Thursday, August 02, 2012

Chicken With a Side of Politics, Business, and Religion Causes Indigestion

One night while I was in college, I was pulling an all nighter with some friends when the munches came. So like any other college student, we debated what brand of cheap pizza would torment our stomachs in the morning. "I will not eat Domino's" expressed one friend. She then explained how the CEO of Domino's donated significant money from the company's profits to pro-life groups. It was also right around this time that Eddie Vedder wrote "pro-choice" on his arm with a sharpie prior to playing a song on MTV. You might say this was a coming of age moment for me. No longer were brands apolitical. Even favorite musicians had an opinion; often strong ones at that. The innocence was gone.

At this time I identified more with the College Republicans than with campus ministry. The Michael P Keaton capitalist in me recognized that a private company had the right to spend their profits however they wished, just as consumers had every right to not give those companies their patronage. Musicians could hold an opinion, and listeners could choose not to buy their albums.

With this attitude in mind, I really wanted a Chick-fil-A sandwich yesterday. One, because I happened to be traveling in the Southeast and there aren't any restaurants back where I live. And two, I thought it would make a good anecdote for this post. Unfortunately, my terminal at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport didn't have one, so I settled for pizza instead. From Pizza Hut, not Domino's.

To be honest, I wasn't really sure if I wanted to wade into this debate. The doctrinal and political leanings of Chick-fil-A’s president Dan Cathy are not news. And I think this whole firestorm has been fed by fuel poured on by the media. Yet the heart of the issue is right in the wheelhouse of the theme of this blog- in our democratic, capitalist society, what is the best way to stand up for our convictions in the public square?

In the context of the Freedom of Speech, Cathy didn't do anything wrong. But was it the wisest approach?

Jesus was relatively apolitical. When the Pharisees tried to trap him into speaking out against Rome, he turned the tables on the instead. Paul wrote about soldiers who don't concern themselves in political affairs while instructing Timothy to not get wrapped up in useless quarrels and debates.

In practice I think this would allow for financial support for causes when done in private, or vocal support when independent of business. I think you get yourself in trouble when you mix the two. But then again, I think it gets messy when you mix religion and politics in the first place.

Yet you could argue this is a moral issue, not a political one. But if it were not for the politics, would we even hear about this? And since Cathy so strongly supports "traditional marriage" is he as vocal opposing divorce? Or warning against workaholism? So how should he have expressed his convictions and how should we, as Christians have responded?

Others have written plenty on this already. Matthew Paul Turner, Rachel Held Evans, Alise Wright, David Kenney are just a small sampling. And Get Religion has done an excellent and thorough job scrutinizing the media attention this has received. (In order, Where's the Beef, The Internet Honors Stupid Stories, The Media's Irrational Fear of Chick-fil-A, Shocking AP Quotes, Hating on Chick-fil-A)

Please review these viewpoints, the pros and cons of boycotting or “eating mor chikin”, and tell me what you think the most Christ-like approach would be.

Update: A friend of mine, who also happens to be gay (yes, it is possible for a conservative Christian to have gay friends; shocking, I know!) posted this link showing the "Top 50 homophobic Chick-fil-A tweets" on his Facebook account. I know this is polarizing, but does it necessitate this kind of response? Warning in advance, the language in those tweets are beyond crude and definitely NOT Christ-like.

(Hah! I just noticed a typo of financial was auto-corrected to fanatical, completely changing the point of that sentence. Typo corrected, carry on)

No comments: