Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Why I'm Joining the Gay Community at Chick fil A this Friday
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past month, you are already aware of how much cultural bru-ha-ha can be stirred up over something as basic as a chicken sandwich. Today, Christians from all over the country rallied in support of the Chick fil A chain of restaurants by packing parking lots and dining rooms to the tune of hours-long waits at some locations. "Chick fil A Appreciation Day" was, by any commercial standard, a roaring success.
This Christian, however, stayed away.
It isn't that I didn't try. Spending a few hours with my 6-year-old son this evening, he asked for their nuggets (and their indoor playground!) But I'll be honest. Once I saw the line wrapped around the building...twice, I decided otherwise. Besides, I wasn't going to "show my support." I was going because I wanted my kid to have a white meat alternative to that nasty stuff at McDonalds!
This is not to say that I don't support the company. I do! Aside from making great chicken sandwiches and a reputation for stellar customer service, many positive things about Chick fil A have been overshadowed by the current culture-war back and forth, including the large amounts of money they give back to local communities, and generous scholarship programs for employees. And for the record, I'm thankful for strong, ethical companies run by Christian business leaders.
Additionally, I've been personally blessed by the Cathy family. It was Dan's father Truett--who founded the company decades ago--who was present at Southern Seminary the day my wife and I presented our first-born infant son to the seminary community in chapel. At the close of the service, Mr. Cathy told us "a young couple who has just had a baby needs to get out now and again," while pressing into my hand enough coupons to allow us to eat on his company's dime for at least a week! A servant's heart and the spirit of generosity have always been present in the Chick fil A chain, because that same heart is possessed by its owners.
But in times like these, when the "culture war" reaches a fever pitch, I have to step back, take a breath, and ask my Lord what I should do. I respect those who turned out in masses today to support a company that has come under media and local government fire around the country, and I also agree with their position on the family. But ultimately, such shows of support do little to advance the Gospel. When you pack the room with people already going to heaven, it tends to discourage non-Christians from showing up!
By contrast, when I read about Jesus' words and actions in Scripture, I see a Savior who aggressively pursues relationships with people who are far from God, and who simultaneously displays a strong reticence toward fighting over the control of temporary kingdoms. His mission was, and is, much larger!
Jesus was, in fact, once asked about his views of marriage by the Sadducees--the 1st century's equivalent to modern political liberalism. The context of the question was, of course, different from today's debate, as was their goal of forcing their denial of the resurrection. But the scenario was the same; a group of people bent on forcing a theological and political point of view. Jesus' answer pointed to something higher and better. (Matthew 22:23-33)
And just prior to that conversation, the "1st century conservatives" also confronted the Lord with a sticky political issue; that of income taxes! Here again is a special interest group seeking to entangle the Lord in a lesser battle over lesser, temporary things. Jesus' response is quite comical. He had someone present a coin and simply asked whose picture was on it. I can almost see Him tossing the coin back to its owner in disdainful fashion, in a way saying "if Caesar wants these little coins, give them to him. Just remember to give God what is His!" (Matthew 22:15-22)
As an evangelical conservative, I sympathize with those who showed solidarity and support today for Chick fil A. I agree with their position on this issue. But the gay community is not my enemy. And even if my views bring them to view me as an enemy, I am compelled by the undeserved love I've received from Jesus to love them back. (MAtthew 5:43-48)
Like all other kingdoms that came before it, the one you and I live in now is also temporary. Its that other Kingdom.. .the one Jesus mentions more than 80 times in the Gospels...the one He is obsessed with, that I care about extending.
This Friday night, a group of people He wants to be part of that Kingdom have announced where they will be. What else can I do but show up? No, I won't be making protest signs or standing in solidarity out front. I'll be inside, inconspicuously consuming waffle fries that will most likely shorten my time here on this earth. Come to think of it, someone might identify me as "one of them!" But that's OK. I may not share their attraction for the same sex, but at heart we really aren't all that different. Ultimately, these are people just like you and me. They are broken with sin, just like you and me, and I want to get to know them, if they will let me. I want to hear their stories. I want to identify with their struggles, at least as much as a heterosexual man is able. And I want to offer the Kingdom and its King. I might even buy them a great chicken sandwich while we talk!
I love Chick fil A, and agree with what they stand for. But I love the Savior I know Dan Cathy serves more, and I long for His Kingdom to be realized in the hearts of my friends in the gay community.
Chick fil A has taken some heavy shots over the past couple of weeks because Dan Cathy took a strong, but compassionate stand. Showing support for that company is a great thing, but let's ensure that our support accomplishes more than simply "return fire" in a war over a temporary culture. This Friday, I'll do my best to use this moment to be kind to people created in God's own image and likeness, work hard at demonstrating the values of God's eternal Kingdom with my actions, and invite people into that Kingdom!
Who knows? Maybe the lines will be just as long Friday night. And while I won't stand in line for an hour over a "culture war" issue, I'll stand there all night for the opportunity to extend God's Kingdom on earth!
Its a tough thing to do. After all, if you want to get yourself into trouble quickly with the hyper-conservative, "culture war" evangelicals, just start spending time with members of the homosexual community. But ultimately, I'm not interested in following the 21st century equivalent of the Pharisees or the Sadducees. I want to be where Jesus was. And I think Chick fil A on a Friday night among a hoard of homosexuals is exactly where He would be! In fact, its exactly where He WILL be!
So let's do something unconventional...something thoroughly Biblical this Friday night. Support a great company and invite some new friends into the Kingdom! That's a win-win!