Friday, August 3, 2012

Chick-Fil-A and Marriage Equality

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
I Corinthians 12:1-3

When Dan Cathy, President of Chick-Fil-A, was asked about his biblical values, he said that he was “guilty as charged.” Then, speaking directly to the issue of marriage equality, he explained, "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.”

Not surprisingly, this set off a major firestorm. In Boston, Chicago, and other cities and towns, mayors and other leaders were quick to say that they did not want a Chick-Fil-A franchise opening in their neighborhoods. On the other side, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and Newt Gingrich all voiced support. And Mike Huckabee declared a national “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” that drew large crowds of customers across the country.

Fifteen years ago I would have filed Mr. Cathy’s remarks under the heading of “Things about which faithful Christians may disagree.” But that no longer works for me. It is no longer possible for serious and thoughtful people to believe, against all of the scientific evidence, that sexual orientation is a choice. When we actually study the six or seven biblical passages on which this intolerance is based, we find that they are all problematic in one way or another. And as the late Christian Social Ethicist Walter Muelder insisted (in an address he gave at the age of 97), we can’t create a coherent ethical position by choosing a few Bible verses that seem to support our view.

Today Mr. Cathy’s remarks just make me sad.

If we look at our nation through the eyes of Jesus and the prophets, there is a long list of things that invite “God’s judgment on our nation.” But marriage equality isn’t one of them.

I am saddened by Mr. Cathy’s remarks because I know that they will encourage the bullies and bigots to believe that in some twisted way they are actually doing God’s work. Words have consequences. People will be hurt, both physically and emotionally. And I am saddened because there are many people who will think that Dan Cathy speaks for all Christians.

He thinks working for marriage equality is evidence of a “prideful, arrogant attitude.” And I think that denying civil rights to a group of citizens based on a narrow and misguided interpretation of a few verses in the Bible, and expressing that view with absolute moral certainty is the very definition of “prideful” and “arrogant.” The struggle for marriage equality is not about shaking our fists at God; it’s about basic civil rights.

Finally, I am saddened because I believe that Dan Cathy is in so many important other ways, a very good and decent person who tries to be a faithful Christian. He teaches a senior high Sunday School class. He lives by four basic practices, of worship, Bible study, prayer, and tithing. His “life verse” is Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the LORD you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” It’s part of the Shema, and it’s also the first half of the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor.

For better or for worse, Dan Cathy lives out his faith. I’m hoping next time it’s for better.


  1. Eloquent, insightful and faithful - as usual. Thank you for showing us what it means, at the end, to love the enemy. It is all sad - the bigotry masked as piety, the self-righteousness parading as discpleship. Native American genocide? African slavery? Oppression of women? The crushing of the poor? Apparently - according to Dan and others like him - God's all good with all that. It's these gay and lesbian folk - and their "prideful" and "arrogant" advocates - that God can't stand.

    I have heard Dan say that he wishes to live his life by "Biblical principles." I pray that he can see eventually that Jesus said a lot about compassion, sharing, and God's blessing of the poor - and nothing about gay people.

  2. Re: your comment about choice. As I currently attend an "Evangelical" church, I can attest that for many of my Evangelical friends the issue is not that sexual orientation is or is not a choice; in fact, many if not most would agree with you that it's not. THEIR issue is that LGBT folks choose to ACT on that orientation rather than ( I guess) to remain celibate or to pretend they're heterosexual. To which I usually respond, "Ok...I want YOU to commit to celibacy, right now, for the rest of your life." That usually ends the conversation, lol. It's so easy to demand things of others that we aren't willing to do ourselves.

    I learned after the fact that my high-schooler's Sunday School teacher recently led a diacussion about homosexuality with the kids. Apparently her main argument for why it is a sin, besides the usual Bible verses, was "it's gross. I mean, can you imagine having sex with someone your own sex?" No...but then, that's not how I'm wired. To their etetnal credit, NONE of the kids thought it sinful and ALL thought it isn't a big deal for gays to marry. I sometimes think that ultimately, change will be generational. My generation is more accepting than that of my parents, and my kids don't even see why it's an issue at all. At least, that is my hope, especially on the Church level.