Jen Hatmaker on Chick-Fil-A

From Jen Hatmaker’s blog, a bit of a rant of frustration that appeals for toleration in all directions, and an opinion piece that may well express the heart of the next wave of American Christians:

This is precisely how I feel about the Chick-Fil-A debacle and all the other accouterments of the culture wars. I am so over it. I’m so over the fear mongering and hate propaganda. I’m over the political posturing and power plays. I’m over the finger pointing and name-calling. The storms are raging overhead, and let me tell you something:

I’m going to the basement.

This is obnoxious. So a business leader is no longer entitled to an opinion, even one that roughly half of America shares? Is that where we’re at? Now the mayors of Boston and Chicago and San Francisco are suggesting Chick-Fil-A be denied permits in their cities, and just like that, a hot-blooded difference in personal opinion – not lewd remarks, not discriminatory actions, not company policy – has turned into punitive legislation.

Mayor Bloomburg, also a supporter of gay rights, condemned the statements, saying “cities should not ask about political beliefs before issuing a permit.” Of course they shouldn’t. Where would it end? The CEO of the Phoenix Suns is gay; shall we all boycott their basketball games or deny their right to play in the public sphere? Is it time to quiz small-business owners on their positions on gun control, abortion, and immigration reform, and decide if their companies are “welcome in our cities”?

Because this will swing every way, you know. Perhaps Chick-Fil-A is banned in Boston, but we will also stand by if a Muslim business owner is banned from operating in Huntsville, Alabama? Mark Zuckerberg is an atheist; should Christians all delete their Facebook accounts? This affront to democracy is infinitely more dangerous than a CEO with an opinion, which, if you’ve ever paid attention, we are supposed to have the freedom to hold and express in this country without threat of commercial retribution.

Truett Cathy is a citizen; he has a right to an opinion. He gets to have that. He isn’t peddling theology…his currency is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich. There are certainly tens of thousands of gay folks who work for and patron CFA. No one has ever been asked to procure proof of their heterosexuality before dipping into their Polynesian sauce.

If you don’t like his personal policy, don’t eat there. Problem solved.

And here’s a money quote:

When we resort to the same tactics being leveled at Truett Cathy, we sink to the least common denominator and – this is important – we make everything worse. How are these culture wars working out for us? Well, the church is losing around 50K folks a week, and the next generation downright refuses to come. The gay community is ostracized entirely (oh, they’ve gotten the message alright), and Christianity has turned into white noise.

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  • Pat Pope

    Agreed. And actually, it was Dan, the son that made the statement, not Truett. Although, no doubt he’d agree.

  • love this piece that jen wrote, scot. i also appreciated the thoughts here from alise write ( and some of the comments at my blog about the topic ( all in all, i am convinced that the church MUST elevate the conversation and stop engaging in the culture wars before we render ourselves entirely irrelevant to the next generation.

  • A breath of fresh air!

  • Nathan

    She’s missing the point. Cathy wasn’t speaking about his private opinion. He was talking in the context of the identity and values of the company he leads. Sorry. He was. Is isn’t about someone being penalized for having a private opinion.

    I don’t know what a culture war position of any kind has to do with selling sandwiches, coffee, or clothes, or whatever. Regardless of the position, it’s dopey to connect it to selling food. it’s yet another embarrassment of our own making.

    The whole thing is stupid and dangerous, the writer gets it right on that front. But Cathy stepped in it and he’s no martyr, given what any intelligent human being can see is the myopic, power obsessed climate of our cultural “conversation” these days.

    Part of the white noise of our irrelevance comes because of our ghettoized need to think about and support companies or films or other cultural products as “Christian” in the first place. We made a bed of provincial tribalism, and then we throw up our hands in surprise when we’re asked to lie in it.

    That’s why I’m going to the basement too.

  • Did you see this Scot? Another interesting take in a similar vein.

  • Scot McKnight


    Good insights. I agree this is comeback in the culture wars. Christians have boycotted and they can now experience what it’s like. On that we agree.

    And, many younger Christians detest this stuff and Jen nails that.

    But the vitriol here is over the top.

  • Cheryl

    @Nathan, I totally agree. I can’t speak for all gay people, but what upsets me is not that he has an opinion that is opposite to mine, nor even that he expressed it. He has every right to do that.

    What he did was to say that Chick-fil-a, as an organization, will actively seek to (with publicity and with money) fight to impose his spiritual beliefs onto an issue that should be a legal and civil issue only. Of course, again, he has every right to try to do that, but to think gay people would not or should not be upset about it is naive at best or oppressive at worst.

