Nice Nasty: A Look At TD Jakes Remarks About Marriage Equality

With the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in favor of marriage equality last week, it was expected that clergy across the country would begin to express their opinions.

Bishop TD Jakes, pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas, offered remarks about marriage equality and a Christian response here:

Bishop Jakes’ remarks may seem like a respectful way to address the issue, but they aren’t. There’s a pervasive idea that speaking about issues calmly with respectful language somehow sanctifies the troubling rhetoric that is being delivered. As a friend put it, there’s a heavy element of “nice nasty” that’s present in Jakes’ remarks.

Jakes starts by telling his congregation that Christians shouldn’t “lose their minds” in regards to the Supreme Court ruling. To paraphrase his words, the Church shouldn’t be concerned when “the world” does what it tends to do. He notes that the Justices were dealing with the rights that are given by the Constitution. He goes on to mention that the Justices weren’t debating Romans 1 and First Corinthians when deciding this ruling. This is a hint into where Jakes will ultimately end up. The New Testament books of Romans and 1 Corinthians contain lynchpin scriptures for people who are opposed to same-sex relations. Certain words and phrases function as dog whistles in church contexts, sending a rallying call around certain ideas that are understood but not spelled out directly. Mentioning Romans and First Corinthians as he did is a coded way of pointing the parishioner toward an understanding of same-sex sexual activity as sin. Jakes has stated previously that he thinks scripture “condemns” sex between people of the same-sex in an interview with Oprah in 2012, but it wouldn’t have been smart to be direct in a broadcast that was aired to millions. The COGIC backlash involving Andrew Caldwell is instructive in this case.

Bishop Jakes upholds the idea that the traditional way of reading the text will automatically lead to his particular understanding. This is not true, as many faithful people who read the text come up with different ideas about every subject the Bible presents. In a seminary class I once took, a classmate said, “I take the Bible literally, and the Bible literally does not condemn gay people. They aren’t speaking about what we are discussing today.” There’s a multitude of ways to view scripture. Those diverse interpretations are a major part of why we have so many denominations today.

From Charismanews.com

From Charismanews.com

Jakes also makes the assumption that things would be better if people became “real Christians.” For Jakes, it appears that a true Christian is someone who shares their faith. If more Christians evangelized, and not segregate themselves from people who aren’t like-minded, Christianity would spread. The statistics available concerning Christian perception in this country would suggest otherwise (Read this Barna Group report here). People know what the Christian message is, and they perceive it to be one of hate and intolerance. They hear and understand, they just don’t want what’s being offered.

Lastly, Jakes makes a comment about the Bible toward the end that may well be the most concerning portion of the remarks. He says, “But I must warn you, God does not judge you by the Constitution. He judges you by the Word of God. So while the Supreme Court is looking at the Constitution, you better search the Scripture.” He continued to say, “This blessed old book is still good, it’s still right anyhow.”

This remark is a veiled threat. Given the context of the sermon, people who don’t agree or live by Jakes’ biblical understanding of sexuality are in danger of being judged by God. To suggest that judgement is the appropriate response to Jakes’s perspective of sexuality—a perspective that is highly debatable at best—is cruel, regardless of how well-meaning it sounds. Scripturally, Jesus does discuss the threat of judgment, but it is frequently to those who abuse children or people he loves (Matthew 18:1-6), hypocrites (Mark 7: 1-13), and people who ignore the most vulnerable in society (Matthew 25:31-46). Saying “God said it” doesn’t absolve anyone from the responsibility of the stances they take. God isn’t making the declaration; you are. Damnation and hell are some of the most violently used concepts in Christian thought, and they are often used by people in power to threaten others toward their point of view. Rarely is biblical wrath directed at the modern day equivalents of the ones who receive the threats in scripture. This needs to change.

Jakes relies on the idea of the church being separate from the world to justify placing LGBT people and their issues on the back-burner. It’s not something to “lose his mind” about, which is a nice-nasty way of saying that LGBT issues aren’t worth Christian effort to fight for. This is where he, and many others, make a critical error. Separating the church from the world will not remove LGBT people from the church house. We are everywhere, including in the pews of his church when he was giving this message. We are ministers, deacons, trustees, and ushers. We participate in the life of the church in such an ingrained way, that our removal would be immediately noticed. There are affirming churches and clergy who praised God when the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. Are they not Christian? There is no clean place to cut down the middle. A break away from the LGBT community wouldn’t sanctify the church, it would splinter the church into even more pieces than it is right now.

