The Chick-Fil-A Clusterdumbs

I’m warning you. There is at least a 50% chance that I will regret writing this. There is a 92% chance that I am writing beyond my own depth and understanding today.

Still, this is what’s burning in my mind right now, so I can’t help but pour out my opinion onto this page. I beg your pardon, because I’m sure I will need it.

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In case you’ve been in a vegetative state for the last couple of weeks, Chick-Fil-A (CFA) has evidently come out of the closet (pun intended) as a gay-hating homophobic conservative juggernaut that is funneling cash to militant anti-gay groups in a clandestine conspiracy to stamp out every trace of homosexuality everywhere.

Everybody in the room stood up. Everyone punched someone else in the face, then ran away and assumed their usual tired positions in this same American culture war. The same well-tried battle formations.

Today I have a scattered array of thoughts on this:

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First, why is Dan Cathy’s interview news to anybody? How could this have been a secret to anyone, with all the news that has surrounded CFA for years?

Every CFA is closed, every Sunday. Their mission statement about glorifying God is posted in plain sight within every restaurant. Their significant charitable giving to groups that advocate for the conservation of heterosexual marriage (and the opposition to same-sex marriage) is well-known and documented.

So how on earth does it come as a sudden surprise to anyone that CFA’s leadership might be opposed to gay marriage?

Someone please tell me why this is news-worthy.

In my view, this is not news. But if you can get someone angry again about the same issue they’re already pissed about, that will get you some site traffic! And that’s pretty much what’s happened in the last two weeks. Sensational headlines, and caricatures painted everywhere.

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I was talking this stuff over with Nicole. We were reflecting on why people get so heated about this issue.

“Yeah,” she said, “I get that the gay marriage issue affects people’s lives, their rights, their marriage benefits, that stuff is really important.

“But what I don’t get is, why is nobody really getting pissed off about e.g. human trafficking? People are being beaten, raped, forced to work in bad conditions, people are dying … and nobody gives a shit.”

To me, that is quite interesting. That got me thinking.

What exactly is it that brings the gay rights controversy to protrude at the forefront of the public conscience like a raw nerve?

The most common justification that I’ve heard is that opposing same-sex marriage is opposing a basic human right, and that is what pisses people off so much. I think that’s a fine answer, but after hearing this for a few years, I’m growing skeptical that that’s really the prime motivator for most people in this fray.

Most people I’ve heard from that are incensed about the gay rights are not gay. Most of them don’t have any very close gay friends, if any at all. Okay, that’s fine, that’s allowed. But moreover, most of them don’t really talk about gay rights on a regular basis, or even general human rights, in any form, really ever at all. Most of them are also not particularly conscious about the brands they buy or the kinds of commerce they support, or the effect that their dollar has in the world. Most of them have little involvement in politics outside of this particular periodic indignance, and other common red/blue controversies like it. In fact, most of what I listed above applies to almost everyone that I know. It applies to me as well.

So, Nicole makes an excellent point here:

If the dignity of the human, and the universal enjoyment of basic human rights is really the rallying cry of these angry masses, then why is there not such a firestorm about, say … human trafficking?

Ever spent any time checking into that? No?

Here’s a taste. Millions of people every year are forced into obscene circumstances lacking any trace of human rights. Enslaved. Owned. Coerced into prostitution. Sold as playthings. Possessed as children to be soldiers or garment makers or agricultural workers. Their best years are stolen from them. Their lives are wrecked. Their dignity is discarded as superfluous. Their minds and hearts are mangled by abuse. What about that, huh?

Think your life doesn’t play into this thing? You’re so incredibly wrong. Shopped at Target lately? How about Abercrombie, JC Penney, North Face, Banana Republic, or Old Navy? If so, read this. The average middle-class American consumer is the single biggest supporter of global human trafficking. No question about it. Read a lot more here.

So why doesn’t anyone give a shit about human trafficking?

I have some conjectures.

