What's Wrong With Dan Cathy's New Friend?

What's Wrong With Dan Cathy's New Friend? February 21, 2013

Well, I’m sure by now many of you have heard of Dan Cathy’s friendship with Shane Windmeyer, leading gay activist opponent of Chick-Fil-A. Windmeyer contributes to the Gay Voices corner of the Huffington Post and recently published a piece providing the details of the surprising relationship. Many Christian evangelicals have referred positively to this article and praised Cathy’s decision to cultivate this friendship. The consensus has been that this is a positive, healthy thing that will help “heal division” and further lay to rest the caricature of Christians as “hateful” towards the gay community. Even conservative evangelicals like Denny Burk are reacting this way.

As usual, I’m going to be the lone dissenter. But I don’t want to downplay the significance of this story. On the contrary, I agree that it’s significant. But I disagree regarding how we, as Christians in the trenches of the culture wars, should receive it.
According to Windmeyer, Dan Cathy made contact with him privately during Windmeyer’s Campus Pride campaign against the restaurant chain. Eventually, they began to get together for regular face-to-face conversations. Although Windmeyer admits that Cathy didn’t back down from his beliefs about marriage, he does take pride in the fact that he was able to make Cathy feel guilty for some “hateful” behavior that was only tangentially related to his business:

Dan listened intently to our concerns and the real-life accounts from youth about the negative impact that Chick-fil-A was having on campus climate and safety at colleges across the country. He was concerned about an incident last fall where a fraternity was tabling next to the Chick-fil-A restaurant on campus. Whenever an out gay student on campus would walk past the table, the fraternity would chant, “We love Chick-fil-A,” and then shout anti-gay slurs at the student. Dan sought first to understand, not to be understood. He confessed that he had been naïve to the issues at hand and the unintended impact of his company’s actions.

In short, some frat boys took Chick-fil-A’s name in vain while behaving like frat boys. And Windmeyer’s point was… what, exactly? Why, exactly, should Cathy feel personally guilty/responsible for this particular incident, or similar incidents? There’s no moral sense in which it was his “fault.”
On the flip side, Cathy could have provided ample examples of direct “bullying” on the gay activist side that have had far more damaging consequences for people’s careers and livelihoods. These are Christian students, Christian business owners, Christians in the public square who go about their daily lives fearing what might happen if their biblical views on this matter were made fully public. Some of them have been unable to avoid making known what they believe and are suffering the consequences. The most recent example was a baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple. Instead of thanking the baker for his straight-forward answer and taking their business elsewhere, this couple is choosing to sue him for all he’s worth. Best-case scenario from their perspective? He loses the suit and his business with it.

That’s serious bullying. There are many, many more examples like it. There’s the girl who nearly lost her college career because she wouldn’t complete a class assignment that involved writing and signing a letter to the state legislature that affirmed gay adoption. There’s the woman who is even now being pursued by the authorities as a “kidnapper” for removing her biological daughter from a lesbian relationship, while the Mennonites here and abroad who have helped her are interrogated and imprisoned. And if you’re just looking for some good old-fashioned schoolyard bullying, just ask the little old lady who was assaulted by gay activists at an anti-Prop 8 protest.
If Cathy had had the motivation to offer these cases as a response to Windmeyer’s weak accusations, he could easily have done so. But he chose, instead, to be “nice,” which translated meant meekly accepting the artificial “blame” being foisted upon him without offering any push-back whatsoever. If I were in Cathy’s shoes, I would have laid them out, one by one, then looked Windmeyer in the eye and said, “Sir, this is the work of your people. Now what do you have to say for yourself?
People may respond, “But Cathy may be the only Christian Windmeyer’s gotten to know well in his entire life. Think what a great witnessing opportunity this friendship is. Who knows, maybe a little of Cathy will rub off on Windmeyer.” This is unlikely, for two reasons. First of all, Windmeyer himself describes his long relationship with his Pentecostal Christian uncle in some detail, so Cathy isn’t the first. Second, Windmeyer makes it clear that to his mind, one of the great successes of this relationship was the very fact that both of them walked away without budging an inch on their core beliefs. He opines in magnanimously smug tones:

And in that we had great commonality: We were each entirely ourselves. We both wanted to be respected and for others to understand our views. Neither of us could — or would — change. It was not possible. We were different but in dialogue. That was progress.