Bishop Jakes does what many do, function under a cloak of civility to push anti-LGBT message. He’s savvy enough not to use buzzwords that will not attract the same level of scrutiny and critique that others do when they engage in anti-LGBT speech. It’s time to begin noticing this, and holding our leaders more accountable for the ideas they present, as well as the consequences they produce for others.

We Can Hear You

Earlier this week, the person formerly known as Bruce Jenner announced the results of the decision to transition to a woman. For now on, she want to be referred to as Caitlyn Jenner.

Given that my context is a Christian one, I expected the response to Caitllyn’s transition to be one of general disapproval. Still, I’m often taken aback by how cruel those of us who are called by the name of Christ are in the name of holiness. Rather than exhibiting the radical inclusivity of Christ’s table, we often sound more like the war and thunder God of the Hebrew Scriptures, demanding that all offending people be destroyed so that God’s “special” people can exist. Social media was ablaze with opinions about how Caitlyn was wrong for tinkering with God’s creation. People refused to use proper pronouns, staunchly declaring that they will still call her “Bruce.” Caitlyn’s actions were decried as demonic and worthy of damnation.

I’m not transgender, but I know how it feels to hear awful things said about you and your reality. Years ago, I was heavily active in a Christian group. We had many fun times. I labored with them, and shared the important life events that people in their early 20s tend to experience. It was during this time that I seriously began to question my sexuality. While I was surrounded by people who demonstrated their care for me, these same people routinely said disparaging things about gay people. The term “gay” was used to describe people who they thought were weak and stupid. Effeminate men were laughed at. There argument was that no one wanted to follow a Christ who would allow “soft brothers” to be at the forefront. “No homo” was a frequently uttered phrase. Being gay was a malady to be cast out, thrown away, bound and tossed into the pit of hell. Queerness of any sort was an aliment that rendered one useless for God’s plan and for any meaningful relationships. Being gay, or even perceived as such, gave the saints of the most high God the right to mock your life and make you into the butt of a joke. This right was often evoked as an obligation.

A infographic from Outright Vermont detailing bullying that LGBT youth face.

A infographic from Outright Vermont detailing bullying that LGBT youth face.

The pain I felt was immense. At that point, I didn’t have a clear answer about my sexuality. But I knew if I even brought it up to the people that I cared about, I would never be viewed the same. I would be marked. Regardless of what they might say when I told them, I already knew what they thought of me. Their humor told me everything I needed to know. The the language they used when the topics of soft brothers and homosexuality and the perverse leanings of the world confirmed my lesser status in their minds—and to myself.

I plunged into a dangerous depression for the better part of a year. Most days I felt numb to the world. Other days, the physic pain was so intense that I felt it physically. I turned to alcohol to deal with the pain. My performance in graduate school dropped. I stopped showering. And as time rolled on it became harder to convince myself to not end it all. The pain was too much and it was lasting too long. Perhaps whatever was on the other side of death would be a respite from the torment I experienced every day.

I was lucky. Being a graduate student placed me in close proximity to mental health professionals. I received help to get my life back on track, and new skills to affirm and love myself. However, everyone doesn’t have that chance. Everyone doesn’t have easy access to mental health professionals, and many people don’t live to tell the story.

Now, I take responsibility for my environment. That’s why I distanced myself from those folks and other places that dehumanize LGBTQ people. Anyone who has cannot accept me as I am has limited access to the intimate spaces of my life. And while there were other factors that caused me to experience such a low state, the final blow came from Christians. The people that were supposed to be a source of blessing ended up pronouncing a curse. And that curse almost worked its dark magic on me.

