Yes, You Should Be Angry At Chick-fil-A

Yes, You Should Be Angry At Chick-fil-A November 23, 2019

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Chick-fil-A is no stranger to outrage and controversy, but this past week it incurred the outrage of an unlikely demographic: conservatives. Many outlets have already covered what transpired after the organization released its latest financial statement. Nevertheless, I must keep up this little corner of the ‘net somehow, so consider this my nickel in the proverbial Salvation Army kettle.

For those who missed it, it has apparently come to Chick-fil-A’s attention that the Salvation Army, despite tangibly aiding numerous impoverished and homeless gay people and loudly advertising its non-discriminatory hiring practices, still exists while not having conceded every possible inch of square ground that could be conceded to the gay lobby. Their official policy language dictates that people who hold “leadership roles” should adhere to “Salvation Army beliefs,” which includes not engaging in same-sex relationships. Their clergy don’t perform same-sex weddings, although the organization does rent out their meeting rooms for same-sex wedding receptions. Officers can even affirm and participate as guests at same-sex weddings as long as they aren’t in uniform.

Nevertheless, because some shred of actual Methodism still remains somewhere in the official structure of the organization if you peer hard enough with a magnifying glass, apparently all this is still not enough to wash away that damned spot. According to Chick-fil-A President Tim Tassopoulos, cutting off financial aid to “anti-LGBTQ organizations” like the Salvation Army is a necessary business step after “taking it on the chin” from hostile regions where the chain hoped to expand. (The irony that this should coincide with their exciting new charitable commitment to alleviating poverty and homelessness has not been lost.) He also says it’s necessary in order to clarify “who we are.” Whatever Mr. Tassopoulos’s other goals may be, suffice it to say he has succeeded in that one.

In a recent blog post, the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore asks the rhetorical question, “Should You Be Angry At Chick-fil-A?” The post lives up to its title with the sort of vaguely chiding sanctimony that is Moore’s wont. Christians’ anger is “understandable,” he soothes, but perhaps we should wait and reserve judgement until it’s a bit clearer what’s really going on here. “I’m not sure what direction Chick-fil-A is going with this,” he repeats twice with furrowed brow.

But, he says, let us make the leap over seventy thousand fathoms and just suppose “for the sake of the argument” that Chick-fil-A is in fact kicking their friends in the back to appease the mob. His first suggestion is not to boycott, since boycotts tend to be little more than symbolic gestures. (I have no dog in this particular fight, being the sort of  consumer who wants both my chicken sandwich and my Starbucks coffee now rather than later, and also being the sort of consumer who doesn’t like to punish decent people down the food chain of a food chain for the cowardice of their superiors.)

Moving on, he offers this reflection:

There’s a place for Christians to engage with the company, to ask questions, and to provide input on to what they are saying with their withholding of funds in the future. We should be engaged, but we shouldn’t feel betrayed and defeated. Whatever the cultural markers of “Christian chicken” that we half-way joke about it, the Bible and the gospel do not need corporate sponsorship, of any kind.

He also suggests that “a corporation is always going to disappoint as a moral model.” This sounds like easy wisdom, but I’m reluctant to buy the mentality behind it. I’m disinclined to buy it for the same reason I was disinclined to buy it when some evangelicals reacted to comedian John Crist’s recently breaking sex scandals with “What did you expect? All human beings disappoint as a moral model.”

Perhaps I’m naïve, but I still have a fondness for the idea of expecting something of people, including the individual people who make up corporate Christian entities. I still like the idea that when someone who claims to represent Christ in the public square does something egregiously immoral, or shameful, or craven, people who used to admire them react with “Well, that’s a damn shame.”

Moore finally concludes, “Jesus is never made frantic, neither by those who oppose him, nor by his disciples when they go a bit wobbly. He is here to feed us with food we know not of, food we ignore because we are too consumed talking about how to feed our stomachs (Mk 8:14-21).”

Where we would all be without Dr. Moore to remind us that we should put our trust in Jesus rather than fast food corporations, I dare not think. As Hans Fiene bitingly puts it, “The real reason we’re upset about Chick-fil-A is because we have gotten confused and concluded that a chicken sandwich restaurant is the Church. Such fools we are!”

Perhaps it’s ironic that I should find a young, unapologetically active gay classicist to be a clearer and more insightful voice on Chick-fil-A vs. The World than the president of the ERLC. But here I go, quoting Spencer Klavan (yes, ap Andrew) at the American Mind:

Christians are invested in Chick-fil-A’s decisions not because they are obsessed with fried chicken, but because they understand the stakes of the confrontation playing out in front of them. In the language of brand warfare, radical gay activists have made their message to the Church quite explicit: nothing but your annihilation will be enough.

