Occasionally one of my children suggests that we go to Chick-fil-A for lunch after church. Oops. Not one of the over 1,600 restaurant locations are open on Sunday. The founder, Truett Cathy, incorporated this practice as one of the chain’s values when he opened the first store in 1967 in Atlanta.
As a devout Christian, Cathy implemented other biblical principles to guide his operation of the restaurant. Those principles are applied throughout the chain as part of its corporate culture. Those who work for the company discover an environment of support and encouragement for the employee and respect and service for the customer that eludes many corporations today.
Not all of their principles or values win the popularity that their chicken sandwiches have. Dan Cathy, Truett’s son and successor, recently made a comment that earned media censure. It began with an interview in the Biblical Recorder on July 16. In reply to a question asked by Allan Blume, Cathy said, “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit.”
A radio program, “The Ken Coleman Show,” later pushed Cathy for further explanation, to
which he replied, “As it relates to society in general, 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.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we should have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about.”
That germinated a media attack by heavy weights such as The Los Angeles Times with the headline, “Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay marriage stance triggers online uproar.” The Washington Post headlined its story with the question, “Will you continue to eat at Chick-fil-A?” The country’s largest gay activist group, the Human Rights Campaign, skewered the company on its web site, posting a fake tag line under the company’s logo, “We Didn’t Invent Discrimination. We Just Support It.”
True to the shame of Chicago politics, both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and city alderman, Proco “Joe” Moreno, launched an offensive with imprudent and juvenile rhetoric. Mayor Emanuel claimed, “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values.” Really? Can someone send me a copy of the city’s core values statement? I would like to see that in writing. Maybe I am overly sensitive, but that sounds very much like an anti-Chick-fil-A attack that might be construed as … I hesitate to say this … hate speech.
Moreno took the assault to a new level. He declared, “If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the 1st Ward.” Calling Cathy’s position, “bigoted” and “homophobic,” he promised to use aldermanic privilege to block Chick-fil-A from building a restaurant in 1st Ward’s Logan Square. The company has already acquired zoning, but awaits City Council approval for land acquisition. Moreno quipped, “You have the right to say what you want to say, but zoning is not a right.”
It appears that discrimination is unacceptable, unless it is used to censor those who oppose current definitions of political correctness. Moreno has elevated disagreement to bigotry and debate to malice. Many of the gay community disagreed with Moreno’s threats, but Moreno has yet to call them bigots.
The Christian community has not exactly endeared itself to the society. Too many outspoken self-appointed prophets have confused the disapproval of homosexuality with the castigation of homosexuals. Their speech begs for the seasoning of grace and love, which characterized Jesus in his public discourse.
Jesus warned that the world would hate us, but for reasons apart from our character. The world will always oppose the truth, especially when it challenges cherished beliefs and practices. This does not excuse bad behavior. It does not justify spiteful speech. It does not legitimize arrogance. The world should hate us for what we believe, not for how we say it or display it.
Cathy was not guilty of such conduct. He simply stated a belief based on his interpretation of Scripture. He denounced an attitude that he attributed to society, but if he rightly assessed our culture, the Bible condemns that very attitude. He unapologetically positioned his beliefs in a religious framework. He opens the door for public debate, but not public denigration.
The response to Cathy’s beliefs demonstrates the kind of vitriol faith can generate. This is tame compared to countries where the government opposes Christian beliefs with impunity. Open persecution often results in the death of faithful adherents of the Christian faith.
In our country, where the Constitution protects the practice of religion and speech, followers of Christ should strive for a winsomeness to our lives. We can practice our faith without fear of persecution. Let’s use that freedom to the gospel’s advantage, not as a weapon for battle, but as a tool for construction. Let’s build bridges whenever possible, over which the gospel may pass freely with grace and compassion.