Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Chick-fil-A Blowback: Anti-Christian or Un-American?

By now, almost everyone knows the basics of the Chick-fil-A story. If you don't, here is a brief rundown.

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, made a public statement that he, and his company, support traditional marriage. He said this:
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We know that it might not be popular withe everyone, but thank the Lord we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."
The mayor of Boston responded to this statement by threatening to keep Chick-fil-A out of his city. The mayors of Chicago and San Francisco made similar statements.
Then, this past Wednesday, millions of people ate at Chick-fil-A in a show of support and solidarity.
Others took the opportunity to berate and shame Chick-fil-A for being so "hateful." For an example, here is a video of a formerly employed CFO who sought to made a point, but only ended up making himself look foolish (and unemployed):

I find myself worked up over this, but I want to clarify the reason. Earlier this week I told my wife that the actions of the mayor of Boston do not offend me as a Christian. They offend me as an American. And perhaps that could be a helpful distinction.
As a Christian, blowback is to be expected. Jesus said that the world would oppose us and that we would face persecution. In other words, as a Christian I have no right to look at opposition from the world to say, "How dare you!" It is to be expected.
But as a citizen of the United States, I can think of almost nothing more offensive than a government official using his power to punish someone because of their exercise of free speech. It is hard for me to come up with something more un-American than that. (I know, I'm channeling Ron Swanson right now.) As an American, I can, in a sense, say, "How dare you!" That is because government officials have agreed to uphold the constitution and American values. They haven't vowed to uphold Christian values. We, as citizens, can call them back to their pledge. But we must be careful not to think that we can call them "back" to Christianity. They have not promised that. And, on top of that, Jesus never promised us that freedom from opposition was a reasonable expectation.

As much as I can get up in arms about this, it pushes me to ask where I want my primary identification to be. For those who ate at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday as a show of support, you did not make a Christian statement. You made an American statement. There is nothing wrong with this, but I think the distinction is important.
As Americans, we demand our rights by calling our government back to its pledge to us. As Christians, we don't demand our rights. . .ever. I don't mean that Christians never advocate for their rights (the Apostle Paul used his Roman citizenship to get him out of a couple of sticky situations), but simply that we don't do it on the basis of our Christianity. Our Christianity only pushes us to give up our rights for the good of others, not to become a demanding, entitled group of people. Jesus himself lost his life unjustly, and he responded not by striking back or calling out, "How dare you!" Instead he called out forgiveness and "entrusted himself to the one who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:24).
We should not respond to the Chick-fil-A fiasco by saying, "How dare they attack Christians?!" What do we expect? This should be no big surprise, and we are to respond with grace instead of antagonism.
We might, though, rightly respond by saying, "How dare you, as American officials, use your power to do something that is un-American!" That is a fine action to take. Just be honest with yourself about what battle you are picking.

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