As Klavan incisively writes, for leftists this is a zero-sum combat to the death. They agitate not out of any genuine care or concern for gay people, but out of pure spite that somewhere there should exist even one business whose owners disagree with them.

While I’m quoting gay men who distinguish themselves from some evangelicals by having something fresh and interesting to say, Douglas Murray offers his British perspective on Chick-fil-A’s abortive attempt to open in Reading here. He highlights something else that should worry not just conservative Christians but any individual who values his free expression: the terrifying vulnerability that is exposed when bullies have their way with a corporation.

For another example, Murray considers the case of Equinox Fitness gyms, whose celebrity clients decided “they could not possibly push weights or fall off a yoga ball” in a gym whose parent company had a chairman discovered to be fundraising for Donald Trump. A flurry of apologetic e-mails swiftly followed, in which Chairman Ross was thrown under the nearest bus, and a million-dollar donation to the ‘House Ballroom Community comprised of sexual and gender minority people of color (LGBTQ and gender non-conforming)’ was offered as tribute. “You’ll recognize that sound,” writes Murray, sticking the shiv in the ribs. “It is the sound of a modern corporate begging for its life.”

It also emerges in Murray’s article that Chick-fil-A has in fact been dabbling in LGBT-related donations for a while. While it’s never donated to a minority transgendered ethnic dance community, that we know of, it threw cash with limp-wristed wistfulness at some gay film festivals and an Iowa Pride picnic. Murray turns the knife: “It didn’t exactly beg for its corporate life, but it did suggest that it would be nice if it could have one.”

And now here we are, and here’s the Salvation Army, holding their red kettle and ringing their little bell and feeling just slightly confused. And yes, you bet I’m a little bit angry about it all. Angry, and also alarmed, because if the Salvation Army can be made to pay today, what about the little guy who sticks up for the Salvation Army on his FaceBook page tomorrow?

But at least there’s a happy ending for one person out of all this: Tim Tassopoulos. For my part, I can only think of Thomas More’s words to Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons, when Rich betrays him in exchange for being made attorney-general of Wales. Why, Mr. Tassopoulos, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. But for Wales?

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  • Max McLean

    Murray, Klavan, Bolt and Bolt in one essay? Esther, you are killing it!

  • Alpha 1

    As always, conservatives pine for a world where they can condemn others as much as they want while never being condemned morally themselves. They’ve spent years proclaiming the glory of the free market, right up to the moment that the market began to express preferences they don’t like. Now they’re rending their clothes because their favorite chicken joint decided it isn’t profitable to oppose gay rights.

    Claiming the mantle of perpetual victimhood while shoving chicken sandwiches in their faces to own the libs, I suppose.

  • kctiede

    So now I can enjoy their chicken sandwiches.

  • polybius_please

    I thought it was pretty well known that Christians and capitalism are not mutually exclusive things…

    Also, would be very likely to dabble in possibly voting Democrats as soon as they regain their sense and also not rend their garments so hard for the right to murder children.

    Sometimes I think Trump derangement syndrome is the left’s inability to cope with the fact one’s party is so reprehensibly evil that the Marvel cartoon Kingpin president we have was the more palatable choice. And you can’t deal with that.

  • Brian Curtis

    Chick Fil-A announces that their new charitable focus will be on feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. Evangelicals react with outrage because that’s not good enough. It doesn’t count unless they’re also willing to attack gays. In fact, evangelicals announce, they’re withdrawing support from Chick Fil-A because attacking gays is the one issue that they really care about, and that other stuff doesn’t matter at all.
    *headshake* Then they wonder where their reputation as “hateful” is coming from.

  • Greg T.

    While I share the disappointment at the optics of all this. I do wonder if there is nuance that is being clipped off as this story gets crammed into the “anti-LGBT” narrative. I was a little surprised to see your statement: ‘According to Chick-fil-A President Tim Tassopoulos, cutting off financial aid to “anti-LGBTQ organizations” like the Salvation Army is a necessary business step after “taking it on the chin” from hostile regions where the chain hoped to expand. ‘ When it those quotes are coming from the _article_ which is saying those things, not Mr. Tassopoulos himself. We have had numerous examples over the last few years of the press and public jumping to conclusions on a specific situation, only to find out later that key factors were unreported/underreported/misreported. It has caused me to try and err on the side of grace until some time has gone by.

    Having said that, I am still disappointed in what appears to be to be Chick-Fil-A’s new position. But, I know that the MSM wants me to feel that way and having lived through a time where the Left went into shock and depression over Trump’s election and failed to be able to reason for quite some time afterwards, I am sensitive to the symptoms of grief when they happen to groups I consider “on my side” of an issue. Therefore, I am taking more of a wait-and-see attitude towards this. I know first-hand, that support/non-support for the Salvation Army, for instance, is a decision that certainly has more just a “pro-LGBT/anti-LGBT” dimension. There may be more wisdom in Chick-Fil-A’s change in approach than is apparent in the reporting of the current time and while I am disappointed, I think it is only possible to be angry when I think I am right, and I don’t know enough yet to even have a wrong idea of whether I am right or not.

