The Reconciliation of LGBTQ vs. Chick Fil A – why I stayed silent and the beauty of hospitality

The Reconciliation of LGBTQ vs. Chick Fil A – why I stayed silent and the beauty of hospitality January 30, 2014

It’s no secret that I have advocated that the church stay out of marriage (in regards to imposing a “Christianized” version on the government). There should be no qualms about allowing people who love each other to marry one another under the law, especially when a marriage is ratified by a pagan state. This has no effect on Christians of either persuasion – those that are progressive (who affirm LGBTQ covenantal unions as blessed by God, based on their reading of the New Testament) and traditionalists (those who, at their best, love LGBTQ folks but may not affirm sexual relationships for biblical reasons) – as marriage should be a sacred act, primarily, and not a legislative one. No matter one’s theology, the culture war is quite unnecessary.

In other words, no one is stepping into a conservative Christian church and forcing the ministers to perform marriages that go against their conscience. This is about hospitality and not imposing a version of the Christian will on people who differ.

In the past, I’ve suggested that perhaps a solid solution to this issue would be “civil unions for all” and allowing those civil unions to be ratified by religious congregations as each tradition sees fit. Given that my solution isn’t where we find ourselves at the moment, I hope more states will move toward marriage equality (for the sake of my neighbors, not because I’m passionate about being invested in U.S. politics). Unfortunately, this debate continues to spark fires that I see as unnecessary, at least as one who is postured within the Christian tradition. We ought to bear with one another and love one another, even when we disagree.

Chick Fil A Drama and My Silence

Last year, when all of the drama around Chick-fil-A was being publicized, I stayed silent. No longer, as blogger (etc.), is my first impulse to say my piece about every little online quibble that emerges. I’m finding it a good practice to keep my keystrokes silent. I don’t always have to get in  my virtual jab.

At the time, I was embarrassed to see conservative Christian people (not)representing Jesus through blatant childish put-downs and ridiculous campaigns for a company that they identified as “Christian.” Free speech is fine, but we have to understand that the LGBTQ community has endured their fair share of oppression and hatred. All that I saw coming from segments of the “Christian right” was more of the same – an attitude of superiority and entitlement.

I do not speak for the gay community, so I will simply say that I was saddened to see what I perceived as hatred (at times) on the other end of the spectrum (including straight advocates). Even so, my sympathies lie with the gay community in this situation as they are the ones who have been forced into the margins for generations. All of that to say, I was humiliated by the public face of Christianity during those few weeks, and I think that there are parts of the opposite opinion that could have been expressed with greater generosity. Both sides lived a narrative of “culture war,” and I’m tired of living in that story.

The Dehumanizing Power of the Web

The power of the Internet is a wonderful thing at times. However, at other times that power is the very source that causes further segmentation. We can put an web meme up, and now our holy opinion has been stated for the world to see. And then, the other persuasion can put up their political cartoon. This back-and-forth vitriol hardly leads to productive dialogue. That isn’t to say that there’s never a moment to name convictions or to speak the truth in love. But, there are times in which we dehumanize the “other side” of the spectrum by using internet labels rather than inviting them over for dinner to learn from them (whoever “them” may be). As a result, much of what I see during online controversies, like the LGBTQ vs. Chick Fil A issue, tends to look more like dehumanization (which is evil) than humanization (which is the way of Jesus – the fully Human One).

When the controversy broke, I didn’t find value in violent speech and detached conversation (yelling). I still don’t. Therefore, I stayed silent on the web.

Until now. Why? Because the sort of thing that should drive difficult questions within a pluralistic culture actually happend and is now public knowledge. Although I missed it when it came out about a year ago, a hopeful article inspired me today. While certain Christians were acting out of a posture of pride and anger, and while certain segments of the LGBTQ community were doing their fair share of protesting, Dan Cathy (Chick Fil A) and activist Shane Windmeyer (Campus Pride) were learning to care for each other! These sorts of stories of healing, hospitality, and reconciliation are only possible when we put a human face on the person we’ve objectified as the “other” or “enemy.” Jesus’ words come to mind: “Love your enemies…”

According to Shane Windmeyer:

On Aug. 10, 2012, in the heat of the controversy, I got a surprise call from Dan Cathy. He had gotten my cell phone number from a mutual business contact serving campus groups. I took the call with great caution. He was going to tear me apart, right? Give me a piece of his mind? Turn his lawyers on me?

