What’s the Matter, Chick-fil-A Protesters? Chicken?

Ever since the hubbub about Chick-fil-A started, I’ve been looking for a way to work in a Spaceballs reference. And so I am glad to have found a way to do so, even if the connection may only become apparent later in the post.

Today is both Chick-fil-A protest day and Chick-fil-A appreciation day. I am troubled by this. I completely support those who want to communicate their strong objection to Dan and/or Truett Cathy’s giving of money to organizations that promote mischaracterization and unfair treatment of gays and lesbians. And so some sort of symbolic action of protest seems appropriate. But particularly given that Chick-fil-A is a franchise, demonstrations or boycotts against local restaurants, or even going so far as to deny applications to set up new restaurants, is troubling. This seems to me to be taking out frustration on the wrong target. Truett Cathy is very wealthy, as his son, the current company president Dan Cathy, and the boycotts are not likely to either affect their lifestyle or do anything but encourage them to give still more to the sorts of organizations to which they were already giving – and to which most of us knew long before now that they were already giving.

And so perhaps this post is a follow-up to my earlier one on living justly. How does one make a point for justice in a situation like this one? How does one minimize the injustice and collateral damage to people who are not guilty? How does one protest or object in a manner that does not simply repay bullying with bullying, with the result that the number of victims of injustice increases exponentially, blurring what might previously have seemed to be a clear matter of standing up for the oppressed and turning it into a war in which everyone is bound to lose in some respect? Are chicken and waffle fries the battlefield on which the next battle of the culture war will play out, and if so, is that a good thing or a troubling one? And as there have been cases of bullying, threats, and hatred aimed at Chick-fil-A, is there any sense in which this matter can end with “the good guys winning” or, once one engages in such things, even in the name of a just cause, has one not become guilty of injustice and thus undermined one’s claim to be standing for what is right? Ironically, many supporters of gay and lesbian rights understand this point, when it involves others. They might also be among those who would point out that America cannot stand for democracy and justice if it wages unjust wars or uses torture – no matter to what end.

I think that the most effective way to stand up to bigotry and injustice is that of figures like Gandhi and Martin Luther King. It is the most costly, but when power works to silence its victims and engages in oppression against those who refuse to pay back evil for evil against their oppressors, their evil is exposed and the tide begins to turn against them.

So how could one make a stand against bigotry against and discrimination towards gays and lesbians, in the context of the Chick-fil-A debates, but in a way that does not harm local employees and business owners who might themselves take the opposite stance on these matters to the Cathy family?

Finding ways to stand for justice without becoming guilty of injustice oneself is incredibly hard. But it is worth it. It also takes courage. But when it comes to injustice and making the world a better place, we can’t afford to be…chicken.

Here are some links to other posts on this topic:

Rachel Held Evans offers one of the most level-headed posts I’ve seen, with understanding and sage advice in both directions.

Kimberly Knight emphasizes that the strong feelings are not about mere disagreement about civil rights, but support for organizations that misrepresent gays and lesbians. Fred Clark concurs, emphasizing that this is not about free speech but of giving money to organizations that do real harm.

Unreasonable Faith connects this discussion with the recent news about a Baptist church that refused to hold a wedding for racist reasons. As he puts it succinctly, segregation is a “traditional value” and we need to take to heart that sometimes jettisoning a traditional value is a good and necessary thing.

John Shore discusses a newsletter connecting Franklin Graham and Truett Cathy.

The Lead offers some CNN coverage and appeal for insight from one who doesn’t know the restaurant.

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Chik-fil-la takes a risk by havings its owners so vocal on gay rights issues and that sort of thinkg can damage a brands image. I think Pabts Blue Ribbon beer had the same issue when its owners started being vocal about politics. One never knows if the guy changing your oil or serving your food is a bigot, but if they explained to me that they were, I would feel inclined to do buisness elsewhere. On the other hand, the moves to deny permits to Chik-Fil-la is a move against free speech. it is not for the goverment or the campus administation to ask vendors their politcal or religious views before granting a buisness permit. As one person asked, will these mayors now try to move all the Orthdox Jewish and Catholic owned buisness out of the city? Further, I think in the case of Chicago their is a bit of hypocricy. Obama only recently changed his mind on gay marriage and Rahm stood with him the whole time he was saying he thought marriage should only be between men and women. But now that Obama has changed his mind he seems to feel anyone not on board is a hopeless bigot. While many are impatient for change and can’t see why someone opposes gay marriage it should be kept in mind that these taboos die hard and we ought not expect to much radical change from our dear old grandma’s so it might be better to be less shrill.

  • Ian

    ” Truett Cathy is very wealthy, as his son, the current company president
    Dan Cathy, and the boycotts are not likely to either affect their
    lifestyle or do anything but encourage them to give still more to the sorts of organizations to which they were already giving” – while we may have no impact on the Cathys, we can have an impact on (or at least worry) their franchisees. And their franchisees can put pressure on the Cathys. The franchisees bought a brand, and if the Cathys actions are trashing that brand, the franchisees have something to say about that.

  • Eric

    “So how could one make a stand against bigotry against and
    discrimination towards gays and lesbians, in the context of the
    Chick-fil-A debates, but in a way that does not harm local employees and
    business owners who might themselves take the opposite stance on these
    matters to the Cathy family?”

    Surely the one action that many have called for–simply no longer patronizing CFA–would fit your criteria, no? Not necessarily a dramatic, symbolic protest, but it is at least a refusal to cooperate with CFA’s support of discrimination.

  • andom

    Menino’s double standard:

    “Radical imam OK but not Chick-fil-A”

    “Chick-fil-A wants to come to Boston, pay taxes and put people to
    work. Menino says “no” because the CEO thinks same-sex marriage is
    wrong. But that same mayor was all but giving away city land to the Islamic
    Society of Boston, even as they were presenting as one of their
    spiritual guides an imam who says homosexuals should be killed.”
    http://bostonherald.com/news/opinion/op_ed/view.bg?articleid=1061148809&format=text

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/P76OAMZWKTFY6SMOLNVKH7COLU TruthSayer

    I don’t know of any license application for a franchise for this company being turned down for discrimination. I see no particular problem with a city leader saying he doesn’t favor discrimination in his city. I think it is a pretty good bet that, all usual qualifications having been met, that no such refusal would occur. However, I will say that asking for a franchise from a company that you know uses profits for discrimination, and then claiming that you are only a franchisee, is much like saying “but I was only following orders!” You can’t participate and then claim ignorance or no-fault; at least you can’t if you have morals.


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