First of all, an admission and a bit of personal history: I love Chick-fil-A.

My first Chick-fil-A sandwich was eaten at Eastdale Mall in Montgomery, Alabama, shortly after my family moved to town in the summer of 1979.  It has been over 30 years since I have visited that mall, but, if the store still exists in the same location, I could walk straight to it like a guided missile.  My life since then can be somewhat timelined by the significant “Chicks” along the way:  Florence, Alabama, in the mid-90s where I witnessed the construction of the first stand alone, “mall-less” store that I had ever seen (in actuality it was built just outside the mall); Allen, Texas, where our weekly men’s breakfast from the McDermott Road church met for a short time and where several of the congregation’s youth would ultimately work; the store in McKinney where Richard Beasley and I would eat after a morning round of golf at Oak Hollow; the store in The Colony where Jeff Jenkins and I would meet regularly for breakfast and conversation; and the innumerable stores across multiple states where my family and I have dined in and “driven thru.”  

I have long admired (and occasionally been selfishly annoyed by) Chick-fil-A’s company-wide policy of being closed on Sundays so that employees can attend worship services and spend time with their families.  I greatly respect that kind of “principle over profit” approach to business.  I have also deeply respected the Christian faith of the Cathy family in the founding and leadership of their company.  Several friends of mine have heard Truett Cathy and Dan Cathy speak at leadership conferences and business conventions over the years and they have been profoundly impressed by their authenticity, humility, and commitment to biblical morality and values.

Despite all of the considerations above, the primary reason that I eat at Chick-fil-A is that I really, really, really like their food.  Truth be told, I would eat there if their founder and CEO was a Muslim, a Buddhist, or an atheist.  I go to Chick-fil-A for good chicken, not to make statements about my faith, morals, or politics.  If the food weren’t good, I wouldn’t eat there, not even if the company’s founder was the person who had led me to faith in Christ.  I would unquestionably love him and be eternally grateful to him, but I wouldn’t buy his chicken.  If Chick-fil-A was open on the Lord’s Day, you would periodically find me having Sunday lunch there, despite the fact that employees were being forced to miss morning church services or prevented from playing with their kids at the park.      

By now, most of you are aware of the latest skirmish in our nation’s culture war involving supporters of gay marriage and supporters of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy and his vocal defense of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.  I won’t rehearse the entire history of past clashes between Chick-fil-A and the LGBT community, but Cathy’s recent comments resulted in the Jim Henson Company pulling its Muppet toys from Chick-fil-A’s kids’ meals.  The mayors of Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco went on record as saying that Chick-fil-A’s values did not reflect those of their citizens and, therefore, the Atlanta-based company “need not apply” for building permits or business licenses in their cities.

The Christian counter-offensive has been swift and emotional.  I have been made aware of this most keenly from Facebook, where there has been a steady stream of admonitions to join hands, wallets, and palates for “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on Wednesday, August 1.  Organizer Mike Huckabee (or someone very effectively impersonating him on FB!) is “asking people to eat chicken and not to be one” by turning out in force this Wednesday to support Chick-fil-A with our fast food dollars.  This effort has picked up endorsements from several significant individuals and organizations.

Just a few observations, primarily for the consideration of fellow believers. 

Can we all just take a deep breath and chill a little, my brothers and sisters?

The reactions from the mayors in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco are predictable, political rhetoric solely intended to further endear them to their constituencies.  Their position is unreasonable and irrational, not to mention unconstitutional.  Their threat of opposition to Chick-fil-A’s expansion in their cities will never stand.  If they haven’t already figured this out for themselves, I assure you that their City Attorneys have done so and have reminded Their Honors of a little complication called the First Amendment.  This glaring, potential injustice was even pointed out rather quickly by the ACLU and several liberal columnists.  Political posturing at the expense of free speech and free enterprise just won’t be tolerated in the U.S., at least not at the present.  I would highly recommend for your reading an editorial in the current issue of Christianity Today entitled, “More Than a Legal Issue: The Gay Marriage Debate Shouldn’t Drive Us to Outrage or Panic.”  Published before the latest brouhaha, the subtitle is eerily prophetic. 

A few of the graphics that I have seen on Facebook featured the “Eat Mor Chikin” Holsteins displaying placards that read, “One Man; One Woman” in support of the Biblical doctrine of marriage.  Some of us are old enough to remember when this mantra contained a third phrase, “For Life.”  That last one doesn’t sell as well anymore, even (and maybe especially) among Christians.  Sadly, the divorce rate among Christians in the United States is not radically different from that of the larger culture.  Regardless of your understanding of the teaching of Jesus and the Apostle Paul on the subject, it is hard to imagine that the contemporary practice of disposable marriage among believers somehow reflects the will of God for our families.  “Inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him” regarding marriage (to quote Dan Cathy) did not begin with the recent efforts to legalize gay marriage.  Having surrendered the moral high ground on the biblical model of marriage a long time ago, the call by Christians for the defense of “traditional marriage” tends to ring a bit hollow these days and invites charges of hypocrisy from skeptics and critics of our faith. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, for whom millions of Chick-fil-A supporters will likely vote in November, is a member of a faith tradition that, while being solid on the “one man” aspect of marriage, has, historically speaking, been rather fuzzy on the number of women who can simultaneously share in the matrimonial equation.  The “mathematics of marriage” in Mormonism hasn’t always been an exact science.  Sorry, folks, but it needed to be said.

Chick-fil-A-Gate has also reminded me just how easily we Christians can get our knickers in a twist.  When something doesn’t go our way (and why should things ever go our way in a world that largely does not share our faith and values?) we tend to get just as “loud and proud” as the next “victimized” group.  I wish that our responses weren’t so painfully predictable when we are gigged and goaded by others.  We whine, cry foul, and vehemently insist on our rights, all at the expense of gutting our witness as followers of Christ.  We vainly claim persecution at the slightest offense, while believers in other parts of the world truly suffer (and sometimes die) for their faith.  “When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things,” (I Cor. 4:12-13).  Our many liberties have spoiled American Christians into indignant discontent with being the scum and dregs of the earth; we simply won’t have it.            

Might I make a suggestion for those who really want to show their support for Chick-fil-A and for others this Wednesday?  Instead of the mere quid pro quo of giving Chick-fil-A money in exchange for a meal that you might have purchased anyway (where is the sacrifice and heroism in that?), why not just walk into the store and make a donation of $10, $50, or $100, asking for nothing in return.  Don’t like the non-tax-deductible sound of that?  Then make a donation to the company’s incredibly inspiring WinShape Foundation!  I assure you that your money will be put to good use.  How about purchasing $50 worth of meals and taking them to a homeless shelter, or contacting your local fire station and letting them know that you’ll be providing a Chick-fil-A lunch on Wednesday for those on the afternoon shift; anything beyond satisfying your own hunger with a #1 Combo in the name of morality.                            

So, will I be eating at Chick-fil-A this Wednesday?  I may, if the lines aren’t too long (and they frequently are, to the tune of $4.1 billion in sales last year).  And if I do, it won’t be because I’ve been bullied into it by this “eat a chicken or be one” nonsense.  My faith and morality have a lot more substance than that.  But, if I don’t eat there on Wednesday, I will definitely do so sometime in the very near future.  Like I said, I love their food!

Praise the Lord and pass the waffle fries!

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