First, attempting to boycott trafficking is effing difficult, because our affluent lives are entwined with ten-thousand globalized supply chains that are incredibly expensive and difficult to scrutinize. Moreover, most of your favorite brands probably use labor trafficking in some form, either for their supply of raw materials, or for assembly of goods. Yeah. The shadow of trafficking is almost unavoidable in our modern world, unless you want to give up your affluent comfortable consumerist lifestyle, and go back to buying things that are strictly locally-made. Or you could be Amish, if you like. Does that mess with your conscience? I’m not apologizing for that.

Second, perhaps more importantly for this particular fight — somehow the issue of gay rights has become militarized.

Who militarized the issue? I think it was us.

By “us” I mean conservative evangelical Christians, who over the last few decades have given voice to increasingly aggressive public stances on this issue. That, more than anything, is what I think has people so pissed-off.

It’s not the principle of it. It’s not that most people really care about the issue. It is instead, I contend, that the religious right has pushed the big red button over and over again. We (Christians) have set the American public on a hair-trigger. And so it’s no wonder that every new slip-up, every hint of hypocrisy or dogmatism or bigotry from any high-profile Christian, brings a new storm of outrage, condemnation, and the usual fanfare of boycotts.

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I’m running out of space today. These reflections are unexamined, un-proofread, and biased. But hopefully useful, to at least somebody out there.

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8 Comments

  1. so the jen hatmaker article you shared was good but not very compelling to me personally (at least not enough for me to “like” it) because i don’t agree with her in the hunkering down and waiting for things to blow over is really going to work. the conversation i’ve had with my high school classmate centered mostly on boycotting cfa. but i do like the reality check you share here. i think the cfa seems to be a part of a wave of articles i’ve come across that deal with the various responses of christendom to homosexuality and issues related thereto.

    Reply

    1. Thx Choe,
      I agree with you about Jen’s blog. I don’t necessarily think that hunkering down and waiting it out is good … but maybe she just meant that she’s not going to be involved with taking a side and slinging opinions and facts around. I think that’s a fine idea.

      But what I *loved* about Jen’s blog was this:
      “If your agenda is to battle homosexuality, how’s that going? How many gay folks read your Prop 8 yard sign, knocked on your door, and said, “Thank you for voicing your opinion to the neighbors in this manner. Would you kindly invite me in and teach me how to be straight? And do you have a Bible study I can join?””

      … and her other commentary along that same line. There is simple homophobia and apathy within the church, but it frequently masquerades as principled objection. But in both cases, there is no love.

      Reply

  2. I agree with everything up until the last paragraph……I don’t think that it’s actually been the majority of evangelical Christians that have caused the issue to become militarized. I think its more so the media’s portrayal of a small minority of extremist Christians. I’ve seen countless stories in the national news covering a small congregation in a random town. The majority of Christians that I know have Biblical views on the issue and speak the truth in love. However, we must remember that the “battle” is not of flesh and blood, so there will always be tension when truth encounters falsehood. I think there is often the mis-conception among Christians that there will be peace if we just become nicer and more loving. Look at what happened to the most “Christian” man who ever walked the earth. He was beaten, mocked and killed on the Cross for bringing the fullness of truth and love.

    Keep writing man! Love reading your stuff!

    Reply

    1. Hey thanks Justin! Much appreciated.

      So, two things:
      1) While I agree that the small-town extremists get a lot of attention, and do a lot to confuse the matter of what Christians actually *think* — I remember from before I was a Christian — in all honesty I think the majority of what pisses people off comes from the core of protestant evangelicalism. Focus on the Family, Proposition 8, stuff that like that … that’s not a product of the radical extremist camp. That’s just the religious right — a much bigger chunk of American believers than the extremists. We’re talking like 25% or 40% of the country.

      2) I think your observation is SUPER GOOD that truly living like Jesus will not save you from misunderstanding or persecution. I’m down with that. He warned us that we’d be punished for His sake. BUT, I’m going to go out on a limb here … I’m not sure if the present state of our culture war has anything to do with Christians being antagonized for Jesus’s sake. I’m not sure if posturing and policy-advancing of conservative Christians is very close to the gospel of Jesus. What we seem to be trying to do is *legislate* our way into a new America that is modeled after the Biblical values we’ve been taught. People are pissed off about that, and I think their offense is justified.