The first call lasted over an hour, and the private conversation led to more calls the next week and the week after….

His questions and a series of deeper conversations ultimately led to a number of in-person meetings with Dan and representatives from Chick-fil-A. He had never before had such dialogue with any member of the LGBT community. It was awkward at times but always genuine and kind.

Remarkable! Secretly, Dan Cathy and Shane Windmeyer were hanging out during all of the drama. Not compromising their values, but exemplifying a shared value – hospitality.

The Reconciling Power of Hospitality

The internet continues to create spaces of hospitality (I’ve made many friendships through blogging, Twitter, and Facebook – for instance), but also makes it much easier to talk about someone in a way that one would never do if sitting over coffee (at least, for the most part). As this story of reconciliation demonstrates, much can be accomplished when two human people begin a very human relationship. No longer are we yelling at a screen (if we so choose) but we are yelling at a person. Seeing the face of your enemy changes things. At times, this is enough for an enemy to become an acquaintance and even a friend. This was true for Cathy and Windmeyer:

Through all this, Dan and I shared respectful, enduring communication and built trust. His demeanor has always been one of kindness and openness. Even when I continued to directly question his public actions and the funding decisions, Dan embraced the opportunity to have dialogue and hear my perspective. He and I were committed to a better understanding of one another. Our mutual hope was to find common ground if possible, and to build respect no matter what. We learned about each other as people with opposing views, not as opposing people [empahsis mine].

Clearly Cathy and Windmeyer share a different vision of sexual morality, but they serve as examples of why that doesn’t trump friendship and common human experiences! People of different persuasions have something to learn from each other – something that is difficult to learn behind the malicious claims and insults of the computer screen. We need only to hear how Windmeyer ends his excellent article to catch a better vision for dealing with culturally sensitive issues:

…after discussions with Dan and Chick-fil-A, Campus Pride suspended our campaign. Like Dan, we had faith. It took time to be proven publicly.

Now it is all about the future, one defined, let’s hope, by continued mutual respect. I will not change my views, and Dan will likely not change his, but we can continue to listen, learn and appreciate “the blessing of growth” that happens when we know each other better. I hope that our nation’s political leaders and campus leaders might do the same.

In the end, it is not about eating (or eating a certain chicken sandwich). It is about sitting down at a table together and sharing our views as human beings, engaged in real, respectful, civil dialogue. Dan would probably call this act the biblical definition of hospitality. I would call it human decency. So long as we are all at the same table and talking, does it matter what we call it or what we eat?

Sitting at the Table Together

What would it look like for Christians of all persuasions to learn from each other and from the good folks in the LGBTQ community? Every situation will be different. But, I have a feeling that a meal might help. Or perhaps, what might help is the assumption behind the meal: you and I belong together, not divided.

The beauty of hospitality is that it doesn’t mean compromising one’s beliefs (in every case), but it means learning to love and respect people no matter their beliefs. This is foundational for the Christian life. Jesus, who taught us to “love our enemies” also invites us to uphold two great commandments: love for God and love for neighbor. Perhaps with this posture, we will move beyond web controversy and begin to see authentic human image-bearers, all for whom Christ died.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Chris Bennett

    I’m having a hard time exactly stating what my thought is here so bare with me.

    I’m amazed at how I can look back over the course of the last few years and see how my overall views and feelings on this subject have changed. I admit that I started as a hard-line “protector of marriage”. I didn’t care about the people involved or how their lives were affected by anything. I couldn’t care less what you believe because the bible says….

    Now, I feel like I care about people more. And not just on this issue, but in general. My heart and mind have been opened to the fact that Jesus didn’t come so that we could have intellectual and spiritual debates about Him. He came to love people, to be with people, to empathize and care about people.