    I really like their food, but they’re not getting one more penny of my money to fight against what I view as my civil right, not because they have an opinion contrary to mine.

  • Joshua

    Cheryl do you purchase gas for your car? OPEC member nations put to DEATH people for being gay.

  • Cheryl

    Joshua, yes, I do use gas because it’s practically a necessity… eating chicken sandwiches is not. And if i can find a gas disributor who has a good human rights record, i will support them. Thanks for the reminder to do my research.

    And you prove my original point perfectly with your example. When religionists (in your example, Muslims) seek to impose spiritual beliefs on civil rights, nothing good comes of it.

  • Joshua

    Right. If we look closely at the things we consume daily we can find legitimate reasons for boycotting them ie: chocolate, diamonds, certain fabrics and so on. We often only boycott the things that effect us or people we know though. You eat a chicken sandwich and its easy think of a gay friend fighting for the right to marry. You eat a snickers bar and I’m willing to bet slave chocolate doesn’t come to mind. It’s exhausting for me personally to research every social or political belief of every merchant I encounter daily. But people will continue to boycott things on both sides and the same arguments will be made the next time around. As Solomon said ” there is nothing new under the sun.”

  • Scot McKnight

    Joshua, you’re being snarky. You’re inviting more snark. Chick-Fil-A is not innocent in the tangling of cultural wars. There is a better way. James Hunter’s book is a start.

  • Joshua

    I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention to be snarky. Perhaps I’ve just gotten burnt out on the whole argument ( which is my fault for reading everything that comes across on the subject ).

  • I’m with Jen on this one. I’m tired of being told by everyone on both sides where to shop and eat — or to not shop and eat. Like Joshua says, it’s exhausting.

    Oreos created a gay pride cookie awhile back. And JC Penny openly supports gay rights, too. Companies can and do make statements on this subject. It’s not like CFA is the first.

    What Jen says is right. Christians need to find a way to not become part of the noise. Third way, anyone?

  • We – and that should include CFA – have a right to live speak and walk according to our beliefs. It shouldn’t matter whether these beliefs are expressed in our homes, schools, or businesses.

    To viciously penalize those who do – and that’s just what our politicians are doing – represents a denial of the very principles that has made this nation a melting pot. It can only result in alienation, fragmentation, and contempt – virtual Tower of Babel all over again.

    The Fed’s intention to force businesses to provide insurance that violates their conscience represents another disavowel of the principles that have made America great.

  • This is an interesting debate and it’s been educational reading. Having said that, I believe there’s another point that needs to be considered here that seems to have gotten swept under the rug.

    First of all, every person in the United States should be allowed to share their beliefs openly and without fear of reprisal. That’s been the hallmark of freedom and democracy in the US for many years. It’s what millions of patriots have fought and died for and we dishonor them and cheapen their sacrifice when we fail to carry on that right for ourselves and our children. But in order for “Christians” to have a meaningful discussion, the first order of business needs to be to set some “ground rules”.

    Now I’m not concerned with which particular religious denomination you may be affiliated with… I’m just speaking as a generic “Christian”, and the first prerequisite to being called a Christian is that you believe in and follow Jesus Christ. That’s what a Christian is. We believe that Christ was and is God… and that also presupposes a few other things…

    First of all, if Christ is God, then all that he says is absolute truth. All that he says is right. And all those things he’s “commanded” his followers to do, must be done in order to be saved. If not, what’s the point of the Bible? And if God IS God, then puny man isn’t going to be able to teach HIM anything, enlighten him on any of the issues, or change his mind regarding any of his doctrine… God does NOT “evolve”.

    So for “true, serious Christians” there’s only one thing that’s imperative that we do… and that’s to understand and conform to Christs teachings.

    Now many people don’t like that kind of conservative logic, I understand that, but there really is no other rational vein of thought. If he is God, then he makes the rules. That’s it! And if we want to be saved by him, it requires our very best efforts to be obedient to all his teachings. And when we falter, (and we all do) he requires repentance, so that we can be “cleansed again”.

    But he’s got all this laid out clearly in the Bible… and it’s up to us to decide if we’ll follow Christ as our God, or will we follow man simply because it’s more popular, more convenient and more fun? Remember, Christ’s teachings have never been all that popular… you remember what they did to him.

    But, having said that, let me add one more thought. Jesus Christ is much more loving than any of us can ever imagine. He’s more understanding that any of us ever could ever be. He’s much more forgiving than you or I can ever comprehend.

    Christ doesn’t expect perfection from any of us… but he does expect us to honestly try! We all fall short of the glory of God, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try.

