After a few mouse clicks on our financial software, I learned that’s the amount our family has spent at Chick-fil-a since 2006. I have remained silent on this “controversy” until this point, not out of fear as to what others might think—my blog is filled with sermons and commentaries on a wide range of topics that some would consider controversial. I have remained silent because this issue would not exist if we were not so tied to our Facebook and Twitter feeds. We would not know what certain employees of Chick-fil-a think about same sex marriage, what entities they support, if we were not so plugged in.
Chick-fil-a was targeted because of an executive’s opinion on one of the great social issues of our time. Chick-fil-a was targeted because they support financially an organization that has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. This week thousands or more people either showed their support or protested Chick-fil-a in a variety of ways, and in the era of instant communication shared their positions with pictures and commentaries for all to see.
I proudly serve a congregation with a significant number of LGBT persons, who, like every other Christian, seek to live their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. We worship, study, learn, gather, grow, and go into the world together as disciples of Jesus Christ, who calls us to share the love of God with our neighbors. Every Sunday we articulate for all present one of our central values as a church family, that we welcome and honor all people made in the image of God.
In the past I have supported Chick-fil-a, because of its decision to close on Sundays, offering their workers rest and an opportunity to worship and spend time with family. The fast food industry is notorious for its treatment of its employees, who are underpaid and overworked. Chick-fil-a also regularly supports Vacation Bible Schools around the country, offering free meals to kids who participate. In fact, June 29, the last time our family ate at Chick-fil-a, was on the way home from their last day at VBS.
This week I have seen too many posts, pro and con, about a fast food chain. We have expended too much energy about chicken sandwiches. I promise this whole “controversy” will be forgotten by the time school starts, if it even makes it that far. And what will we have accomplished? Some will feel they have defended first amendment rights by drinking a lemonade. Others will think they have supported their LGBT friends and relatives by eating chicken nuggets at McDonald’s instead. Many folk have said the issue of same-sex marriage and other rights for LGBT folk will not go away—and they are, thankfully, truthfully, correct. But making a fast-food chain the focus of our activity will not hasten those sorely-needed changes in society.
I have been silent about Chick-fil-a until this morning, but I have not been silent about the issue of marriage equality—in fact this spring at Oak Lawn we had a series on issues in the news and marriage equality was the climax of the series. You’re welcome to read the sermon, posted here May 20, or listen to it on olumc.org. The best part of that series was not the sermons themselves, but the dialog after worship, when a different speaker offered further discussion in a face-to-face, heart-to-heart manner—not the kind of clicking “like” or status updates we’ve seen this week. I have been silent about Chick-fil-a until this morning, but I have not been silent on the issue of gay rights because I treat same sex couples the same as I do opposite sex couples. I have been silent about Chick-fil-a until this morning, but I have not been silent on the issue of gay rights because I support LGBT persons for leadership in the church as much as I do heterosexual folk.
If we want to support our LGBT friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers—even strangers—let’s do it in a substantive way. Let’s lobby Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which almost certainly will be ruled unconstitutional very soon. Let’s lobby the State of Texas to change the constitution banning gay marriage in our state. Let’s go out of our way to stop bullying, end the enormous rates of LGBT teen suicide, provide shelter for the disproportionate numbers of homeless LGBT teens, encourage families to accept, not reject nor even tolerate their loved ones who come out.
My emotional reaction this week has been grief. Of course I grieve for those I care for who have shared their hurt. I share the confusion over what exactly other loved ones are professing by holding up their Styrofoam cups for all to see. But as I read those posts and saw those pictures, and I am sure there will be more to come for a few more days, my mind kept remembering two scriptures:
· “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
· “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
That total most likely will never change, not as an act of protest but because with every sip of Chick-fil-a’s sweet tea I would think of faces I know and love who have been hurt by organizations the company has supported. I have been silent about Chick-fil-a until this morning, and now I shall return to my silence about Chick-fil-a. But I will not be silent about justice. Or mercy. Or love. Or forgiveness. When this “controversy” is gone in a week or two, forgotten by most, we’ll still be left here. There will still be work to be done to ensure every person is respected, loved, treated with dignity, and offered the same rights and protection under the law. There will still be the command of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves, and there will still be folk who question, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer will have nothing to do with fast food.