But again, I was lucky. Many LGBTQ people do not escape the curse that is placed on them by their pastors, deacons, and other members of the Christian community. Many are on drugs, homeless, and commit suicide, all because people discuss them in ways that are dehumanizing. Read the statistics about Black LGBTQ youth here. These are your brothers, sisters, friends, and family. It’s foolish to think that hateful speech wouldn’t impact people who are in close relational proximity to. Our careless words and lack of compassion are driving people to their graves.

Your jokes aren’t harmless. Your opinions aren’t just some benign thought thrown into the wind. We can hear you. We hear the remarks you make about us. We hear the “opinions” that are laced with hate and disgust. We read the tweets and the Facebook statuses filled with prayers and commitments to “biblical living” that function more like pronouncements of death to a group of people who you refuse to understand. We hear, we remember, and we hurt.  For a people that believe life and death is in the power of the tongue, the spoken and written word is often used to pronounce death and destruction on those that do not fit into their small view of the world.

Even if you don’t understand or disagree, people lives aren’t jokes. The Caitlyn Jenners and Verdell Wrights of the world are within earshot of you. You may be laughing someone off of a cliff.

Chris Broussard: Some Thoughts, Ideas, and Hopes

jason collins

Early this week, Jason Collins told the sports world that he was gay. He is the first black man to do so while being an active player on a professional sports team. The announcement caused a media uproar. Of course, any time homosexuality is mentioned, one can expect to hear two distinct voices. One is the voice of approval, yelling overtures of praise and support. The other is from the conservative side, making sure their negative view on homosexuality is heard loud and clear. Like rival bands on opposite sides of a football field, the two sides jockey and position themselves to be louder than the other.

Chris Broussard, a sports analyst for ESPN, was asked his opinion concerning Jason Collins’ admission, he had this to say.

chris-broussard-of-espn

Broussard’s remarks were polarizing. Should Broussard be fired? Should he feel so free to share his personal religious views on national television? Is it right to be angry at someone for simply sharing their views, even if it’s an opinion that has a dwindling amount of support?

In this circumstance, I have the privilege of having meida experience while at the same time being a Christian. I graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Media in 2006, and I worked as a freelancer for several years. As with other issues that cause us to engage in cultural wars debates, there are several critical voices and viewpoints that get drowned out. Since this topic won’t go away any time soon, I think this situation serves as a teachable moment to help Christians see some things in a different light.

As a journalist, I honestly see no reason to fire Broussard. He was interviewed, he was asked his opinion, and then he gave it. Chances are the people involved in crafting this interview, his colleagues, knew what Broussard would say in the first place. He is known for his outspoken Christian views. As someone who has done reporting and conducted interviews, I can’t bring myself to think that the powers that be didn’t know how this would turn out.

If I were in Broussard’s shoes, I wouldn’t have taken the interview. It makes him a scapegoat for ESPN, a soundbite in a media war. While legally it would be challenging for ESPN to fire him for voicing his religious views , it certainly leaves a blemish on his career that’s unnecessary. Sure, some might say that Broussard getting on the air and voicing such a popular Christian opinion makes him the epitome of a Romans 1:16 believer: not ashamed and ready to tell the truth. However, in this sticky game of media wrangling and sacrificial lambs, I think there was a better method to voice his views and still remain in the sphere where he can maintain influence. To say such a thing  hours after the announcement was made isn’t a good look. Someone in the office knew that. I wonder if Broussard did.

As a Christian, my opinion sways a bit. Professionally, I believe that any action against Broussard is unfair. In terms of my faith, however, I wish that he wouldn’t have said anything. Here’s why:

The insertion of his theological views was ill-timed and unwarranted.

The popular Christian view is that homosexuality is a sin. While there is in fact a rigorous debate around this theological issue, the conservative side of the argument seems to miss some crucial points as they seek to maintain cultural relevance. Regardless of one’s views of homosexuality, gay marriage, or whether or not someone is born gay, it is an incredibly dramatic and intense issue for the person that is dealing with it and making the news public.

And to be fair, it’s not just from religious folks that fail at this. Christians in this country tend to take the brunt of the rap for homophobia and bigotry when it is just as prevalent in all areas of society. And just because someone disagrees with homosexuality doesn’t automatically make them a bigot or homophobic.  In the same vein, African-Americans are perceived as exceptionally homophobic, when in reality blacks are no more so than anyone else. I mean, do you tend to see a lot of black people at those anti-gay marches? Any black leadership on the Family Research Council or the other traditional marriage advocates? There are some, but very few.