    I still feel like there is more I(we) can do to further understanding and compassion for people different than us, but I’m so grateful to be on this journey and to see the progress.

    • JenellYB

      Can you say what it was that changed it for you? What realization, or experience? Maybe the key to how to get through the stone cold hearts and hatred of those still holding such hard-line views could best come from ones that have changed, sharing what it was that did it for them. Perhaps not just in matters of LGBTQ, but any and all the ‘categories’ of people they are this way toward, such as the poor, single mothers, minorities, even still in some churches, the divorced and divorced/remarried.

    • I used to be anti-gay (got dragged to an Anita Bryant Save Our Children rally some time last millennium) but knowing several of them as an RN has changed my mind. Strangely, having a lesbian couple (both nurses) come to our house for many meals hasn’t magically destroyed my marriage.

      Then again, as one fellow cowhand discovered, I might just be lesbian myself. 😉

  • Joey Richard

    As someone who is a Christian and an advocate for the LGBT community (my sister is a Lesbian) I really like this post. I think it would do Christians a lot of good to love each other and others who disagree with them and try to learn something from all people.

  • Pubilius

    It is EXTREMELY difficult to show hospitality to someone who doesn’t want you to have equal rights, keeps you out of the church, funds anti-LGBTQ violence in Africa, and tells LGBTQ youth they’re less-than (perverted, evil) at WinShape camps… But, Jesus says to love our enemies, and for me, that’s my fellow Christians who do these things– not atheists. Come to the table and show radical hospitality, but also non-violent resistance towards Chickfil-a and those who advocate such horrific and dehumanizing things. I struggle with this a great deal.

    • Pubilius –

      I SO hear you. I’m a gay man that spends a fair deal of my free time engaged in the public conversation regarding faith and sexuality. It’s hard not to take it all personally. At its core, traditionalist theology pathologizes people who are gay and says our relationships are inferior and immoral. I don’t view myself as sick or my marriage as inferior – in fact, my husband and I work faithfully to have a God-honoring relationship.

      But here’s the thing: If we take God at his word, then we are all created in his image and have a unique contribution to make to the kingdom. If I expect people to see God in me, I think I’m obligated to exhibit the same discipline. I don’t think my status as “historically marginalized” absolves me of the great commandment. (If you have any interest in reading my muddled thoughts about this:

      And even more, I think that disagreement is almost completely unproductive in the absence of agreement. David Blankenhorn has called this “achieving disagreement”. I find that when I jump to conclusions about people who hold to traditionalist theology, I miss out on opportunities for understanding…Understanding that is a balm to some of my pain.

      That’s not to say that I’m always successful. I’m pretty passionate about this subject because I fear for the fourteen year old gay kid in the front pew of our churches. Too many people have died; and that’s something to be passionate about. But I sincerely desire to ground my disagreement in relationship.

      I wish you peace –

  • JenellYB

    There can be no ‘human relationship’ between an abuser, as long as they persist in their abuse, without repentance, and the abused victim. The abuser has dehumanized the one they abuse. Dan Cathy is placating for his own interests. Shane Windemeyer displayed true grace. Campus Pride suspended their campaign. Dan Cathy didn’t change HIS Chick-fil-a policies of degrading attack on the LFBTQ community. Kindness and openness? Smooth mouthed slimy hypocrite snake, more like it. In a different time and culture, Dan Cathy and his ilk wouldn’t try to smooth things with sweet talk over in the flap over the ill-advised social/political blunder they chose, they’d have just stoned Windemeyer and other LFBTQ to death. LFBTQ myself, nor have close loved ones caught up in this issue, but I will still never set foot in another Chick-fil-a.

    • Ken Steckert

      Your response is along the same vein as most of the responses to Shane’s blog, which appears to me to have all the judgmental attitude you accuse the conservative Christians of having.

      Dan approached Shane; Dan invited Shane to the bowl game for them to be seen and photographed together. This story did not make the major media as I was not aware of this until now. Everything in Shane’s blog indicates to me Dan was doing this for understanding Shane and his views, though neither changed. With the exception of the bowl game, everything I understood from the article is that is was all between them and their families; not to win over more consumers for Chick-Fil-A. If anything, I expect the more public this relationship with Shane would become, the more it may hurt their business because conservative Christians I know intentionally go there to support them, and this could cause them to change where their business goes.