  • Alpha 1

    Trump has been helping the Saudis slaughter Yemeni children for his entire administration. Evangelicals don’t care. Opposing abortion is just a way for them to feel like warriors for righteousness without doing anything. As long as they can pretend that they’re fighting the murder of babies, they get to act like they have the moral high ground no matter what the cost of their politics are.

  • Larry Dawson

    I deal with such organizations easily. I never patronize their stores.

  • Chik-Fil-A no longer supports an organization that supports and receives support from Planned Parenthood-the most Anti-Semitic and Anti-Christian organization out there.

  • B.W. MaGurk

    Genesis 2:7. Evangelicals don’t even read their own book. And when they do they pick and chose the passages they can interpret in a way that bolsters their specious points.

  • The Salvation Army has managed to claim fund-raising space on every street corner in North America. Whatever else it is, it is a church that at best is tolerant of people who are not heterosexual. It is a powerful charity that seeks general support for its work, however noble, but which still would not allow a non-heterosexual to be amongst its full members. You can work alongside them, you can give them your money, but you cannot be a Salvation Army officer if you are gay. Given the choice, I choose not to support an organization whose policies are explicitly discriminatory. To support them is to tacitly support their homophobia, or to pretend that “it’s okay” because of all the good work they do. The South African Apartheid regime ran hospitals and clinics that saved many lives. Should that have insulated it from critique?

  • Christiane Smith

    without doubt, Brian, your comment is the best here so far

    I noticed that part of the post also, this:
    ” According to Chick-fil-A President Tim Tassopoulos, cutting off financial aid to “anti-LGBTQ organizations” like the Salvation Army is a necessary business step after “taking it on the chin” from hostile regions where the chain hoped to expand. (The irony that this should coincide with their exciting new charitable commitment to alleviating poverty and homelessness has not been lost.)”

    it’s stuff like this that reveals to me WHY ON EARTH the majority of evangelicals support a President who engages in hate-rallies . . . . it was already there among evangelicals (some of them), this hatred and contempt, and Trump just plugged into it and made use of it. Of COURSE they love him.
    Honestly, for the longest time, it was hard for me to understand, but this post makes it very clear and your comment is excellent.

  • Pennybird

    Religions would be much better off if they just stayed out of sex.
    Corporations would be much better off if they just stayed out of religion. Should the religious own companies? Certainly, but by inserting one’s religion into the running of the business, they necessarily partake in all manner of inconsistencies and hypocrisies.

    We’d all be better off if sex and religion were left out of commerce.

  • Pennybird

    Think of it not as murdering children, because it isn’t, but of controlling fertility. If it’s all about stopping abortion for you, then you are right to consider voting for the Democrats who support access to contraception and sex ed, both of which do far more to prevent unwanted pregnancy and therefore abortion than all the roadblocks that red states put up combined.

  • Darreth

    Evangelicals, by definition, believe that an invisible and completely undetectable – yet well documented genocidal deity, invented by and for goat herders in the Bronze Age dictate their entire existence. But today, that’s not good enough. The reason is clear. Most evangelicals can’t tell you what’s actually in the Bible today since they simply don’t bother to read it. Instead, they migrate to their favorite televangelist who will tell them what’s in it from a massive city-sized stadium. Said televangelists are well aware that those who open their check books and give to those charlatans don’t know what’s in the Bible. So, they make up whatever they want and those worshipers will just do what they say. For example, explain Joel Osteen’s ‘prosperity gospel’ if not for millions having not a single clue that Jesus was a socialist.

    So, this current rending of clothing over what Chik-Fil-A does or doesn’t do is totally irrelevant. Until which time evangelical business men and women give up their total delusion that a deity invented over 4000 years ago is ‘real’ I will never participate in any of their children’s fantasies.

  • SocratesTheCat

    In the language of brand warfare, radical gay activists have made their message to the Church quite explicit: nothing but your annihilation will be enough.

    A claim not backed by any credible evidence.

  • SocratesTheCat

    No democrat favors murdering children.

  • SocratesTheCat

    Eat Mor LOCAL Chikin 🙂

  • SocratesTheCat

    or support local restaurants.

  • Threedawgs

    The Salvation Army is not homophobic. They help all people. What their stance is-if you are sinning and are non-repentitent, then you can’t hold certain positions in their organization. It’s not the fact that the gays are sinning, but the fact that they are parading their sin, not trying to repent. They are promogulating sin with no intentions of stopping sinning. But, they are not being put down, as we are all sinners. But ‘we’ are not exclaiming a proudness of those sins from the rooftops and displaying those sins with no intention of repenting. That’s the huge difference.