Broussard’s comment is reflective of what many Christians do when confronted with the issue of someone coming out. They make sure that their theological line is drawn in the sand, and they make double sure to let the person coming out know that they have crossed it. In taking that approach, there is an important piece of humanity that is missed. The narrative surrounding coming out stories is that people are exercising courage, bravery, and acknowledging who they perceive themselves to be in a situation that isn’t the most conducive to that reality. When Christians insert their claims at that specific time, it comes off as grandstanding and self-serving piety. It puts a bad taste in people’s mouths, and it’s not simply because of the belief. Most people know what the conservative response would be. However, when that affirmation of faith is poorly timed it only serves to push people away from the Christ we desire people to know.

This may not matter as much in the Jason Collins’ story. He has tons of support. Broussard’s and other’s comments are merely a fly in Collins’ ointment, and he’s certainty rich enough to buy more ointment. However, this isn’t the case of the people that we see on the street, or encounter in our churches. These folks are vulnerable, and subject to many emotional, spiritual, and even physical repercussions simply because of their orientation.  As people who are supposed to be defined by our love and not simply our theological stances, Christians need to be mindful of this.

The idea that someone trusts someone else enough to share such personal and potentially relationship altering information about themselves should be held in high esteem. It’s not an opportunity to win theological points.

When you move away from the polarized edges of the argument, you’ll find that people aren’t necessarily looking for agreement on theological issues. Instead they are seeking respect, honesty, and to have their dignity as human beings acknowledged. Now, there are ways that the more liberal side of the argument also fails at this. Everyone who is holds conservative views around sexuality is not stupid or unenlightened. However, as a Christian I want to highlight some points that may not be obvious to more conservative folks. These points might help navigate the situations that you may encounter in dealing with LGBT people.

1.)  Jason Collins said he was gay, he didn’t say anything about his sex life. Often, when homosexuality is discussed in conservative circles it is lumped together with the idea that it is a conglomerate “lifestyle.” Tons of wild sex, reckless living, and other negative images are mentioned in the same breath. An overwhelming amount of people who disagree with homosexuality view it as a choice, but that tide is changing even amongst conservatives. People who believe homosexuality is a sin are starting to see that the amount of choice involved in sexual orientation isn’t as much as some would like to believe. Besides, straight people’s orientation is never conflated with the idea of sin.  Particular actions are condemned (premarital sex, adultery, etc.), but mere identification  as being straight is not. The majority of straight people who are Christian have been involved in sexual sin, and are still engaging in it in some measure (this article gives recent information on a study concerning Christians and sex). The person who had sex with someone of the opposite sex is held accountable for their actions. The gay person, in numerous situations, is held accountable for their existence When identity and actions are connected, it robs the person of their dignity. It leaves them trapped in a state of perpetual unworthiness that is inescapable.. That’s a big difference. The gay person in question may not be having sex at all.

2.)  The person is not an “issue” to be debated, but a person to love. Chances are, the person that is coming out to you knows what your theological views are. And they still trust you. That says something. While you may not agree with their choices, as a Christian you can minister to the fear, hurt, and pain that they’ve inevitably felt. Those are universal issues to the human condition. Everyone knows how it feels to be afraid and unwanted, even in the midst of our being wrong.

Yet our belief states that God still loves us and reaches out for us, even in that state (Romans 5:5). The Suicide Prevention Resource Center reports that suicide rates in LGBT teens are 30% to 40% higher than the norm. LGBT teens are more likely to be homeless.  The person in front of you is not a bullet point in a persuasive speech, but a human life. The battle for their minds won’t be won if you ignore the issues of the heart. And even then, are we charged as Christians to win vigorous debates on sin, or to love people and participate in their progressive wholeness? Detailing your theology around sexuality at such a sensitive time only serves to push them away. It also diminishes the person in question to only their private parts and their desires.

