice.

The controversial part of the interview runs as follows:

Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.
“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.
“We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized.
“We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

First, as most of my friends will tell you, I’m anything but a dyed-in-the-wool “Religious Right” Republican. I have always found the so-called “culture wars” much easier won through person-to-person Christ-centered conversation rather than government legislation. After all, morality absent from Christ is still death. Libertarian or Constitutionalist are probably the labels that fits me best, if I’m forced to take them (I almost never speak of my political alignment publicly because I don’t want it to affect my Christian witness, and I’m honestly almost as uncomfortable with those labels because of what they sometimes entail). Still, the basic core belief in the freedoms granted to us by the Constitution are the reason the past week has troubled me so much.

If people want to boycott a business because its owners have traditional Christian beliefs, that’s their own affair. Mind you, just because Mr. Cathy believes something doesn’t mean everyone associated with the company does, such as a lesbian Chik-fil-A owner who was quick to note that the restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees. However, people were quick to throw “intolerance” and “discrimination” labels onto the company that many things, including the presence of the previously mentioned owner, contests.

There are many, many other employees and customers of Chick-fil-A who do not hold to traditional Christian values and do not live as such, and the Cathy family knows this. It’s the way of free-market business. If I were to boycott any company whose owners I disagreed with on spirituality, moral practices, or even business ethics, I would suddenly have to stop shopping altogether at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Starbucks, and I would have to stop typing this blog post on my Apple computer. Business owners are entitled to their own beliefs and to manage their companies accordingly. This is America, land of the first amendment: the freedom of speech and religion. Yet the mayors of Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco have all threatened to prevent Chik-fil-A from opening in their cities; however, it is important to note that they can’t legally do that. Their fat would be in the fryer for violating civil rights laws if they did.

All this said, with the nation in a tizzy, it is easy to become blinded to the fact that in many nations throughout the world, restrictions on both sexuality and religion are so heavy-handed that our current dispute would be enviable. To be consistent, folks should even boycott gasoline because those behind OPEC put both homosexuals and evangelical Christians to death. Tolerance is, according to Merriam-Webster, “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.” By this rule, the sadly most intolerant of people right now are those yelling “intolerance.”

*** Addendum (originally from a discussion on my FB page today, 8/1): I want to stand both for my Christian beliefs and for first amendment freedoms, but I don’t want to reflect the same kind of vitriol that has been channeled in the direction of Christians in the wake of this. As a Christian, I want to stand for my convictions, but make sure in doing so that I do it in a way that shows compassion to others. I do have gay friends, they (hopefully) know that I love and respect them, but we also honestly share very different world-views. We agree to disagree as to what defines moral issues, largely due to our moral compass anchored in different places. I also know individuals who have had differing levels of same-sex attraction, but who do not currently live in that lifestyle. That said, as far as legislation goes, I don’t find giving this or that legal right to people particularly problematic, especially when it primarily applies legally to properties and right-of-attorney. I can’t honestly expect non-Christians to act as if they were, and I don’t have any particular expectations of any government, except that the freedoms of speech and religion, so integral to the reason the U.S. was founded, would hopefully be upheld and we would be able to continue these discussions openly.

(I feel it important to remind everyone, regarding this particular post, that comments are always moderated and first-time commenters will need my approval. Please be kind to one another.)