You heard it from the man himself—change is impossible as far as he’s concerned. So there go any grand hopes of his imminent conversion to Christianity. Whatever God’s plans may be for him, we can be confident that it sure ain’t gonna happen any time soon.
So, having established that all hopes of Windmeyer’s becoming a Christian as a direct result of this friendship are ill-founded, what are we left with at the end? What, precisely, has happened here? I make it three things:
1. We’ve learned that Chick-fil-A no longer funds legitimate, reputable pro-family groups like the Family Research Council, Exodus, or Eagle Forum. (And no, getting vilified by hate-groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t count as being “disreputable.”) We know this because Chick-fil-A chose to share their tax forms with Windmeyer, which revealed that “the most divisive” organizations had been defunded even before the whole ruckus erupted last year. Let that sink in a minute. People were showing up in force to support Chick-fil-A partly for their financial backing of groups they were no longer supporting. But Chick-fil-A chose not to let that fact get out at the time, for obvious reasons. Now that Windmeyer has confirmed this, he’s calling back his minions from their protesting. Why? He’s gotten what he wanted. Whatever motivated Chick-fil-A to withdraw support for these groups earlier, this is incredibly sad and a big gain for the gay activists. It’s one more ironic example of Christians who are actually falling all over themselves to meet the left half-way even as the left is protesting them as fringe loonies.

2. Windmeyer has gotten an ego boost out of the feeling that he’s made such a gracious gesture in deigning to be friends with a member of the new ostracized societal group—evangelical Christians. Look how tolerant he is! Let’s be honest, is that really good for his soul? For Cathy to have formed this “non-judgemental” relationship, wherein all the apologizing comes from his end, is only to make this man more self-congratulatory, more smugly entrenched in the loftiness of his own life and (evil) activism.
3. Windmeyer has walked away thinking Dan Cathy seems like a very nice man. But does that mean anything? Does it have eternal significance? Any hypothetical “missional” fruit from this relationship is just that, hypothetical. We don’t have any reason to think he’s any closer to accepting Christ (in fact we have reason to believe he’s not). Meanwhile, he remains proudly “married” to another man, while his aggressively perverse campaign to corrupt society and youth continues on undeterred. The good news is good, but it isn’t “nice.” The gospel is good, but it isn’t “nice.” It is quite the opposite, in fact. This man is no closer to seeing himself for who he truly is than he was before. Hence, he is no closer to seeing Christ for who He truly is.
So ultimately, Cathy’s decision has proven pointless at best and helpful to the gay community at worst. There’s nothing to be gained from it from an earthly or an eternal perspective, and there is definitely something significant to be lost. Why have a discussion when there’s nothing to discuss? Why attempt to find something in common when there is nothing to be held in common? Why heal a divide that Jesus himself came to create? One wonders how far this treatment would extend under different circumstances. Suppose the cultural zeitgeist was leaning towards acceptance of pedophilia? Would Christian leaders like Cathy then feel a duty or obligation to “befriend” known, unashamed pedophiliacs, to prove that we’re not “haters”? Would he make friends with a man living with an eight-year-old boy as his “husband”?
Ostracism must begin somewhere along this line. It seems like proud, active, aggressive perversion is a legitimate place to start.  If I were in Cathy’s shoes, I would have objected loudly to the proposal to de-fund these pro-family groups. Maybe then Windmeyer’s goons would still be camped out around my restaurants. But I would rather have it that way if that is how it must be. War borne of principle is a far nobler thing than peace bought with compromise.

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  • I guess I just don’t understand how you can make such blanket statements like this:
    “So ultimately, Cathy’s decision has proven pointless at best and helpful to the gay community at worst. There’s nothing to be gained from it from an earthly or an eternal perspective, and there is definitely something significant to be lost. ”
    I mean – were you in on the conversations and exchanges the men had together? How can you so flatly say that there will be no eternal significance gained by the friendship? God’s ways are above our ways, so we have no way of knowing for one second what kind of impact may or may not have been made on this man because of his interactions with Cathey. To think otherwise is extremely pious.

  • Hold that line Chick-Fil-A. I’m proud of the stand you have taken. With Gods help we will win this battle.

