The events that have transpired over the last week are messy, complicated, and I fear ultimately unhelpful. This will probably be an unusually long post, but it’s because there are so many angles to cover that led to Wednesday’s Chik-Fil-A day. A professor of mine once said, “seldom is the issue the issue,” and this definitely applies to yesterday. Chik-Fil-A is not the issue, but simply where a deeper issue came to a head. Let’s dive in.
Speaking as an American, I believe Dan Cathy had every right to say what he said. I believe every person who has spoken against him has every right to speak against him. I believe everyone who ate at Chik-Fil-A Wednesday had the right to do so and speak out, and those who refuse to patron the fast food chain have that right as well. I support the freedom for everyone to use the power of free speech to express their views on the issue at hand. But my view as an American is secondary, and ultimately unimportant because I am a believer in Jesus and thus believe I answer to a higher authority as does Dan Cathy and it is more important that I speak from this perspective.
Dan Cathy showed admirable conviction on a view of a subject. It really should not be a shock that he expressed this view. I wonder, however, how many people heard the entirety of the original interview from which this controversy began. It was a question on fatherhood and the importance of a two parent household. I took Cathy’s comments to mean that he supports the traditional family unit. I think he was encompassing the totality of the breakdown in the family, including divorce, out of marriage pregnancy, and yes same-sex marriage. His point was he thought kids are at a disadvantage when they are missing both a mother and a father. He even said that doesn’t mean people can’t overcome or that they are doomed, but just that they have the deck stacked against them. I believe this is the case and I believe it helps tremendously to have both a mother and father providing love, support, encouragement, and discipline (Yes, I realize he went further in another interview expressing his views, but this is the context of the original interview). In youth ministry I’ve seen this played out first hand. There are obviously exceptions on both sides of the rule, but by and large it holds true. He is not incorrect. So to those who think Mr. Cathy to be ignorant, bigoted, and out of touch please drop the rhetoric. He intended no hate, and if the church hadn’t failed for years to express our conviction without hate his comments wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. We have treated the LGBT community with disdain for so many years and have created this problem. I encourage you to look beyond this issue and see the good that Chik-Fil-A does in every community they are in. They do more than just serve chicken and stand against same-sex marriage. Between supporting schools, providing scholarships, providing jobs, their Winshape foundation, and their amazing customer service they do far more good than harm. If you wish to boycott based on one issue that is your right, your choice, and I support your freedom to do so but I also know that you are potentially hurting the schools, the college hopefuls, and the youth of your community. Please reconsider.
Now to Christians. We can admire Dan Cathy on his conviction. I also believe that we can express our conviction without creating controversy. While he did not ask for this to happen, it happened because of his comments and the situation was made more emotionally charged by Governor Huckabee. Wednesday was an error in judgment on his part. If we had all just gone about our business, supported Chik-Fil-A like normal, this would have been out of the news and the damage would not have been minimal. Even without Wednesday’s appreciation day Chik-Fil-A would still be a billion dollar company. And trust me, the world does not need to know what the church believes about same-sex marriage. They are well aware. What we engaged in Wednesday was purely political. It brought no change in the eyes of the world. We could have supported calmly, regularly, and maybe even used Cathy’s comments to create real conversation. Now all we have done is incited a counter protest. We could have handled this better and I would urge Governor Huckabee to realize the influence he has and use it to spur the church to share the love of Jesus.
Dan Cathy could have chosen better wording. The Apostle Paul urged us to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18), Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Our goal is reconciliation of the world to God. When speaking in the public, knowing we will be heard by unbelievers, we need to be very careful of our wording. I know exactly what Dan Cathy meant when he said “we are inviting God’s judgement…” What unbelievers heard was, “gay and lesbians are going to hell,” or, “Christians think they are better than everyone.” You can say all you want that’s not what he meant but perception is reality. That’s what they heard and that’s what the world thinks of the church. We would do well to realize that in public we have to avoid at all costs anything that would cause people to stumble. We have to drop any emotionally charged rhetoric. We have to seek restoration with the world. With each other we should absolutely remind ourselves of God’s place as judge, live with a respect of that judgment, and align our lives according with God’s standard. An unbelieving world does not have that same expectation and we have to stop trying to force it and stop being shocked that they don’t agree with it.
So you may ask, “What then shall we do?” I’ll be honest and say I have debated for the better part of a year on this issue of homosexuality, same-sex marriage. I have wrestled with it. I have even considered as far on the spectrum as thinking about allowing it. It’s not an easy issue. There is no quick solution. I’ll start with what I have come to know. 1) I believe it is a sin. I say that now, after seriously wrestling and not blindly believing what I have always been taught. If I take Scripture seriously I don’t see anyway around it. I wish there was because it would make life simple, but there is not. Which leads me to my second fact…No Constitutional amendment or law will fix this issue. Sometimes I think many, if not most, Christians believe fighting for a Constitutional amendment solves the problem. This is a sin that has existed forever and just because we pass a law outlawing it won’t change the fact that people struggle with it. Our goal is not behavior modification but reconciliation. God wants the hearts of everyone, wants to love and be in relationship with them, and wants to free us all from our fleshly desires (heterosexual and homosexual). We should not live our lives according to either, and there are far more people in this world sinning in a heterosexuality than homosexuality. We should never forget that. I am not saying I support an amendment in favor of same-sex marriage. I would not support, have other reasons for that, but that’s not what this is about. What this is about is remembering exactly why we are here and what the problem is. The problem is sin which goes deeper than any American law or political issue.
The world needs the Church to stand on its convictions. However, we can stand on those convictions in a non-judgmental way that keeps the peace. This can be done by taking ALL sin seriously! We can call homosexuality a sin while also realizing that so is gluttony, greed, selfishness, hate, malice, divorce, and a whole host of other things that place us all in the same boat. If we think through every comment, are honest that we realize we don’t get it right, maybe we will be heard. Christ is the great equalizer, because we are all equally in need of a savior. If we take and speak on all sin equally, calling it what it is, but helping people realize there is a better way, that Jesus can heal all wounds, we can make a difference. I encourage all who realize this to take action in this way. Let’s be convicted, let’s be loving, and let’s not be afraid of discussion and conversation. We may actually find common ground on the basis that we are all humans, therefore made and loved by God, and can work from that point on.
There is forever a tension between the church, faith, and the world. There is forever a tension between government and the church. I wouldn’t have it any other way. We absolutely should be different from the world but not at war with the world. We are at war with Satan, not our fellow human. He wants us to not talk, wants us to divide, both within the church and in the world. We need to stop this from happening. Ken Coleman, on whose show this interview originated, had the best response to the whole mess. We need to live in what he calls “the messy middle.” We need to follow his advice. Let’s drop the “pitchforks” and pick up “coffee cups” and join in conversation right in the middle. It’s the only way to show Jesus. Be convicted but don’t be black and white. Be firm but be loving. Be ready to account for what you believe, who you believe in, and why but also be willing to sit, listen, and converse with the person across the table. Then pay for the coffee!