Why I won’t be going to Chick-fil-A today

Many of you have been following the latest imbroglio around the subject of marriage. Dan Cathy, the head of fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A, has recently made clear his support for traditional marriage. In response, progressive mayors of several cities have publicly told Cathy and Chick-fil-A that they’re not welcome in or near their cities. The Washington Post questions whether this could be liberalism’s “ground zero mosque” moment.

By way of rejoinder, Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and ordained baptist minister, sought to rally conservative Christians to support Chick-fil-A by frequenting it on August 1. Social media sites Facebook and Twitter are ablaze with chatter on the subject–often quite heated (hence the fire metaphor).

I won’t be going to Chick-fil-A today–here’s why.

  1. The debate is frivolous. Don’t get me wrong, the definition of marriage is an important question and it is worthy of sustained reflection and consideration. However, what we’re actually talking about here is not the nature of marriage or the role of government as it relates to being custodian of a received culture. In this instance we’re actually talking about political posturing by elected officials in response to the opinions of an officer of a corporation. At least to me, it goes without saying that Dan Cathy is entitled to his personal opinion–his company ought not to be punished for his beliefs. It also goes without saying, at least to me, that government ought not to bar corporations from doing business in their jurisdiction on the basis of the political or religious beliefs of their corporate officers. To do so moves us from being a nation guided by the rule of law to a nation a quasi-facist state.
  2. The strategy is counterproductive. Both the response by the mayors and Huckabee’s rejoinder exhibit a culture-war mentality and strategy–boycott and counter-boycott. Front Porch Republic points out that this mindset has run it’s course and is actually harmful to our stewardship of culture. Writes Mark Mitchell, “A culture is not something with which to do battle, either as an offensive weapon or an object of attack. A culture is a living thing, an inheritance, passed on from generation to generation. It is preserved by loving care not militant brow-beating. It cannot survive as a merely negative opposition to something perceived as its opposite. It is a creative, developing expression of a people’s view of the world that reaches ultimately to the highest things: to the good, the true, and the beautiful. To weaponize culture is, therefore, to destroy the very thing for which the battle is ostensibly waged.”
  3. The outcome is negligible. In the end, I wonder who the real winners are? Are there any? I don’t think that the Christian Gospel becomes more winsome to a post-Christendom culture simply because conservative Christians flocked to a fast food restaurant.

Frankly, I am more than a little tired of being manipulated both by the right and the left. In the end, I’m convinced that by following the lead of the political class–both liberal and conservative–our culture is losing. We’re becoming a nation of zombies conditioned to respond to soundbites in a predictable and easily-manipulated way. We need to get beyond this–quickly.

31 Comments on “Why I won’t be going to Chick-fil-A today”

  1. I won’t be going either. Here’s why.
    1. I had Sonic yesterday and can’t do grease today.
    2. I’d rather rip out my own fingernail than eat lunch with people who do what Mike Huckabee says.

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  2. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for articulating what’s been going round in my head! Before I link to this on FB, one small favor? Correct the spelling of chick-fil-A in the title of the post 🙂

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  3. Lovely to find someone articulating the very thoughts that have been spinning through my head for the last few days. Boycotting CFA (I can’t spell it either…) is NOT supporting gay/lesbian/etc. rights nor is eating there supporting Christian values. “Banning them from the city” is neither within any mayor’s powers, nor is it an appropriate response. I agree that there should be reasoned discussion about the definition of marriage…but despair that it is possible in the current environment.

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  4. Good thoughts, Jeff. It seems to me, however, that the pro-fil-a response is only “a culture-war mentality” because Mike Huckabee is involved. Voting with one’s dollars and feet are particularly good ways, it seems to me, to respond to the problem of the anti-Chicken Mayors, who are the warriors here. So is there really a legitimate beef about a Chick-Fil-A appreciation day?

    When I see the quasi-fascist Mayors say what they say, it makes me want to go eat at Chick-Fil-A. So I will, whether Mike Huckabee says to do so or not. If this is isn’t wrong, why is wrong for someone to suggest that I do it? Is it the coordination? What if someone else had written what you wrote in #1, above, and then suggested we eat Chick-Fil-A without naming a date? What if you had done it? (You did write number 1, of course, but stopped short of suggesting that quasi-facist mayors will be put in their place in the ordinary course or a democratic republic, which sometimes includes voting with one’s fast-food budget.)

    If it’s just Huckabee that’s the problem, I see that, but it sort of inflates his importance– and stoops to ad hominem– if we define “culture wars” by his involvement. I’m sympathetic, but as a recovering culture warrior, this seems to say too much.

    Perhaps I’m not convinced by either of the “it goes without saying”s in your first paragraph. If it went without saying, on either count, then mayors wouldn’t say what they say and the ridiculous discussion wouldn’t be happening. But it is, so both need to be said– and you went ahead and said it well in your first point. I might buy a chicken sandwich today just to make sure it is said.

    See what I mean?

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    • Mike,

      Thanks for commenting. You make some good points. I’d like to respond in more depth later since I’m away from the office right now.