  • Lydia

    But you can say that about anything. For example, suppose that Cathy had gone even farther and apologized for having said that marriage is between a man and a woman. He didn’t, but this is just a hypothetical. If he’d done that, those defending it could always say, “You don’t know. Maybe his apologizing for those views will have some positive spiritual benefit for someone, somewhere.” Yet hopefully more Christians would be agreed that such a compromise would not be worth it for the dubious hope that someone would be motivated to like Christianity more or something because of it.
    We have to go with the evidence we have, not just hold out unsupported “maybes.” The evidence does tend to favor YGG’s conclusions. I think one particularly good point is that Windmeyer himself is beyond all doubt a supporter of all manner of bullying against Christians, and in a sense Cathy has affirmed him in that by being his “buddy.”
    Compare, for example: Suppose that someone were a leader in the KKK or a neo-Nazi group and supported doing things like harassing blacks to make them uncomfortable so that they wouldn’t get “uppity” and demand civil rights. It would rightly make Christians squirm if a prominent Christian said, “Hey, I’ve formed a friendship with Mr. KKK. He knows I don’t agree with what he stands for, and he hasn’t changed his views at all, but we can hope that somehow some spiritual good will come to him from this non-judgemental friendship we have.”
    I think one reason people are so focused on the possible good that might come from this friendship is because they don’t have a vivid enough sense of the fact that Windmeyer is a member of and leader in an extremely nasty and bullying political movement which should be considered entirely unacceptable.

  • But you missed my point. To unequivocally say that it had no spiritual or kingdom purpose is completely pious. Even she had qualified her statement with “I can’t see how this would have any kingdom significance” – I could give her a pass. But she’s completely denying any kind of impact that could be had by these too meeting and discussing the matter.

  • Lydia

    Well, the post isn’t just discussing the two meeting and discussing the matter. What it’s about is the overall set of events that has happened–this buddy-friendship that has developed between Cathy and Windmeyer. That’s not just a meeting or two. That’s Cathy bringing Windmeyer to the game with him (I forget what kind of game it was). That’s Windmeyer telling the world about this friendship and getting to portray *himself* as the tolerant one for being willing to attend with Cathy. That’s Windmeyer calling off his protesters after a) learning that Chik-Fil-A had already given up funding the groups they didn’t want them to fund and b) getting expressions of regret from Cathy for the alleged “suffering” caused by people using Chik-Fil-A’s name.
    It’s the whole package deal. And honestly, I can’t help wondering: If you imagine a whole package deal as exactly like that as possible, spell the whole thing out, including expressions of sadness for alleged “harassment” against the ones complaining and so forth, but replace Windmeyer’s group with the kind of people I mentioned in the previous comment (neo-Nazis or KKK members), I kind of doubt that you’d be quibbling so much over precise wording. If Cathy or anybody else in his position was buddying up with a KKK leader and expressing great sadness at the fact that his restaurant name had been used in unpleasant comments yelled at KKK members, and all the rest of it, and someone wrote a blog post saying, “This much-advertised friendship and these apologies are serving no good purpose,” would you come into a thread saying, “Hey, you should say, ‘As far as I know’ rather than saying that so unqualifiedly”?
    I just can’t help thinking that this complaint is partly a result of the fact that you don’t see clearly enough the problems with affirming Windmeyer and affirming Windmeyer’s claims of victim status.

  • Lydia

    And let’s add to the mix: Part of the package deal that I take it YGG is saying there’s “nothing to be gained from” is the defunding of Eagle Forum and the other organizations. Now that is really _concrete_ compromise. There’s no doubt in my mind that Windmeyer wouldn’t have written this article if Chik-Fil-A had held fast to that funding or even if Cathy himself had said, “Hey, I wonder why our charitable contributions arm stopped funding those groups. I’m going to look into it and try to get that funding reinstated.” It’s pretty evident that part of what Windmeyer demanded in this “friendship” was that very concrete and specific compromise from Chik-Fil-A: Not funding those groups.
    That’s somewhat serious stuff, and putting that into the mix makes it even less necessary to put some kind of qualifier into the statement that this is not going to be a net gain for the good guys.

  • No – you are failing to see the seriousness of limiting the capacity at which God can work. To unequivocally say that there was no kingdom impact or significance by these two gaining a friendship is pious at BEST.

