Friday, August 3, 2012
Eat Less Chicken? Neighborly Love and the Number 1 Combo
Number 1. No Pickle. American Cheese. Waffle Fries. Lemonade.
Six-piece nugget on the side if I am really hungry.
This has become one of my favorite meals to consume when I am on the go, on the road, or in the mall and craving a chicken sammy with BBQ sauce.
But as the Chick-Fil-A hype continues to build (or weaken), I find myself in a pickle.
Eat Less Chicken?
While I am not sure what the most faithful response to Chick-Fil-A may be, here are a few related rants that I have mulled over with friends, to include youth and adults, gays and straights, liberals and conservatives.
1. Stop Throwing Stones...and Nuggets, too.
In the debate on gay marriage, proponents on both sides of the debate continue to hurl rock after rock. Actually, my assumption is that we have run out of rocks and so have moved on to tossing nuggets at one another. This does no one any good.
When we consider the Christian contribution to nugget throwing in the gay marriage debate, we are no different than the rest of the world. We may actually be worse! Conservatives and liberals alike are far more interested in defending territory and making it clear that they are in the right and their opponent is either an ignorant bigot or flaky relativist than in entertaining faithful discourse with their brothers and sisters. And this discourse has far too long neglected the gay community. 
I suggest we drop our nuggets and be willing to entertain dialogue, especially with those whom we deeply disagree. This is not going to happen while "supporters" of a major fast-food corporation wait in line for chicken. It also won't happen by simply refusing this same corporation the right to own and operate within a particular community.
As Christians, we must look for neutral territory, where we lay down our swords and are reminded that we are supposed to be members of the same body. And this body is supposed to speak words of love and compassion, versus cheap protest and hate-filled Facebook posts and tweets.
2. What Are Christians For Anyway?
It is quite clear that Truett Cathy and family, founders of Chick-Fil-A, are against gay marriage. We should not be surprised by this, as they are very open about their Evangelicalism and support of the Christian right. While it has been voiced that they prefer to say they are "for" traditional marriage, this is merely semantics.
They are vehemently against civil and sacred unions of same-sex couples.
It is also quite clear that the Christian left is opposed to the Evangelical stance on the matter. They are against "traditional" interpretations of marriage and those who hold such views.
If you follow any dialogue, to include recent conversations within the PCUSA, that concerns ordination of gay pastors or the proposal to redefine marriage as between two persons versus a man and a woman, it does not take long to see hate also coming from progressives. Twitter feeds are saturated with accusations of conservative theologians and scholars being afraid, fearful, and naive in their hermeneutics. Colorful language is exercised in a way that furthers the polarization and does nothing to aid someone who may contemplate a change in biblical, theological, and pastoral conviction.
What we are witnessing first-hand through the Chick-Fil-A conflict that floods the news and social media outlets is yet another attestation to Christian civil war. This battle, fueled now by chicken, does nothing to bear witness to the good news of Jesus and God's love for the whole world. Instead, the Christian church within the North American context continues to demonstrate to the world that we do not and cannot get along. Even worse, it is quite difficult for anyone to encounter the person of Jesus, the hope within the gospel story, and God's promise of new life that is for all people and the whole creation, when our public proclamations hinge on political statements against this or that person, agenda, politician, or sexuality. 
The world knows a lot about what Christians, conservatives and liberals alike, are against. But does the world know about what and who we are for?
The poor. The oppressed. The marginalized. The weak.
The kingdom of God breaking in all around us?
As of now, all the world may know is that we are either for or against chicken...and the opinions of those who make it.
3. Not Just Chick-Fil-A?
I don't think we should boycott restaurants and other corporations just because their figure heads hold opinions and religious convictions different than our own. If that were true, nobody would buy anything and we would most likely never leave our own home.
But our wallets and decisions as consumers can and do make a significant difference in the business and production practices of major corporations. If we are to blow the whistle on Chick-Fil-A for potential violations on human rights and discrimination against gay and lesbian workers, as we should, then we must also be willing to engage other companies who violate the rights of others. We must not limit our outcry to companies who boast an Evangelical and fundamentalist theology.
How many of those who are boycotting Chick-Fil-A prefer low prices no matter what the cost?
What about dawning the swoosh despite laborers being told to "just do it" regardless of their unjust wages and hazardous working conditions?
What about the companies who promise their coffee is the best despite not paying those who grow their beans a fair amount for their harvest?
There are others for sure. 
It may be warranted to eat less chicken. It also may be due time for all of us to consider where the products we purchase come from, who made and grew them, and the ethics of the corporations that sell them.
And our advocacy must go beyond standing (or not) in lines and even writing blogposts. We may need to travel and partner alongside our neighbors who, for far too long, have been exploited and oppressed for the sake of our luxurious and cost-effective consumption habits.
4. Love Your Neighbor More Than Chicken
All this is to say that I have decided my relationship with the #1 combo may be on life support. This is not because I think their offensive statements on gay marriage and gay people can be reversed or their sting lessened merely by shifting my lunchtime purchase. I also do not think that, by not going to Chick-Fil-A, I am becoming a religious revolutionary or cross-bearer. Although, I am not sure how difficult it will be to say "no" to the waffle fry for the first time...
What I do know is, as a disciple of Jesus and someone who works with many youth who have come out within the past year, I never want to place a stumbling block in front of those who may long for a relationship with the Jesus I follow and serve (Romans 14). Chick-Fil-A has now become synonymous with theological convictions and socio-political banter that has deeply offended many whom I consider friends. Should I sit in a booth and eat more chicken I, too, may become synonymous with marginalizing rhetoric.
In other words, I love my gay neighbors more than I love my chicken. It is a small act of grace to surrender nuggets and fries in order to maintain friendship with brothers and sisters of the faith who are gay. It is a small act of hospitality to choose another place to meet with youth and college students over lunch so that those who long to call the church home always know that they can and will be able to do so without the fear of rejection or discrimination.
That said, I may eat less chicken so that I can live into the kingdom with more.
I continue to wonder how long this obsession with Chick-Fil-A will continue. I am growing weary of the constant posting of my Facebook "friends" who have made their opinions quite clear. I am also pretty certain that what is believed to be "support" and "advocacy" has become a clever opportunity to boost recent sales.
I am also saddened that a restaraunt I once loved has now become difficult to endorse.
I am even more grieved that slander and animosity have become par for the course by the Christian right and left. As long as that is the case, regardless of our convictions, our witness will be forever tainted and the welcome of Christ distorted.
No wonder church attendances are down and younger generations find commitment to faith communities irrelevant and unimportant. But that is for another day and another post...
 A great post by Brent Bailey on "being gay and Christian" and the Chick-Fil-A controversy: http://oddmanout.net/post/28484026012/chick-fil-activism
 A great book on this haunting reality is unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, where they discuss the critiques of the church by the "outside" world. One critique: the church is "anti-gay." Read more: http://www.unchristian.com/.
 Another great read the explores the depths of "sweat shops" and the ethics of clothing manufacturers is Where Am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman. See his blog: http://whereamiwearing.com/.