      My chief objection (beyond the belligerence and illegality the actions of the mayors in question), is to a coordinated effort to show visible support for Chick-fil-A. I’m sympathetic to the desire to show support for the company, but I would frankly prefer to do it of my own accord.

      Large scale action (boycotting, buying) are really tokens or symbols trying to show support or opposition to something. On one level, that’s fine. However, of itself it is not enough to sustain and grow a culture. I may not have communicated this in the post, but I feel that these sorts of mass actions is really all we have today. We’re just that impoverished, which means that the future of our society is not terribly hopeful. I’d like to be a part of changing that, and I know that you would too.

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      • I support going to support Chick-Fil-A by purchasing their products in this way. The pundits and the media have all the power of how the “truth” is purveyed. Do you think your excellent blog would appear on Network news as is? I doubt it. “Voting” with our dollars and our effort to personally show our opinion is about the only way the little guy gets heard. In an ideal world we would live out our beliefs and that would be enough. Social mores have so been undermined that things like this, I believe, actually help people to question what the pundits are calling bad or good. Personally I have seen people who were undecided or even against Chick-fil-A because of this turn around when they got to hear what Dan Cathy actually said and what the purpose statement of the restaurant really is.

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      • Besty – you’re right when you say that the little guy has very little way of making his/her opinion known other than through economic choice. That’s sad isn’t it? We’re all part of what Jacques Ellul referred to as a vast technological society and as a result we’re all complicit in (or at least connected to) just about sin or evil that takes place in the world.

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      • Okay, agreed that this can be about boycotting generally, rather than a swipe at a popularizing pundit, so that’s better to me. But . . . it seems to me that economics is actually a cultural, rather than political activity, and that going to chick-fil-a to object to quasi-fascist mayors is a perfectly appropriate act of Christian cultural activity. I would agree, in part, to your response to Betsy, below, that it is sad that consumer spending is one of our primary means of cultural speech. But that’s what you (rightly) identified as the gist of this debate: whether it’s okay for mayors to exert commercial pressure as a state-sponsored reaction to religious (or other) speech by individuals or entities.

        With regard to your post today on taking pictures of the masses eating Chicken yesterday, I have the same reaction. I have not seen offensive pictures, so I hope I am not missing your point, which I take to be that any pictures designed to send a message to quasi-fascist mayors are by definition offensive. I can’t find the offense. If the debate is in part a commercial one, then eating Chicken and taking pictures of it happening is a wonderful and winsome response. If it’s about gay marriage, and we’re shouting down homosexuals or the like, it’s inappropriate. I can’t see how this is like obnoxious chanting in an airport– isn’t anything that disagrees with another potentially offensive? Context, as you point out, is what matters.

        Is there any public response to quasi-fascism that is not offensive? Public speech should be counteracted with public speech, and buying chicken and taking photos is better than arguing about it in the sound-bite stuffed airwaves– THAT’s what the cultural warriors do. This is just cultural activity, designed to counteract the offensive and hypocritical speech of those in power. The fact that it is a coordinated effort may make it less winsome, but if my business were being attacked by the state for something I said, I think a good response would be for me to ask my friends to come to my aid.

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      • Mike –

        Great responses. For better or worse, right or wrong, this whole thing has (at least in the popular media and online) been interpreted as cultural speech against the GLBT community rather than against the mayors. It’s impossible to tell who is “against the mayors,” who is “against the ‘gays’,” who is “for Chick-fil-A” or “for the franchise owner.”

        Could it be that a perfectly legitimate act (at least in your view and I see your point) of cultural speech becomes problematic when it will (and has) clearly be (been) interpreted (and perhaps at some places is) an act of defiance against a community of people or an agenda?

        I keep asking myself: how does this help the Gospel and the Christian faith to seem plausible to people who are not necessarily Christians?

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      • Very good, Jeff. Thanks! I think you’re reminding me (and all of us) to keep asking the right question, which ought to be the bottom line, and that is the good of the kingdom and the gospel of Jesus. So I can’t argue with that approach (and I haven’t meant too, of course!), and I think you may be right that the “public interpretation” of this confluence of events and overlap of issues and motives gives an unseemly appearance. That could be completely right and the end of the discussion.

        On the other hand . . . one more possibility to toss into the ring. I know you believe that the good of the kingdom is sometimes wrapped up in the processes and interactions of human institutions (like mayorships and private corporations), and in cultural norms and values (like free speech and culture (restaurant) building). I think you’re right to remind us that giving offense in the name of Jesus is generally a bad thing, but Jesus does offend. So when my neighbor is slandered or his rights threatened, it is right and good to come to his aid in the name of love of neighbor, even if it means giving offense to those who disagree. On the other hand, sometimes it is better to be wronged than to insist on my “right,” and I ought to remain silent in the name of Jesus’ good Name. With all the mixed motives here and various forms of rhetoric, maybe it’s just hard to know which is which here and what we ought to do. Maybe, depending on who our various neighbors are, we can legitimately have different right responses, whether to stay home or to go eat more chikin.