      Did you read the article? Chick-fil-a has changed who their charitable giving supports as a result of his relationship with Shane. No, they have not changed their convictions regarding the right/wrongness of LGBTQ, but they no longer support organizations that Shane believes are unjust to the LGBTQ community.

      We are all unique and in the totality of who we are we all have a differing set of convictions or lack of convictions. That Dan and Shane have a genuine relationship with such obvious differences I find very encouraging. It is only when this happens that we can truly live together in peace. Unfortunately, it seems many do not want to enter into relationships with people so different than them; actually, taking time to have genuine love for one another even when there is much is common, is more time than many want to give.

  • Bill Brown

    Conveying this in text rather than in person will give it a harsher tone than I intend, however I must respond to a couple assumptions in your post:

    “In other words, no one is stepping into a conservative Christian church and forcing the ministers to perform marriages that go against their conscience. This is about hospitality and not imposing a version of the Christian will on people who differ.” Actually that is exactly what will happen. Because of the current American understanding of “rights” and “freedom” ministers will eventually be coerced to perform services that violate their consciences in order to protect the “rights” of others. It has already happened in documented cases concerning a wedding photographer, a baker, and at least one well known online dating service.

    You make the critical point that we must dialogue in love with those we disagree with. So true. But that doesn’t mean every disagreement can be reconciled to both side’s satisfaction. We live in a world where many issues are mutually exclusive. Christ said as much. On those points, compromise will leave neither party satisfied.

    It is of course absolutely critical for the body of Christ to treat homosexuals with dignity, allowing for them to lead lives of peace with the same access to employment, safety, etc. But that is not what the marriage fight is all about–nor is it analogous to the civil rights struggle that is based on race. Homosexuals already have the right to have their partners on their benefit plans, openly live together, etc. Marriage, however–throughout human history–has had very specific purposes and parameters…and the vast majority of societies have had similar expectations for it as an institution. One of the primary purposes of marriage as fashioned by God is procreation. The fact that procreation only occurs with the union of a male and female, even when facilitated artificially in a laboratory, says all that needs to be said about the natural order of the family.

    (If you say that I would feel different if I actually knew some LBGT people, I’d respond by saying I have a long term friendship with a gay man, have known more than one as acquaintances, and have the chance to interact with others because my wife works in library services, which is field with a high LBGT population. They, like all of us, have varying perspectives on the issues that confront our day.)

    • disqus_Yay8KTIIt6

      When Mary and Joseph were married, they shacked up together. There was no ceremony. People in biblical times and still today in some cultures, marriage is moving in together.

      Same-sex partnerships are not the same as being married and getting federal recognition and tax breaks. It is not the same thing as having your partner, whom you lived for more than 10 years, die at the 9/11 towers and have family fight you for the benefits, inheritance, material possessions, what have you. Marriage is a secular ideology with pagan roots. It is 2014 and a friend of mine living in the south was not allowed to see her partner in the emergency room after a motorcycle accident because she was not considered family and her partners family lived out of state, so she was in a hospital alone.

      Some Christians tend to encircle themselves into thinking about their society now. They reflect their spiritual beliefs in what they have experienced and been told in the now, tending to forget that in biblical times it wasn’t how our government is set-up now.

      • Bill Brown

        Mary and Joseph, were not “shacking up” in the modern sense of the word, they were in a legally binding relationship far more defined than our current “engagement” and would have gone through a traditional engagement ceremony.

        Whether it’s God presenting Eve to Adam; a slave jumping over a stick; a nomad walking through a tent flap (i.e., Isaac and Rebecca); two people moving in together in a frontier house while waiting for the circuit preacher to make his next round; a postmodern Westerner signing a document; or a couple living together for so long that it’s considered a “common law marriage,” society has always treated marriage as a legal institution by whatever manner it enforced its legal parameters. God intended it as such, even as He made a legally binding marriage covenant with His people.