3.)  Coming out is about them, not you. One of things that people miss when this situation comes up is that it’s not time to make theological statements. I’m not telling people not to state their views in sermons, articles, and such. But in the one-on-one situations taking a stance such as Broussard’s is dangerous. What that tells the person announcing their sexuality is that proclaiming your views during a vulnerable time in their life is more important than listening to them. Again, they probably already know what your thoughts are.

Everyone is deserving of honor, as we are made in the image of God. Perhaps acknowledging that imago dei that is intrinsic to all of our existence is the first step in bridging the gap in this issue.

Chic-Fil-A Aftermath: Objections and Responses

WOW.

Thank you so much for the overwhelming support. People are reading and learning. That’s what The ReBoot is about: looking at common trend of thought in Christianity and holding them up to the light to see if they honestly reflect Christ. To wrap up, let’s look at some common objections to the pushback on Chic-Fil-A in general and my blog in particular. If you haven’t read yesterday’s post yet, take a look here.

1.) The Southern Poverty Law Center is a left-wing group that inappropriately labels groups as hateful.

The SPLC states clearly on their site that a group isn’t labeled as a hate group for maintaining that homosexuality is unbiblical. I also mentioned that in my post.

In looking at the organization’s site, I assumed that someone could brush it off as simply a  “liberal” site.  Since that was the case, I enacted one of the oldest rules of journalism: confirm through two or more sources. I knew that if these were legit sources, they would appear elsewhere. If you type in the names of those quoted on in Google you’ll find them in other places besides the SPLC. Besides, even if the SPLC is overtly liberal, it doesn’t negate the content and meaning of the quotes from the Family Research Center.

To save you some trouble, here is a pamphlet. It was quoted a couple of times on the list in yesterday’s post. Google entire quotes and see what pops up. Sure, some of the sites may not be reputable, but a lot are. Research various medical organizations and look at their opinions concerning the various issues that I addressed. Also, if you find one where the Family Research Center recants on their stance of homosexual men being pedophiles, let me know. I haven’t found one yet.

It’s appalling and sad to me that so many people (especially blacks and other minorities) can read false facts of a group of people being scientifically linked to harming children and shrug it off as not hateful. In that case, is the Klan still a hate group today? They aren’t killing folks anymore, at least not in massive numbers. If Burger King gave money to groups that called black men porch monkeys and said they were naturally prone to be lazy, poor fathers, and sexually deviant because of their blackness, i’m sure the conversation would be different.

2.) LGBT people are playing the victim.

I discuss my problems with the term “anti-gay” and express my concern about city governments banning Chic-Fil-A on shaky legal grounds. I know that some people representing and advocating for the LGBT community are behaving incorrectly concerning this issue. There are extremes on both sides of the argument.

For example, I strongly disagree with the plans for people to go into Chic-Fil-As this Friday and go on a kissing spree. It’s countering one extreme with another, and that helps no one. It also confirms negative stereotypes about gay people, that they are sexually driven and inconsiderate about flaunting their sexuality.  I would be equally upset if a pro-gay group tried to ban the Bible.

However, two wrongs don’t make a right. I believe that as a nation are so polarized that we automatically demonize another point of view without using the good reasoning skills that most of have us to fully understand a point before disagreeing. Does someone calling you a bigot because you disagree with gay marriage make it okay to empower hate speech or unfair treatment of a whole segment of society? I don’t understand how one incorrect action gives the other permission.

I also think people are lacking empathy in this situation. If you wanted some recognition and someone put forth time, money, and effort to make sure that didn’t happen, wouldn’t you be upset? If someone were spreading mistruths about you to support their efforts to block your recognition, wouldn’t you be upset?

Lastly, it’s common practice for a majority group in power to accuse the minority group of “playing the victim” when they campaign for more rights. But that is for another post.

3.) LGBT community is hindering free speech. I support this hindrance with my post.

At the risk of being too forward, this situation cannot be about free speech because free speech was never the issue in the first place. The point of my post wasn’t to argue against Dan Cathy’s stance (although I disagree with the way he frames God’s judgment), but to highlight why a large portion of people have an issue with Chic-Fil-A as an organization. Cathy donates coperate funds to organizations that 1.) Actively work against rights for gay people and/or 2.) Have dubious reputations. Thus, the LGBT community is upset and wants to bring awareness.