    Because of this Chick-fil-A thing, many people have once again jumped on to the whole “gay rights” thing but have probably never even give much thought to the fact that there are hundreds of other “sins” that each of us struggles with! And Christ has given us the perfect example of how we should react and respond to these very divisive social issues. To see what Christ would say about this issue, go to and learn just how Jesus handled a similar situation. It’s worth giving some thought and consideration to in order to cool down the rhetoric and gain some solid insight into God.

    One final note… Those who aren’t Christians and don’t believe in Christ, won’t be able to carry on a conversation about this topic with any Christian, because there’s absolutely no common ground… and without common ground, this subject will only divide people more. That’s the way I see it.

  • Scott Gay

    The tip of the iceberg…..society increasingly sees evangelicalism as bad for education( and children in general) and bad for society. And a number of evangelicals identify better with the cause than the faith. And our education of young has been abyssmal in regard to more than how they feel. And the loss of the finances of the great generation to baby boomers like me will also contribute to the heart of this issue. I agree that the culture war idea was not good. It’s coming to a season of living with diminished numbers, resources, and influence( for Chick-fil-A also). Still probably a mega-church phenomenon, many dying ones, and many start-ups. So how do groups learn to articulate the gospel, increase discipline(in the sense of finding where God is working), trust and obey, grasp a robust theology, become a forgiving, servant community? Anyone doubt that places like the Jesus Creed blog and Patheos have a partial place to play with communities of evangelicals. You can run the race set before you, but you can’t hide.
    Many a non-believer think the times were so bad when the church crowd held sway. One could name many who have put forth this thesis. No wonder many harbor that the veneer of society could again be torn off. And at the same time the media will push interconnections through symbols of rings. And peace, peace, peace in the symbol of a broken cross. In the rural community where I live, the fourth largest Old Order Amish one in the world, the peace sign is worn most often by the evangelical children. I guess by my overall ethos in this post that I’m saying we became a mile wide and an inch deep. And it’s going to change. And being marginalized may feel bad to those who were used to that not being so, but the truth probably is that the spirit of Christ was marginalized even in places like Bible belts and businesses that professed otherwise and often by religious people like myself. I think this is going to do us all alot of good. Being marginalized is in a monumental sense what the spirit of Christ has always been. We’re going to be better able to identify and get with It.

  • Tom

    Joshua, while this posting itself invites snark, I find nothing snarky about your comments. Good points.

  • EricW

    Cheryl says:

    I really like their food,

    I just looked at their online menu today, and this is what my perusal yielded:

    Chick-fil-A has 4 semi-healthy menu choices (not counting the couple of healthy fruit side items): the Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich, the Chargrilled & Fruit Salad, the Chargrilled Chicken Garden Salad, and the plain Icedream cone or cup.

    That’s about it. Most everything else is way overloaded with fat and/or sodium and/or sugar. The Sweet Ice Tea has 3/4 the sugar of their soft drinks and their regular Lemonade has 20-25% MORE sugar.

    Obesity. Diabetes. High Blood Pressure. Heart Disease.

    Those who think ill of people who support Chick-fil-A should be encouraging them to eat MORE Chick-fil-A, not less, because that will take them out of the gene and voting pool.


  • Joe Mc. Faul

    Well, I admit to personal boycotts. I halve never seen a Roman Polanski movie and will not watch a Woody Allen movie. although I am Catholic, I also boycott the Catholic collection basket. the Churhc will never get any money from me and I encourage others to Jon the boycott. I shifted my donations to The Catholic worker and the Rachel Project.

  • Most of the money that the Cathy brothers are spending on “pro-marriage” initiatives has to do with marriage counseling. Yes, they gave $1000 to Exodus International in 2009 (which sucks big time in my opinion!), but there’s been some serious misinformation being spun. There’s no integrity in taking quotes from somebody out of context, turn them into “code language,” and then calling it “hate speech.” Reality is not reducible to “code words” and “front groups.”

    I wrote a piece about this after being convicted by Romans 15:3. The “insults that fall on [Don Cathy] fall on [Jesus],” just like the insults that fall on our gay brothers and sisters fall on Jesus too. Be better than all this. Peace.

    “Insults, Jared & Doug Wilson, and Chick-Fil-A”

  • DRT

    I love denouncing bigotry, but this one is so plain, obvious and well publicized on its surface that I believe people will do what they think is right, boycott or not, and not much else needs to be done. Yes, there is a reason to patronize or exclude almost any product out there, but this one has been put in our face and each of us will decide what we must do. So I have not, and will not make any attempt to influence others on this.

    I also feel that it is wrong that our politicians are choosing to take action on this, no matter how much the content of the message is hateful, in my opinion.

