Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chick-fil-A and the Culture Wars

Chick-Fil-A and the Culture Wars

For the past few weeks, I have watched with interest and concern as the controversy has swirled around the chicken fast-food chain Chick-fil-A. To me, it seems that at least four pressing issues have come together to make this an increasingly crucial controversy.

Those issues are:

1. The definition of marriage
2. The biblical and sociological issue of homosexuality.
3. The matter of freedom of speech
4. The boycotting mentality that has developed in recent years.

Each of these issues bear our careful and thorough consideration and would each individually provoke enough debate to keep us busy. Taken together they form a front-line display of the growing dividedness in our nation.

There is certainly a great deal of overlap here (especially between #1 and #2), but I think it is important to deal with each of these separately in order to maintain sanity in this increasingly heated battle. These issues and how we answer them will determine our future.

What Got Us Here

By way of quick review, it is helpful to look back briefly at the events of the past month (actually this story has been building for better than a year and a half).   On July 16th, Dan Cathy, CEO of Chickfil-A, was interviewed by Baptist Press. In that interview, Cathy stated that his company supported what he called the "traditional family." He acknowledged that there were those who did not like such advocacy, but in response to them he said, "Guilty as charged." Cathy then stated, "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."

I might add that Mr. Cathy concluded his interview with this statement: "We intend to stay the course.  We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country  where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles." The present controversy certainly brings this last statement into question.

It was not, however, this interview that got the water boiling. That would come two days later when Dan Cathy appeared on "The Ken Coleman Show." There he stated his belief that advocacy of same-sex marriage will bring "God's judgment" upon our nation.

Reactions began coming quickly. Two days later on July 20, Boston mayor Thomas Menino declared that Chick-fil-A was no longer welcome in Boston.   Within days, Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago followed suit stating that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago’s values”.  The Jim Henson company joined the fray by stating on their official Facebook page that they would no longer partner with Chick-fil-A, but would instead donate payments from Chick-fil-A to pro-gay groups.

On July 23, a gay-advocacy coalition called for a “National Same Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A”.  They called for gay-marriage supporters to descend on a local Chick-fil-A restaurant on Aug. 3 and take a picture of themselves puckering up. 

In response to this, former presidential candidate and Arkansas governor called for a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." He asked that on August 1 people show up at Chick-fil-A restaurants to show their support.

The amazing thing is that ALL of these efforts and reactions have met with overwhelming response. The only effort that faltered was the "Kiss-In." Facebook postings have displayed a radical and deep divide.  This is a super-charged issue. On Aug. 1, Chick-fil-A restaurants were deluged.

It is obvious that this battle has uncovered defining questions for America.  Our cultural identity is somewhat like the beach volley-ball we see in the Olympic games. It is time to work toward real answers to hard questions. This is the true battle before us.

There is no way in this short blog, I or anyone can fully lay out clear answers. We can, however, add our voice to this important discussion seeking solutions that afford us a future.

The Definition of Marriage

Our laws must be based on some kind of moral base. From the outset of America that moral base has been the Bible. Even with those like Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin who did not classify themselves as Christians, yet they held to the MORAL FOUNDATION found in Holy Scripture.

One of the biggest and most serious challenges of our day is the endeavor to CHANGE OUR MORAL BASE. In the name of separation of church and state, the claim is being made that the Bible has no place in the public square.

So, the question must then be asked, "If the Bible is removed as the foundation of our moral law, what will replace it?" The secularist has no answer for this question. ALL FLOURISHING SOCIETIES ARE BASED ON SOME SORT OF RELIGIOUS MORAL LAW. No atheistic culture has ever survived.

Our definition of marriage is based on the Bible. It is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman.  It derives its sanctity from God, therefore we call it HOLY MATRIMONY. Perhaps all other associations might be called civil unions (I once heard of a person wanting to marry his pet!). We cannot forbid people from whatever living arrangement they want. Just don't call it holy matrimony.

The Biblical and Sociological Issue of Homosexuality

This is the "ground zero" issue. I am aware of the delicacy and difficulty of this issue. Much compassionate and honest work must yet be done on the psychological and sociological phenomenon called homosexuality.

The Scripture is clear. Homosexuality is not God's plan for people. It is called sin. But, let's be clear - it is not a worse sin than any other. The lists in which homosexuality appear also include pride, greed, lying, etc.

There is an endeavor today not just toward tolerance of homosexuality but APPROVAL. It is one thing to compassionately seek remedy or perhaps even friendship that overlooks weaknesses (most of us do this all he time in life situations ranging from addictive tendencies to character idiosyncrasies). It is quite another to AFFIRM that which we know is not God's will.

There is no question that the issue of biblical authority is at the center of this gay debate.

The Matter of Free Speech

Why is depravity, obscenity, and pornography defended under the banner of free speech, while traditional and moral values are demonized?  Our moral compass has gone crazy. Dan Cathy spoke his beliefs and has been crucified for them.  He was primarily PRO-FAMILY, not ANTI-GAY.

The onslaught against Chick-fil-A named the other organizations they support - organizations like James Dobson's Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. These organizations were called ANTI-GAY.

There are far-reaching problems here. This constitutes the rise of the THOUGHT POLICE. We are being introduced to the outlawing of IDEAS. If this trend does not turn around, we will see the rise of a new kind of totalitarian state - a brave new world.

The Boycotting Mentality

Thomas Menino and Rahm Emanuel have called for a limitation of free enterprise based on moral values. We are seeing this tendency on all sides of the culture wars. Disneyland is boycotted by the Baptists. Chick-fil-A is boycotted by the liberals.   Let's call a moratorium on boycotts and fight this thing out in the realm of ideas, reasoning, and discussion.

Jesus said we are to be IN the world but not OF the world. That means I can eat Ben and Jerry's ice cream without buying into their moral philosophy. I can use Proctor and Gamble soap without becoming a Satanist.

I believe we should each follow the dictates of our consciences in matters of buying and selling. But we should be careful about labeling entire organizations as either good or bad.

And so....

In the final analysis, we are called to show people what Jesus is like. In the midst of a world bent on hating one another, may we be lights of the love of God.

A few days ago, Michigan pastor Kevin DeYoung gave us 3 "R's" of the culture wars. They are:  NO RETREAT ...  NO REVERSAL ... NO REVILING.
That's good advice for all of us. Come let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

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