Spending Your Values

There’s been a lot of controversy lately about chicken sandwiches. Specifically the fact that the family that owns the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A has donated millions of dollars to groups opposing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Suddenly, supporters of marriage equality are calling for boycotts of the chain and opponents of it are feasting there to prove their conservative credentials.

Most perplexing of all to me are the people who insist that chicken sandwiches have nothing to do with marriage equality. Maybe its just the crowd of folks I’m friends with on Facebook, but I’ve seen a lot of people insisting that where the owner of Chick-fil-A spends his money is none of their concern—they just like their pickles and sweet tea. These folks are indignant that anyone would dare ask them to give up this pleasure by connecting it to things they claim to care about.

Unfortunately for these people, it is impossible to separate where we spend our money from what values we espouse. While we might claim to hold certain things dear, if we’re not supporting those things in the world through the way we use our resources (even the smallest amounts of those resources), our value claims are lies we tell to ourselves and others.

I learned a long time ago that each time I spend money, I make a choice. I can make that choice intentionally—to support the things I care about—or not. If my choices are made in ignorance, I might just wind up supporting things I oppose. When I take the time to examine my actions, I can decide which values are most important to me, and how I want to support those values in the world.

Having lived in North Carolina for fourteen years, I know Chick-fil-A and its owners’ politics well. Even when their sandwiches were otherwise-acceptable in my diet, I didn’t eat there because I knew what my money would be used to support. It is possible that you value time and cheap food more than equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. If so, please continue to buy your lunches from Chick-fil-A. I won’t be joining you there.

Lest I leave you with the impression that this is all about chicken, it is not. Every time we spend money—even a few dollars—we make a value statement.

When I travel from my home into New York City, I choose to spend the $20 it costs on a round-trip train ticket rather than on gas and parking for my car. In doing so, I am saying that I value mass transportation and environmental sustainability more than freedom and time.

When I buy coffee, I choose to spend my money on fairly traded beans even if it means going to a store I know sells them that’s a little out of my way. In doing so, I am saying that I value economic justice and accountability more than convenience.

And if I want a chicken sandwich, I’ll get it from a company that supports my right to marry. I don’t honestly know which company that is (can I order chicken sandwiches from Amazon?), but rest assured I’ll find out if I’m ever jonesing for some chicken. Maybe I can convince whatever company it is to throw a few pickle slices on the sandwich for good measure.

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  • Vicki Bloom
    • Michael Tino

      Thanks, Vicki! I wish there were more Schnippers out there and fewer Chick-fil-A’s. I’ll have to go get myself a mac and cheese at the New York Times building.

  • Appius

    Good article – but Amazon shouldn´t be an option, given their very poor record in labor issues, and the fact that they are responsible for destroying hundreds of independent bookstores and sending thousands of people into unemployment, and their families into despair.

    • Michael Tino

      Fair enough. Choosing to spend money at Amazon rather than a locally-owned, independent bookstore is also choosing a particular set of values. I only wish there were more bookstores left to shop at. (And I do hope you know I wasn’t seriously suggesting buying chicken sandwiches from Amazon.)