    As far as I have gone on this is that I have asked friends who come out and support this guy if they would like to discuss why they think he is right, and no one has taken me up on it.

  • James Neely

    I have read with interest the comments on this subject. Many, but not all, of the comments have as much of a Bible basis as what color shall we paint the foyer. I really think this is a major problem; we fight over our opinions. The owners of CFA have an absolute right, and a responsibility, to express their appropriately phrased understanding of a Biblical principle, and “suffer” the results. The authority of the Bible has been permitted to be excluded from the language of our society. When this is the case we are left with making arguements based on legal, fiscal, or other humanistic based grounds; such authorities will never be powerful enough to convince anyone. If we base our positions on sound Biblical principles, kindly expressed, and some one wishes to get bent out of shape, so be it. Such a fear has far too long quieted “Christians” from joining the discussion.

  • Mike M

    EricW: never ate there and now I never wii (for health reasons).
    Les Nielsen (paraphrase):
    “Christ is God and believing that is what makes us Christians?” What part of scripture is that from. Seriously, I’d like to know.

  • metanoia

    Let’s raise one more cynical observation that has been pretty much overlooked. The mayors of Chicago, Boston and San Francisco were pandering to a militant, highly organized, and very active group of voters. The gay community is influential beyond its size primarily because they show up come voting day. Read past these mayors obvious anti-constitutional rantings and you’ll get to the gist of the issue.

    I don’t agree that Christians need to disengage from the cultural war. I suggest that Christians do a bit more than just rise up about things we don’t support and show up in droves in the voting booths to insure that there is proper representation in our Congress for the things we stand for.

    As for Chick-fil-A, as far as I know, no one has to reveal their sexual orientation on a job application or when ordering a chicken sandwich. The only legitimate way to claim that CFA discriminates is to find proof that the point raised above have actually occurred in a systematic way as company policy.

    I fear any politician who tries to regulate free thought, even more than I fear those who try to regulate free speech.

  • Patrick

    It is astonishing that Eric W can make a post here suggesting the part of the body of Christ that does not bow down to every cultural whim of this anti Christ culture needs to commit slow suicide. That’s some virtue love for ya. Can we get an amen on that comment?

    Who needs Nero when fellow Christians(especially allegedly open minded ones!) want you dead because you are not willing to accept everything the zeitgeist offers up?

    Ross Douthat has a great article on this issue and others affecting the freedom of humans to worship as they see fit. It’s actually a law here, not that laws mean anything in our nation:

  • Tom F.

    Matt. 26:52 seems appropo here- ““for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Is an organized, public boycott not simply economic aggression, a sort of economic “sword”?

    Upon reading the comments here, I have to say, most folks seem to have painted themselves into a corner, and the sort of wild, off-the-rails responses that are slowly accumulating here seem to be the result of people (on both sides) who would like to be able to criticize the boycott on principle, but are overwhelmed by the examples of its use on their own side. Thus, a bunch of sound and fury.

    Is it too much to simply suggest a pause and to take a breath before our collective frustration with one another leads us to start doing things that we will surely regret?

  • Karen Spears Zacharias

    A form of national domestic violence — When I don’t like what you say, I’ll beat you into submission.

  • RobS

    I was hoping a gay man said he wanted to open a Chick-Fil-A in Boston and in Chicago… and just make both sides on the issue squirm. The ultimate in awkward for all sides.

    One thing I am concerned about though, is if any religious group has a leader that speaks out for traditional marriage, would they also be chastised the same by the political system in Chicago or Boston? The Boston mayor welcomed a large Islamic center in his city a couple years ago. If an imam from that group defends and supports traditional marriage, does the political system turn against him as well?

    Same with the rabbi, pastor, or priest…?? I just hope we don’t get near that.

  • EricW

    @Patrick 25:

    Nothing “astonishing” about it, Patrick. It’s called sarcasm.

    And I’m not suggesting they “need to” commit slow suicide.

    I’m saying that those who aren’t very selective in what they eat at Chick-fil-A are negatively impacting their health, and if a person were to keep eating C-f-A’s food non-selectively, their health would end up like the guy in SUPER SIZE ME!

  • Note, BTW, that the city governments in question haven’t exactly been universally praised for their statements:

  • aaron

    Does anyone else see the irony in the fact that the mayor of Boston reacted with prejudice to Cathy’s prejudice? The mayor’s prejudice toward people who are anti-gay is causing him to respond in the very same manner he claims to detest.

    All “moral” issues and differing “opinions” aside, I feel this is the ultimate hypocrisy. It’s like reverse racism. It just gets silly.

  • Mike M

    Does anyone else see the irony of having a surname that’s a girl’s name?