      I may be throwing my fellow believers under the bus with that statement … but this is something that I’m presently thinking through and trying to figure out.

      Hope that makes sense.

      Reply

  3. I’m assuming your third paragraph is hyperbole, but at any rate you should read this article (http://www.getreligion.org/2012/07/wheres-the-beef-what-the-chick-fil-a-boss-really-said/) and realize that what the mainstream media has reported Dan Cathy said is pretty fictitious.

    Regarding your last paragraph: I don’t think Christians in general are to blame. I tend to agree with what I’ve read that gay marriage is so controversial because 1) Christians aren’t as likely to kill you or otherwise bring legal action against you because you slander them as other radical groups (that is, they tend to be forgiving types) and 2) To quote Glenn Reynolds from Instapundit, “…plus a recognition that Republican politicians didn’t try to keep gay-friendly enterprises Disney and Home Depot out of their jurisdictions. No, but Republican politics isn’t based around always having someone to hate. For the left, it’s always Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, the Kochs. It doesn’t matter who the bogeyman is, but it’s essential that there be a bogeyman in order to ensure solidarity.”

    Reply

    1. Ethan,
      Thanks for dropping in, man!

      Yes, the third paragraph was meant to be representative of the insane escalation of the reporting that has happened, and I’m quite aware of the original story, which was quite a bit more innocuous.

      However … based on what Dan Cathy said, I think we are right to assume that he DOES oppose gay marriage in all its forms. He didn’t SAY IT out loud, but I’m 99% sure that’s what he believes. That, and also the fact that others have already made a public outcry about the shoddy reporting and sensationalized headlines, led me to leave the story where it lies, and just focus on the discussion I presented above. But yes, I agree, this thing has blown way out of control, all because Cathy was honest and not evasive about what he supports.

      Also agreed about the in-crowd / out-crowd sociological phenomenon you mentioned. Christians do it too, but I think you’re right that for the left, internal solidarity is in large part fortified by a strong sense of who is the bad guy — and the right supplies plenty of easy targets.

      Reply

  4. This is my 2 cents.

    Why interview and ask a known conservative Christian their views if you’re not willing to hear the answer? Why would people be so adamantly against someone’s opinion that whole cities would speak out against them (Chicago and Boston)? From my perspective, the media was looking for a shit storm. They got what they wanted. Isn’t that scary to think about the motivations of the media?

    I think it’s great that you argue that the issue of gay marriage is not so OVERWHELMING an issue of human rights. Truly, the trend is in favor of increased rights, if you look back over the past 3000 years.

    for Christians, this is my question:
    should we assume non Christians HAVE to act like Christians? Should we judge them with the same standards that we judge our Christian brothers and sisters?

    I believe No.

    The law is unbearable without Christ.

    Reply

    1. Mike,
      Hi there.

      Originally the interview was on a Baptist radio show or something to that effect, so the *original* person asking the questions, I’m sure, was quite pleased with Cathy’s answers. The later cacophony that arose was due in large part, I think, to the pre-existing soreness of the issue, as mentioned, and also probably the bogeyman-effigy-burning behavior that Ethan suggested above.

      The media is composed mainly of individual people who A) want to be heard, and B) have strong opinions about public issues. That, and the fact that media hubs will inevitably screen for ideological incompatibilities among their reporters, means ultimately that news stories will reflect the interests and perceptions of their authors, as much as the objective facts. If you search around for CFA news a bit, you’ll find the battlefield littered with ardent opinions from both sides. I don’t think the media needs to be demonized any more than that. They’re just people like us. Probably *nobody* is “fair and balanced”, at least not with an issue like this.

      Finally, on your question of judgment / assumption — I’m with you.
      If only maybe 40% of our country believes that the Bible has any modern authority or utility at all, then WHY is it a good idea to legislate or enforce Bible-based values upon them? It’s like saying that Prohibition really moved people to internal temperance in their hearts. It didn’t. Or that the abolition of slavery really taught people to see blacks as equal. It didn’t.

      That’s my stew for this morning.

      Reply

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