  • I think Lydia’s making a lot of good points here. I’ll just add that we make, as you put it, “blanket statements” all the time without giving it a second thought. For example, I don’t have a problem with saying that I “know” I’m sitting here typing a response to your comment. But do I know this with absolute, 100% certainty? No. There’s a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction continued on to the nth degree of a possibility that I MIGHT be in the Matrix. But that possibility is so ridiculous and carries such a low probability that it’s not worth bothering about. It would be silly to constantly qualify my statements about what I know even though I can know very few things for absolute certain.

  • Yes but what you’re saying is that there’s no way that God can do anything with this friendship. That does deserve a qualifier – because otherwise you’re saying that you know better than God’s ways. There’s no other way around it.

  • Would you feel better if I said that whatever kingdom impact MIGHT come of this, we have good reason to believe it doesn’t outweigh its many and sundry bad effects, which, I might add, also have kingdom significance?

  • Except it seems that in some ways Chick-fil-A isn’t really holding the line, which is why I wrote this disappointed post.

  • Also, I don’t think Lydia’s analogy to the KKK is illegitimate here—out of curiosity, would you have responded to a post like this in the exact same way in that scenario?

  • Lydia

    Look, when people say, “That isn’t going to do any good” they mean, “This is an incredibly bad idea.” It isn’t a limit on God. Technically, God can use _anything_, but that doesn’t mean we have to put a qualifier in about _anything_. For example, I notice that nobody goes running around chiding people who say, “Westboro Baptist’s antics do no good and do a great deal of harm.” (Would you go lecturing somebody who said that, Chris, as you’ve done here?) Is such a statement “limiting God”? After all, you never know: God _might_ find some incredibly roundabout way of “using” their deranged behavior! Why don’t we just go scream at people on the sidewalk? You never know, God might use it. We don’t want to put limits on God, etc.
    In other words, phrases like “that doesn’t do any good” are accepted as perfectly understandable and legitimate and not needing qualification when we’re talking about being mean or looking like crazy Christians. But when one says that bending over backwards to make friends and accommodate “doesn’t do any good,” suddenly this has to be lectured as “limiting God.”

  • But she didn’t say “this doesn’t do any good.” That statement is much less harsh than what she said:
    “So ultimately, Cathy’s decision has proven pointless at best and helpful to the gay community at worst. There’s nothing to be gained from it from an earthly or an eternal perspective, and there is definitely something significant to be lost. ”

  • Lydia

    So in addition to saying this does no good, the statement also says that it does important harm. Again, if someone said *precisely those words* about some sort of technique or activity by Christians that you strongly, strongly disapproved of, Chris (like I said, think of the shenanigans of the Westboro Baptist crowd), I really doubt that you would be saying it was “limiting God” not to put some sort of qualifying phrase in there. Seriously doubt it. The fact is that you want the qualifying phrase in there because you just plain disagree that Cathy’s and Chik-Fil-A’s set of decisions here was seriously unwise. If you did really think they dropped the ball, we wouldn’t be having this game of theological dodge-ball about “limiting God.” You’re using that nit-picking as a substitute for making a more substantive comment. But since it’s *true of anything*, however counterproductive or unwise, that God _could_ use it for good, your complaints are ultimately kind of trivial. Wouldn’t it lead to a more interesting discussion just to come right out and say that you don’t think this set of actions had the actual bad consequences YGG is describing? Or that you think they were right to defund Eagle Forum? Something like that. Because quite frankly, if you really disagreed with their set of decisions and with the way this friendship is being spun, we wouldn’t be hearing all these theological quibbles about how “we don’t know that God isn’t going to use this.”

  • Lydia

    And by “precisely those words,” I mean precisely the words YGG used, only applied to something you really disapprove of.

  • My guess is Chris wants to quibble with “there’s nothing to be gained from it from an eternal perspective.” Maybe a bit sweeping, but I think what I was getting at is that from an eternal perspective, this could actually do HARM.

  • I don’t know what a YGG is, and sorry but I can’t find the name of the person that wrote this diatribe, but I really don’t like lies, obfuscation or just plain getting the facts wrong then judging someone for it. But “But Chick-fil-A chose not to let that fact get out at the time…” is WRONG. I knew it. Why didn’t you? Are you not up on the news? Perhaps! You should pay more attention and write less. (sorta like quick to hear and slow to speak.) Just sayin’, 😉 and have a nice day.

