I promise this will by my last Chick-fil-A-inspired post. Just a few clarifying thoughts because, well, there’s more to this issue than what can be covered in a single post.
1. Most who participated in Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day are not hateful or bigoted. That said, I still believe we should consider not just our intentions but how our actions are perceived by others. We may not have intended a certain action to be mean-spirited, but if someone tells us, “That didn’t feel a lot like love to me,” we owe it to them (and ourselves) to at least ask ourselves if there was anything we could have done differently.
Still, it’s true that many who participated in Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day weren’t that bothered about gay rights one way or the other; what got them fired up was a perceived assault on liberty.
To that end…
2. Dan Cathy has the same freedom of speech that you and I do. The mayors of Boston and Chicago would do well to remember this, as would anyone who wants to punish Cathy (or his company) for exercising his constitutional right to express his convictions. Remember, tolerance and free speech are two-way streets.
But let’s not get too carried away here. A few careless mayors threatening to make questionable use of zoning laws to keep Chick-fil-A out of their cities hardly constitutes a full-throttle assault on the first amendment. And in fact, liberal supporters of gay marriage such as the ACLU were among those who stood up to the mayors of Boston and Chicago.
3. There’s still the whole matter of “fighting for our rights.” I believe that when you become a Christian, you give up the right to fight for your rights. You take up a cross. You turn the other cheek. You bless those who curse — even Rahm Emanuel. (And he curses a LOT.)
And yes, to those hurt or offended by his comments… even Dan Cathy.
4. Let’s choose constructive dialogue over any of the alternatives. Not all who turned out in support of Chick-fil-A last week intended to make a statement against gays and lesbians, but given the larger backdrop of this never-ending culture war, it was bound to be taken this way.
What if, instead, churches organized a day to reaffirm our love for members of the gay community? To maybe call your lesbian daughter or your gay uncle and tell them you love them, or to share a meal with them and just listen to their story?
There will be plenty of opportunity to wrestle through the larger theological and political questions at stake. But maybe today we could start laying a foundation for a healthier dialogue. Maybe both sides could start building trust and mutual respect.
In an earlier post, I said many Christians hide behind the cliché “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I think that’s true. But I also think there are a great many who know that’s not the way, but they’re not sure where to go from there. We should engage them in respectful dialogue so we can find a way forward together.
5. Regardless of our individual motives or actions, we have to own this. You may have never spoken a hateful word to a gay person in your life. (If so, I hope others will learn from your example.) But I guarantee you somebody has, and it’s somebody claiming to speak for the church. Which means, like it or not, we all own this problem.
The church is not just a collection of individuals; it is a body. We speak and act as a body. When one part of the body says or does something harmful, we all have to take responsibility for the mess.
6. Most gays aren’t out to curse God or destroy marriage. Whether or not gay marriage is wrong, it wasn’t fair of Dan Cathy to depict an entire generation as “shaking their fists at God.” Most gays and lesbians fighting for same-sex marriage just want to get married and live a quiet life. Whether they’re right or wrong to want that, their intention is not to defy God. It’s not to destroy marriage for everyone else. It’s just not. So let’s take our favorite bogeymen out of this very important conversation.
Of course, the flip side is…
7. Most opponents of same-sex marriage aren’t out to oppress gays. They’re just not. They believe that marriage as we know it is embedded in the very fabric of society and in the Bible as well. They believe we are tampering with something established by God himself.
This debate is more complex than “those who hate gays” vs. “those who don’t.” Many who oppose same-sex marriage on moral or religious grounds are quite happy to support other civil rights for gay and lesbian couples, including some benefits that aren’t presently available to them because they’re not able to get married.
We can (and should) debate the best way forward without painting one side as a bunch of godless reprobates or the other as a bunch of haters. Finally…
8. “Love your neighbor” cuts both ways. We need to do a better job loving our gay and lesbian neighbors; there’s no question about it. But let’s make sure we don’t needlessly hurt someone else in the process. That’s why I’m uncomfortable with calls to boycott Chick-fil-A. The only person that’s going to hurt is the fry cook working a minimum-wage job.
In the end, this isn’t a choice between lining up to support Chick-fil-A or boycotting them. This isn’t about being “pro-marriage” or “pro-gay.” The question facing those of us who seek to follow Christ is this:
What path can we walk that demonstrates love for ALL our neighbors?