  • The “we” in your comment points to “them and us” thinking. While it is lovely to say everyone is the same, all being sinners, you seem to reserve the privilege, as one of the “we”, to judge what you see as a particular sin of certain folks who are different from you. I see the “them and us” as part of the problem of sin.

  • Gary

    People make choices involving morality all the time. CFA has made the choice to side with lgbt. I have made the choice to eat elsewhere.

  • fractal

    I used to work with social outreach organization, and we often referred people to shelters.
    But MANY of the needy and homeless refused to go to the Salvation Army, because they were forced to attend religious services and pray, in order to get help.

    And they can be unbelievably smug.

    Took a client to SA for some emergency financial relief on their utility bill.
    The SA worker demanded 2 months of receipts on EVERYTHING they bought, to make sure that the poor were deserving and pure.

    I opined to SA worker that most people don’t save ALL their receipts, and many don’t save any.
    Her response was “WELL, I DO!”.
    Then she told my client to go away and come back in two months with a bucket of receipts.

    My organization simply stopped utilizing SA after that—who needs compulsive, judgmental church ladies trying to micromanage the poor?

  • fractal

    All miscarried/aborted fetuses go to heaven.

    To a fetus, there is no difference at all between an elective miscarriage and a natural one.
    They don’t have to endure the pain and strife of this world, and are not tempted to sin and be cast aside.

    What is there to dislike about that?

  • Maltnothops

    I always remind people that SA is, first and foremost, a church. Those red kettles are their collection plates. Just as I don’t wander into other churches on a Sunday morning to drop money into their collection plate, I don’t drop money into the red kettle collection plates either.

    People criticizing CFA for not dropping money into the SA coffers could just as well complain that CFA hasn’t been contributing to a Catholic Church, or a Mormon Church, or a Baptist Church.

  • Maltnothops

    I don’t know about anti-Semitic or anti-Christian, but I know Planned Parenthood prevents more abortions than any other organization in the US so I give them hundreds of dollars a year.

  • DuckyShades

    I find it fascinating how people let a fast-food restaurant’s donation/funding decisions get under their skin and legitimately control their mind, emotions, and dining decisions. Are you hungry? Do you like chicken sandwiches? Well, I suggest you go satisfy it at a CFA if one’s close. Step back from it all folks, see the broader perspective. If you are turning tribal, angry, bitter, spiteful, etc. over a chain that sells chicken…you’re probably a very miserable person. Think on that for a second. I promise you there a million things about a million places that you’re probably not thrilled about, and if you were CEO you could do differently. And I promise you still go to those places. But CFA, that CFA…just gets in peoples’ crawl and won’t LEAVE. Laugh out loud.

    Have a great weekend.

  • PhancyPants99 .

    conservatives can ALWAYS be counted on to be massive HYPOCRITES


  • kdar14

    Indeed there is only ONE issue evangelicals care about- controlling other people’s sex lives. Attacking gays and demonizing women who dare to have sex – those two issues are the bread and butter for evangelicals. They have proven they care little about the murder of already born babies, or about the disposal of fetuses in test tubes. Or about alleviating poverty. Or anything else. The only thing they care about at all is making sure women and gays suffer as much as possible.

    And they dare to call themselves persecuted when the rest of us won’t go along with it.

  • Boreal-ITMFA

    Xtians are triggered by an anti gay chicken restaurant but not by poverty, disease, homelessness or hunger. It’s why young people are fleeing religion in droves.

  • Christiane Smith

    The ‘anti’ war against ‘the others’ has not been the best witness to Christ, no. You are right, all the hate-mongering has taken its toll, and those who remain are either deeply entrenched in that spirit of hatred and contempt, or they are committed to to trying to do what IS ‘of Christ’ and to change the hatred into compassion for those who need it most in this world.

    It’s not the Church young people are fleeing from, it’s all that over-whelming hatred for ‘those other sinners’.

  • Christiane Smith

    lately, it has come to a head:

    you can’t support two masters and there is a conflict for conservative Christians when it come to supporting some of the more cruel policies of the Trump administration . . . . in a way, these ‘conservatives’ will have to come to terms with their need for integrity and ‘choose’, hopefully the better way

  • Christiane Smith

    why ‘side’ with people that have been ‘labeled’? . . . did not Our Lord speak to this fault in our human weakness in the parable of the Good Samaritan?

    the Samaritans were much hated in those ancient days, so Our Lord chose a ‘Samaritan’ as His example of obedience to God, and described the behavior of the others who walked past the suffering man as un-neighborly . . . . so much hatred among such ‘christians’ today, so much hate . . . people need to return to the Lord and to read the Holy Gospels of Our Lord again, and again, and again