        There have always been certain expectations on the part of the participants. (For example: financial, as well as shame, barriers to exiting). Any biblical example of “shacking up” would have entailed those expectations–and it would have been between a man and a woman. Until very recently, no situation of two people of the same sex residing in the same household would ever be recognized as “marriage.”

        It’s debatable to what degree our government is pagan and to what degree it has Judeo-Christian truth woven into its fabric. Regardless, Christians are dual citizen and obligated to obey its strictures (for the most part). They also have the right in our society–and a responsibility–to influence what it makes legal, illegal, and what it enforces. The bottom line is that human law follows morality–so if the majority of the population believes a certain behavior is moral, they will legalize it, whether or not it actually is. But that doesn’t obligate Christians to agree.

        Regarding your friend, it is heartbreaking to think of an injured person suffering alone in a hospital without access to someone she has a close relationship with. However, the issue isn’t gay marriage. There are many bizarre regulations regarding visiting the hospitalized. Why, for example, is “family” the barrier set up by the hospital (or state)? Any legal definition of family would preclude visits by other people just as emotionally intimate as homosexual lovers. I have someone in my family who was in as gut-wrenching a situation. A hospital refused to reveal to a long-married heterosexual woman that her unconscious husband had been admitted there due to a traffic accident. They cited HIPPA. This couple was not estranged from each other. He had been missing for two days and she was deeply worried and was checking all local hospitals.

        • disqus_Yay8KTIIt6

          Mr. Brown, I am not going to argue with you. I am not trying to change your mind at all. Everything in your reply has been off base. Including the hospital situation; there is a difference in finding a body with no identification (i worked at a hospital) and simply being heartless.

          The mistake that many make is thinking that our government has some type of Christian roots. The only Christian roots are those that self-proclaimed Christians have in a political agenda and have put many sheeps off a different path. If you go down the history of USA, there isn’t much that a Christian should be proud of. We have the inquisitions, slavery, burning women at the stake, killings of many American Indians, the red scare, which in fact is when all the “in God we trust” language was printed on currency (1950’s), and our current political arena, I am referring to the involvement of Christians is embarrassing at best.

          As for me, my God isn’t a politically involved, drill sergeant being that is unjust and specifically does not read what is in the heart of each individual. My God is a loving being, that knows what each one of us was going to turn out to be before we were even conceived, therefore knowing that we all need to be treated equally and at the end, each one of us will speak to Him about how we dealt with others, how we behaved and if we brought people towards Him or pushed them away from Him.

          God be with you. Peace.

          • Bill Brown

            You simply dismissed “everything” I said as off base. The Lord knows if that’s true or not. On the other hand, I do find things I agree with you on.

            A point we absolutely agree on is the history of the United States. This nation was never as “Christian” as people like to think. In fact, shockingly shameful in many more ways than you cite. Of course, no country ever has actually been governed by biblical ideals and by people wholly seeking to live by God’s Spirit and love. I would say the current political arena in the US involves embarrassing behavior on all sides. After all, we live in a fallen world.

            If we know Christ, then we are citizens of God’s Kingdom, as well as of the nation-state we happened to be born in. And we must grapple with that tension. People come to different conclusions as they do this. Through it all, God passionately loves people. Therefore, He’s involved in every aspect of His human creation, including politics. He desires each of us to know Him intimately, and to know what pleases and displeases Him (being “loving” includes recognizing that some attractive things are right and some are wrong—if you’re a parent you see that daily).

            So, while someone else’s blog is not the place to continue to discourse on the myriad issues raised by the original topic, I look forward to meeting you in eternity. Since we all see in a mirror dimly now, it will be interesting to compare notes on the ways each of us was spot-on in our understanding of God and where we indeed were off base.

            Peace to you, too.

  • Gavin Linderman

    Can’t help but think of Jesus table etiquette. Luke 14:12
    He also said to the one who had invited Him, When you give a lunch or a dinner, dont invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid.
    He goes on to say that we should invite the most unlikely of people.

  • disqus_Yay8KTIIt6

    Thank you.