        In the balance, it seems right to me to come to the aid of a neighbor who has a done quit of bit of faithful cultural building and ministry in the world, when faced on the other hand with only a potential offense that could only come if my actions are misinterpreted as some sort of offensive public speech. (From my experience, any disagreement with the homosexual agenda, except in one-on-one or small group interactions, is almost always willfully misinterpreted by those with that agenda as hateful in any event. I’m not giving a bad name to the faith by eating chicken just because they say so.) And add to that the good news is not advanced at all by remaining silent– and that those I’m remaining silent for hear only mixed messages in this context. On the other hand, the good news is advanced when my neighbors are loved in the right way, when free discussion is valued, and when I spend money in places where it will in turn be stewarded well.

        But you are right on when you suggest that our attitudes and motivations are important, and if we are only in the political-message-sending business, we’re in the wrong sort of business in the first place. So thanks for asking these good questions and helping us think about this! I’m not totally with you on the details, still, but I have a fresh perspective that really helps.

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      • Hilarious! B < PL — The question is whether the burden on my neighbor of ignoring his need is greater than the probability of offense to others multiplied by the magnitude of the offense, should it occur.

        I guess I should have gone to Chick-fil-A! Or maybe that's a bad way to evaluate . . . . : )

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  5. That’s why is it called democracy………al least for a little while longer…….we can choose for ourselves.

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  6. I just love Chick-Fil-A…and we are also small business owners in the food industry. Its that simple. Those two factors are why we just wanted to help a fellow small business owner in our community who holds to the principles and standards of the CFA corporation, who may have been hurt financially recently because of all the negative publicity. It wasn’t a political statement on our part. But I am glad that someone organized it (doesn’t matter to me who did it) so that there was a collective effort to help out the small business owner. But I do see your point.

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  7. My children and myself stood for 2 hrs in order to show our support. To me, the issue is not do you support gay marriage or not. My problem is that the liberals that are always hollering about tolerance, and now that someone displayed a view opposing theirs, all tolerance went out the window. For mayors to threaten(as one did by saying “the closest Chick fil a is in San fransisco and would strongly advise them to come no closer”) does ruffle my feathers. I could say that my order isnt going to make a difference, but I could say that at the polls as well. My thoughts are, whether it makes a difference or not, I have to stand up for what is right and teach my children to do the same. Going to Chick fil a was my way of saying I vote for Dan Cathy, his son and anyone else to have the right to express their opinion without being penalized.

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  8. I greatly respect your opinion…but isn’t what this is all about? The right to express who you are, what you believe, and the way you believe is. The points you make are valid if Cathy actually said he was against gay marriage. However, if you read the original article, that started all of this, he says nothing about gay marriage. A christian man, owns a company on Christian values, speaking to a Christian magazine said he supported traditional families. nowhere in the ENTIRE ARTICLE do the words “gay,” “lesbian,” “transgender,” or “bisexual” appear. So, anyone who’s been saying that Mr. Cathy stated he was against gay marriage has been misquoting him. It’s about supporting the things and values they feel make for the healthiest family environment. It was the media and the gay community that blew this out of proportion. I went to Chic-Fil-A to show my support for the protection of religious speech. Secondly, being a sociological professional, culture has always been a battle between secularism and religion (and who gets control of society) since the beginning of ages. I doubt Chic-Fil-A will change things on bit. Reference to interview: http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=38271

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    • SammySam – thanks commenting. This is, in large part, about the right to express one’s opinion. For Christians, it’s also about the duty to avoid giving unnecessary offense–the true Gospel is offensive enough–I’d prefer to start with a principle of considering the expression of my/our opinion of less importance than loving our neighbor.

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  9. I completely agree with Jeff. I will staunchly defend Cathy’s right to his opinion and to voice it freely. I also think that the mayors are out-of-line and don’t have the right to “ban” CFA from their cities. My problem comes when CFA uses their profits to fund and support anti Gay organizations and activities. When they do this they are supporting and reinforcing discrimination and bigotry which is not acceptable to me. As US citizens I assume we all subscribe the “inalienable rights” of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” ALL people should be afforded the SAME rights. As it stands, Gays and Lesbians are excluded from their relationship rights by the laws that exist in many areas. This is discrimination and is (or should be) unacceptable.

    For the record, I am not Gay. I do have several Gay and Lesbian friends and there are Gays and Lesbians in my family. A long time satisfied CFA customer, I will no longer patronise their resturants because they support discrimination and bigotry, not because of Cathy’s opinions.

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    • Dave – thanks for commenting. One of the issues here is whether something is a right because the Constitution creates it or whether rights exist outside of the Constitution (or some other legal document). The right to marry has traditionally been seen as inalienable, however marriage has always been defined as between a man and a woman. I get what you’re saying, but can you respect that there are people who might see this differently? Can you also respect that corporation is free (under current law) to give money to organizations you don’t like?

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  10. I agree with you 100% on that Jeff. Even when its liberals like George Soros (unless laws are broken), anyone should be able to contribute to any cause they stand for. I dont have to agree with their cause, but its still their right as an American. I noticed you didnt respond to my previous statement. I hope you didnt find anything offensive. That wasnt my intent.

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