  • Ohhhh YGG is Yankee Gospel Girl… OK, got it.

  • You have a nice day too, and thanks for commenting on my diatribe. 🙂 I’m curious, do you have a citation for that information? My distinct impression was that the reason Windmeyer HADN’T called off the dogs sooner was precisely because it WASN’T known that those groups were completely defunded.

  • Lydia

    Hmmm, my memory is similar to that of YGG. I remember that during the summer, representatives (or a representative) of Chick-Fil-A met with homosexual leaders and that this meeting was described by the homosexual leaders as something of a capitulation–allegedly, Chick-Fil-A had agreed not to fund politically “divisive” groups in the future. That was in the summer of 2012. It brought disappointment to conservative supporters of the restaurant (including me) at the time, and it may be what you are thinking of. However, several things. First, even that meeting apparently took place in September, 2012, which was _after_ Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day (which had been in August). See this link to confirm that timing. http://www.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeedpolitics/chick-fil-a-promises-to-stop-funding-anti-gay-gro
    Second, that meeting supposedly concerned Chick-Fil-A’s _ongoing_ funding and _not_ its 2011 funding. There was no talk in those reports of Chick-Fil-A saying, “Oh, we stopped funding those groups back in 2011.”
    This link, to a post that went up in November of 2011, shows that late in 2011 public records of the funding of Winshape were available only through 2009, and that was what the homosexual groups were depending on in attacking Chick-Fil-A.
    Shane Windmeyer’s story, which is the main point of discussion in this post, strongly confirms that *Windmeyer himself* did not know until January of 2013 (!!) that the 2011 funding did not include funding for those groups. See this quotation, from the story by Windmeyer, which is dated 1/28/2013:
    “This past week Chick-fil-A shared with me the 2011 IRS Form 990, filed in November for the WinShape Foundation, along with 2012 financials. The IRS has not released the 990 to the public yet, but the financials affirm Chick-fil-A’s values a year prior to the controversy this past July. The nearly $6 million in outside grant funding focuses on youth, education, marriage enrichment and local communities.”
    Windmeyer clearly implies that he came into possession of the 2011 records and the 2012 records only “this past week,” meaning in mid-January, 2013.
    In other words, back on Chick-Fil-A Appreciation day, at the height of the controversy, which is what YGG meant by “at the time,” it apparently *was not publicly known* that Chick-Fil-A had *already* stopped funding the “controversial” pro-family groups more than a year previously.
    If you have documentation to the contrary, feel free to provide it, but it really looks like it is you who are misremembering.

  • Thanks Lydia, probably my reader is thinking of that capitulation meeting, but as you point out it took place AFTER the height of the controversy and moreover didn’t reveal that the funding had stopped as far back as 2011.

  • Lydia

    It appears that it was on the basis of those late-August meetings, announced in early September, after Chick-Fil-A Appreciation day, that Windmeyer called off his troops. Also relevant (and probably not coincidentally, reported on the very same day, Sept. 19, that Windmeyer called off his campaign) was a report of a memo that Chick-Fil-A wrote to a Chicago Alderman. The interesting thing, though, is that even the homosexual rights group’s own very “optimistic” (from their perspective) characterization of what was going on there involved only a “promise” of a change in future funding patterns. Even then (which was several weeks after all the outpouring of support for Chick-Fil-A) it was not stated, not even by the homosexual groups claiming victory, that that funding had ceased long before. Here are two links that confirm this, one I linked already and one other:

  • Carole

    At last. A sensible and biblical response. This is not hateful or divisive. In spite of efforts to befriend a lost sinner, this relationship represents only symbolism over substance in the end. As to some of the previous comments and some of the famous bloggers who proudly linked to that original story: Remember the story of the frog and the pot of cool water which slowly, fatally begins to boil. Thank you for saying what needed to be said.

  • Thanks Carole. I do wish to stress that I actually consider some of the bloggers who liked this story to be in general very savvy politically speaking, which is why it surprised me. For example, Denny Burk is very “with it” and on top of things when it comes the various assaults on our religious freedoms and biblical morality. I think perhaps it’s partly a personality thing—I’m naturally pretty cynical when it comes to this type of thing, so I can instantly see past the feel-good.