Dan Cathy was never kidnapped, silenced, killed, or otherwise bullied by the government. That’s what the first amendment protects you from. If you express an opinion that I don’t agree with, I also have the first amendment right to publically disagree, and you have the right to publically disagree with my disagreement. Yes, I know there is some suspect dealings with Chic-Fil-A openings around the country, but it doesn’t affect the organization at large.

Let’s be honest here. Chic-Fil-A Appreciation Day was to support Cathy’s message, not his right to free speech, since that right was never on the table to begin with. Personally, I’m appalled that prominent Christian leaders are saying that it’s a matter of opinion. That statement is incredibly misleading. Just make sure you understood exactly what Cathy said before you throw your whole weight behind his stance. Check out this article by the Huffington Post to get some clarity on that. I don’t deny Cathy his right to express himself, because it would also jeopardize my own.

4.) There are more important things to talk about

I understand that point of view, however, it doesn’t fly all the way with me. I believe in the fair treatment and uplifting of EVERYONE. The black kid in the hood. The white poor family in the trailer park. I’m concerned about gun laws and student loans. A lot of people are, and so are people in the LGBT community. Funny thing is, a lot of the other issues that people point to as “more important” than this one are the very ones that harm us all, regardless of sexual orientation or religion. But again, the extreme polarization in our society hinders us from seeing that.

I’m leery of saying that one form of hate or destruction is worse than another. It is all bad. Unfortunately, I can’t write about everything in one post.

So, why speak up at all then? I’ll close with this quote attributed to Martin Niemöller, who was a German pastor and social activist:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Chic-Fil-A and The Real Reason People Are Saying “No More Chikin.”

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.”

“Pedophiles.”

“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.

Chic-Fil-A Trifecta Part 1: Money Matters

With all the recent discussion around boycotting Chic-Fil-A, it’s probably a good time to stop and reflect on how we spend our money. Does it matter to God where we spend our dime? How much impact can we have with our dollars?

Perhaps loosening or tightening your purse strings won’t single-handedly solve any world problem, but money is still a powerful tool. Spending habits are a tangible way to express support or disagreement with a particular cause. You can even say that it is an aspect of personal devotion and spiritual discipline. Where you spend your money does make a difference.

Following are some guidelines that will help you figure out where to toss your change.

1. Do your research

Money is one of the most importance resources we have. That’s why everyone is trying to get a piece of it. Once it leaves your hands; however, corporations can do almost anything they want with it. If this fact disturbs you, you owe it to yourself to figure what your favorite stores do with the cash that you give them. Where do you shop regularly? What are your favorite brands? Research what the companies who make your favorite things do with your money. If they offend your conscience, make different decisions.

2. Realize the Limitations

Big corporations have weaved a tangled web across our society. The reason why they can get so big with relatively no challenge is because they are engrained in the production and transmission of goods that we use in everyday life.

Truth is, unless you manage to relocate to the woods and live off the land, you’ll have trouble steering your Benjamins clear of every societal evil. Let’s say you decide to boycott Chic-Fil-A. There are plenty of other places to eat (and you could always, perish the thought, eat at home). But, you have to drive to get to work, or take public transportation. To operate a car or bus you need gasoline. It’s pretty much public knowledge that oil companies are fleecing the public and are involved in environmental destruction. If you can’t afford to buy an electric car, what are you going to do? Not go to work?

We can’t avoid everything. Do the best you can, but don’t condemn yourself about what you can’t do.

3. Realize the Options

The flip side of this is that we do have options. Perhaps not in every area of life, but certainly a lot. If I want a pair of slacks, I have a multitude of places where I can purchase them. If a particular brand is attached to practices that I don’t agree with, there are other companies that make slacks.

If where your money goes is that important, do the legwork to figure out how to get your needs met without offending your beliefs. Perhaps you’ll have to forgo luxury brands, but your beliefs will be intact.

4. Donate to causes that you support

Unfortunately, Christians in America are known for what they disagree with rather than what they are passionate for. Many people don’t know what Christians actually agree with. Don’t let that be the case for your money. Give generously to the causes that you are passionate about.