When Dan Cathy, the COO and president of Chic-Fil-A, was asked if he supported the traditional idea of marriage, he stated that he was “Guilty as charged” (you can read the full article and see a video here).
Of course, these comments caused a firestorm on the web. LGBT advocates hammered down harsh criticism of Cathy’s stance, while supporters of traditional values concerning marriage took to the eatery’s defense. Inevitably (and unfortunately), things got nasty. Heat and vitriol fired from both sides.
In my opinion, the media has done an awful job of detailing the situation. I have some issues with the usage of Anti-Gay as a label. In theory, if a group doesn’t agree with homosexuality they are “anti-gay;” however, the word carries the connotation that groups are against gay people. Every group that does not agree with homosexuality does not approach it the same way. Some will say that it’s a sin, but advocate rights for everyone regardless of sexual orientation. In my opinion, the label carries too many assumptions and it only serves to make an already murky terrain difficult to wade through.
I want to highlight a portion of the issue that I don’t think is getting enough attention. I admit that I’m speaking mostly to the Conservative Christian side of the aisle; the side that is in support of Chic-Fil-A, traditional marriage, and believes that homosexuality is against God’s created order. From my observation, there’s a key component that we’re missing and if we don’t address it, it threatens our already dwindling witness.
The outrage directed at the company isn’t so much about Dan Cathy’s stance, but the about organizations that Chic-Fil-A donates to. These groups have come under scrutiny not because of their religious beliefs, but for the manner in which they discuss them and for the damaging viewpoints that some of them propagate. Most of the groups that Chic-Fil-A donated to actively campaign against same-sex marriage (and consequently, the governmental perks that and protections that come along with it). One group in particular, the Family Research Center, is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization classifies groups as dangerous based on the presumed facts that they share, facts that have been almost unanimously proven as false by medical organizations and studies across the board. The SPLC notes on their website that “viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.”
These are some quotes that have come from the leadership of the Family Research Center, a recipient of funds from Chic-Fil-A (taken from SPLC):
“Gaining access to children has been a long-term goal of the homosexual movement.”
— Robert Knight, FRC director of cultural studies, and Frank York, 1999
“One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.”
-1999 FRC pamphlet, Homosexual Activists Work to Normalize Sex with Boys.
“[T]he evidence indicates that disproportionate numbers of gay men seek adolescent males or boys as sexual partners.”
— Timothy Dailey, senior research fellow, “Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse,” 2002
“While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. … It is a homosexual problem.”
— FRC President Tony Perkins, FRC website, 2010
Note: These quotes can be located elsewhere online. Their pamphlets are also online as for your own reading. The other reports and studies of the researchers that the FRC supports can also be easily found, often restating the same assertions about the homosexual community.
That, readers, is the core of the issue.
It’s not Mr. Cathy’s status. While many disagree with it, he is well within his first amendment rights to express his point. And honestly, local governments that are campaigning to block Chic-Fil-A restaurants from opening are dancing dangerously close to violating free speech themselves (read more about that here). Yes, his points may be hurtful to some. But are his words harmful?
Alise Wright comments brilliantly on how failing to differentiate between hate speech and hurtful speech makes the policing of hateful words much more challenging. She writes that labeling an opinion that we disagree with as hateful cheapens the term, causing legitimate hurt to get lost in the midst of “emotionally charged language” (you can read the rest of Wright’s excellent blog here).
However, before we dismiss this entire issue, like too many have done, let’s not just look at what Cathy has said. Let’s look at what Chic-Fil-A has done. Look at some of the words that are pulled from the FRC quotes again.
“Gaining access to children.”
“Adolescent males or boys as sexual partners.”
“Disproportionate overlap between the two…[pedophilia] is a homosexual problem.”
Chic-Fil-A gave this organization funds. If you happen to have any loved ones who are gay, they were talking about them. And in particular, the studies focus on gay men. Apparently, gay women aren’t even worth the scrutiny. Hate and an odd form of patriarchy, hand-in-hand.
This is why people are angry. This is why people are pushing back and lashing out. Dan Cathy might not have said these things, but the money you spend on chicken sandwiches goes to finance a group that presents this information as if it were scientific fact. These harmful stereotypes have been disproven for years, yet are still at the forefront of the argument (see some information about that here).
If you are a Christian that believes everyone should have the same rights, then you should strongly consider not patronizing Chic-Fil-A. The money that you spend there will go to groups that actively work against something that you believe in. Just as one wouldn’t expect a Republican to willingly give money to the Democratic Party, you should spend your money elsewhere.
If you are someone who is appalled by the comments of the FRC, and have serious concerns about the groups that perform “restorative therapy” on people who have same-sex attraction (a practice that a prominent ex-gay ministry now rejects as harmful and unrealistic), then you want to spend your money elsewhere. Again, Chic-Fil-A gives money to a cause that you don’t agree with.
If you still eat there, does that make you hateful? Perhaps not. But as Chic-Fil-A’s decade-long history of finance shows, someone else will be paid to be hateful for you. At the very least, if you are going to take a public stand in a situation such as this, perform the due diligence to research all of the facts. Don’t simply do what seems to be the Christian thing to do, because you may be encouraging something very un-Christian in the process.
Or are we so quick to rush to our default sides of the argument that we don’t stop to see if we trampled someone to get over there?
I strongly urge and humbly plead with believers that hold to a traditional view of marriage and sexuality to be very careful. I’m not writing this to convince someone to drop his or her religious beliefs. I’m simply highlighting the truth that we are also called to hearken to the voice of the damaged and broken. If we aren’t careful, it is easy to let our beliefs about people’s conduct hinder efforts to bring liberation, justice, and full recognition of humanity to all. When that happens, we allow our theology to implicitly allow tyranny. When we participate in dehumanization, we become less human ourselves.
If someone is claiming that his or her basic human rights, liberty, and dignity are threatened, shouldn’t Christians at least look into it?
Shouldn’t the claim of someone seeking justice override our taste buds?
Shouldn’t we put just as much effort into researching a situation that may be causing harm to others as we put into correct and sound doctrine?
Are we going to let our theological differences become a hindrance for honest justice and an enabler for pain?
I certainly hope not.