I haven’t posted anything about Chick-fil-A yet, even though it’s been in the news lately. Thing is, the current flap is all too familiar. I remember the boycotts. It seems like, as evangelicals, we were always boycotting something. The one I remember most is K-Mart, which we studiously avoided even though I don’t even remember what they did that we were unhappy with.
In this post, I’m going to quote from a number of articles from the blogosphere to examine the recent Chick-fil-A issue and address also address boycotts specifically, drawing on both my own experiences and my thoughts today. So, here goes!
First I give you ‘Stance’ vs. substance: why evangelicals are confused about the actual harm Chik-fil-A is doing to actual people, on The Slacktivist:
For a recent example of this bafflement in action, see Jasmine Young’s Christianity Today article on Chik-fil-A’s most recent offensive in the culture wars. Young describes this as mainly a “controversy … over Chik-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s stance against same-sex marriages.”
This misunderstands, and fundamentally misrepresents, the complaint of those who are upset with Chik-fil-A. Unlike Young and the Christianity Today crowd, these folks don’t primarily view the world through the lens of “stances.” They’re not upset with Cathy’s “stance,” but with his actions.
Because those actions matter. Dan Cathy and Chik-fil-A are exerting power against other people. They are using their financial power to leverage political power in order to deny others their rights.
Chik-fil-A’s critics aren’t concerned about Cathy’s opinions, but about his actions — his actions against them.
For Christianity Today, opinions are what matters most. For them, the important thing is Cathy’s “stance” and not the substance of his actions against others.
Two excellent points here. First, evangelicals are indeed obsessed with stance over substance. I think one reason is the emphasis on faith over works. If you hang around evangelicals long enough, you’ll hear over and over again that we’re NOT saved by our works, but rather by our FAITH – and that if you even start to think your works might matter in gaining salvation, well, then you’re not saved. With this background, it’s no wonder opinions seem to be so very much more important to evangelicals than actions.
Second, I think that if the only concern was Cathy’s beliefs, well, this whole boycott thing would be kind of silly. We do have freedom of belief in this country. I don’t ask my landlady her religious beliefs, so why should what Chick-fil-A’s CEO believes matter? The issue, though, becomes quite different if actions are involved. If Chick-fil-A donates some proportion of its proceeds to hate groups, or actively discriminates in some way, well, then I definitely won’t be sending any of my money that way. But I think we need to remember that distinction between belief and action.
Next I offer Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse: “Reject gays and eat at Chick-fil-A.” on John Shore:
I’ve been ignoring the whole Chick-fil-A thing because there’s only so much stupid a person can absorb before having to whang themselves on the head with a hammer. (And also because I loathe businesses founded upon the idea that illiteracy is charming.)
But yesterday I got a letter from a reader in which she related how she and her daughter had done a “shoebox Christmas box” for the Christian non-profit organization Samaritan’s Purse, the Board Chairman and CEO of which is Franklin Graham.
“Other than a quick look at their website,” she wrote, “I did not really research the organization. Since doing the box I received occasional emails from them. Last week I received one asking me to pray for Chick-fil-A and their crusade against gay marriage. WHAT!?!! I thought we were helping the impoverished with toothpaste, medical care, and stuffed teddy bears!”
See, even as evangelicals will cry “religious discrimination” when faced with the outcry over Chick-fil-A, they will turn around and make it into a religious crusade. In resisting the onslaught aimed at Chick-fil-A, they unwittingly only perpetuate it. I mean, praying for the good, godly people of Chick-fil-A to stand firm against the evils of gay marriage? How does that say anything but “hey gay people! Chick-fil-A really is trying to curtail your rights!”
I guess what I’m saying is, evangelicals can’t both say that the whole anti-Chick-fil-A thing is all ridiculous hype by crazed liberals why are trying to stifle simple freedom of belief and argue that Chick-fil-A needs prayer and support as it wages war against gay marriage. Sorry. It just doesn’t work like that.
And finally I give you Chick-fil-A and the Attack of the Tyrannatots, by Douglas Wilson (I’m sorry in advance):
The outlines of the latest Free Speech Clown Car Review are pretty familiar by now. Dan Cathy, the COO of Chick-fil-A, was asked his opinion on homosexual marriage, and he, being a good Christian man, said he was agin it. This should not have been an astonishment, for it has pretty much been the mainstream position of Western civilization from Moses down to the Obama of about three months ago. But a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, as the fellow said, and so who cares anymore? That man with all the chicken has clearly DEVIATED, and he must be CORRECTED.
The word discriminate is a verb that requires context before determining whether it is a good or bad thing. Discriminate against what? Why? Against whom? Gay is not the new black. Being homosexual is sinful, and being black isn’t. This kind of argument assumes that if an employer declines to make a compulsive gambler his bookkeeper then next thing you know he will be turning away hardworking and thrifty Asians who want to work for him honestly. I guess the argument makes sense, if the light is poor, and you squint. I guess the argument makes sense if you assume that being a thief and being Asian amount to more or less the same thing.
Yes, I just made you read something by Doug Wilson. I sincerely apologize. But, I wanted to use his words to make two points.
First, in spite of The Slacktivist’s differentiation between stance and substance, evangelicals will naturally interpret this whole thing as an attempt to stifle freedom of speech and freedom of belief. I remember this well. This sort of thing is used as fodder for the argument that the grand governmental suppression of Christianity, and imprisonment of Christians, is just around the corner. In other words, it plays into the evangelical persecution complex, building its walls higher rather than finding any way to reach across them for honest discussion or any chance of actually changing hearts.
The problem is, it seems like everything plays into their worldview, because it can somehow be interpreted to do so. No matter what I say, my parents will attribute my defection to liberal brainwashing. You see what I’m saying? Speaking out against Chick-fil-A or similarly anti-gay businesses in any way is going to result in cries of “Persecution! Thought police! Persecution!” from evangelicals. I don’t have a solution here, but I think it’s important to remember that boycotts or outcries like this can actually have a negative affect, further fortifying evangelical worldviews.
Second, I think the biggest hangup between the pro- and anti-gay-rights crowds is the question of whether people are naturally born gay or whether being gay is simply a sin anyone can indulge in, like theft. Is being gay like being black, or is it like being a compulsive gambler? This is part of why those on each side of the aisle so often simply talk past each other. Simply put, they’re not talking about the same thing. And when you combine this with evangelicals’ persecution complex and their seeming belief that any criticism of or resistance toward their beliefs amounts to thought police with pending imprisonment, well, sometimes I just want to throw up my hands in despair! I don’t know how to fix this, except to say that my own conversion from anti-gay to pro-gay-rights began with actually knowing real, live gay people.
I’m not sure any of those thoughts are really cohesive. I suppose that’s probably natural because my thoughts on the Chick-fil-A issue haven’t really been that cohesive. I won’t be buying anything at Chick-fil-A because I don’t want my money working against the rights of my friends and co-workers, but I can’t help but watch the vocal outcry against Chick-fil-A with a sad understanding of how evangelicals will use the issue to only further buttress their discriminatory beliefs and worldview.