On Chick-fil-A: Another’s Perspective

With controversy continuing to swirl around Chick-fil-A, the following blog, posted last week by James Emery White, has some important insights.

The Chick-fil-A Mirror

Every now and then an event comes along that offers a unique reflection of our world. A mirror, if you will, of what our culture has become.

One took place this past week through the catalyst of three words from the CEO of a restaurant chain:

“Guilty as charged.”

Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, gave an interview to Baptist Press. Correctly saying that there is no such thing as a “Christian business,” he did offer that organizations such as his can operate on biblical principles “asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have.”

Then came the match that lit the fire.

When asked about the company’s support of the traditional family, Cathy simply said, “Well, guilty as charged.”

He then went on to say, “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…our restaurants are typically led by families…We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families.”

Gasp! How dare he say that when it comes to families, his support goes with the historic, traditional understanding of millennia that reflects his Judeo-Christian values.

At least that seemed to be the collective response from such cultural epicenters as the media.

The Baptist Press interview was picked up by the Huffington Post, Associated Press, USAToday, Los Angeles Times and more – most with the phrase “anti-gay” in the headline – fueled by the “revelation” that the privately-owned business donated to Christian groups that opposed homosexuality.

[Of course, overlooked were the millions of dollars Chick-fil-A gives each year to other charitable causes. For example, they fund foster care programs, schools of higher learning, and children’s camps. They provide scholarships for the employees to attend college, and this past Friday, they provided free meals for the police force in Aurora, Colorado.]

Many on twitter and in the blogosphere immediately labeled them a hate group.

Yes, a hate group.

Then the mayor of Boston vowed to block Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in the city because it is a business “that discriminates against a population.”

The Jim Henson Company of Kermit and Miss Piggy fame said they will stop providing toys for the fast food chain’s kids’ meals because the company won’t endorse same-sex marriage. They plan on donating money already received from Chick-fil-A to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Ed Helms, star of the sitcom The Office, publicly promised a personal boycott.

Okay, let’s put our big-boy pants on for a minute.

Cathy never uttered the words “anti-gay” in the interview. All he did was state, when pointedly asked, his support for the traditional family as outlined in the Bible.

Further, the company made it clear following Cathy’s comments that they had no intention of entering the policy debate over same-sex marriage, and that the Chick-fil-A “culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

And indeed, there has never even been a hint of discrimination in Chick-fil-A’s history.

So Chick-fil-A is not a hate group, does not discriminate, and is not actively working in the realm of public policy.

It just has personal core values.

But my, what a mirror this has provided, and the reflection is worth noting in detail.

Fifty years ago, any support of homosexual practice would have ended your business. Now, the threat to your business is support of the traditional family.

It is a fascinating progression that has taken place in American culture.

First, classical Christian orthodoxy was marginalized.

Second, it became ostracized.

Third, it became demonized.

Fourth, it became penalized.

And now the move would seem to be to have it criminalized.

Defining discrimination as disagreement, and then disagreement as a hate crime, is one of the more frightening developments of our time.

But developed it has.

As the Baptist Press reporter has since said of the tempest over Cathy’s remarks, “I don’t understand why that’s a bad thing all of a sudden. It was not an anti-gay statement. It was a pro-family statement.”

But that’s the point.

That’s the reflection given to us in this mirror.

Welcome to our world.

James Emery White


“’Guilty as charged,’ Cathy says of Chick-fil-A’s stand on biblical & family values”; read online.

“Chick-fil-A steps out of public debate on gay marriage”; read online.

“Boston mayor vows to keep Chick-fil-A out of city”; read online.

“Some Chick-fil-A news reports called ‘distorted’”; read online.

“In Defense of Eating at Chick-fil-A”; read online.

“Huckabee launches ‘Chick-fil-A Day’ for Aug. 1”; read online.

“Muppets company severs ties with Chick-fil-A over gay marriage stance”; read online.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying through the Christian Life (InterVarsity Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.



Filed under Capitalism, Christian benevolence, Law, Media, Politics, Religion

6 responses to “On Chick-fil-A: Another’s Perspective

  1. If you’d like to read the full, original article/interview with Dan Cathy, you’ll find it right here: http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=38271

  2. Thank you for this-I have posted this link on my FB time-line. This is one of the more thoughtful blog posts I have read on the controversy. Francis Schaeffer would not be at all surprised at how fast we have descended down the slippery slope-he saw it coming in the 80’s.

  3. Kenneth

    eh, not sure I agree on this one. Cathy didn’t reconcile any of his statements with support or love for the sinner. He came off as mighty pious to me. It left me wanting. There were far better ways to construct his defense of pro-family than the way he did. Sorry, not with you on this one. – Kenneth

  4. Jimmy Orders

    The Chick fil A controversy is reflective of a much larger issue called First Freedom. For sake of expediency I am copying Breakpoint’s commentary. This articulates the picture from 50,000ft whereas the Chick fil A dustup is the ground level view from Atlanta/USA.

    For the record I have signed the Manhattan Declaration.

    Eric Metaxas – July 30, 2012

    While the mainstream media rarely highlight the issue, today we’re going to take a look at trends in religious liberty around the world.

    I wish I could say otherwise, but the news is almost uniformly bad. Writing in the Weekly Standard, Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown’s Berkley Center, says that 70 percent of the world’s population — some 5 billion people — reside in nations where religious liberty is severely restricted.

    Even worse, citing recent studies by the Pew Foundation, Farr notes that the situation is deteriorating in twice as many countries as it’s improving.

    But surely the steady loss of religious liberty is not an issue in the non-Muslim West, right? Unfortunately, wrong. A growing number of Western governments, while not as brutal as Muslim regimes, see religion as not only unnecessary for human development, but as downright dangerous.

    The main culprit is an aggressive secularism that seeks to confine religious expression within the four walls of houses of worship while excluding religiously informed moral arguments from the public square.

    Farr writes, “[H]istorically Christian Europe is the region with the largest proportion of nations where hostility toward religion is rising…Social hostility in the United Kingdom has increased so much that that country now stands with Iran and Saudi Arabia in the category of ‘high’ social hostility to religion.”

    Almost unbelievably, Farr adds: “French government restrictions have increased, too, moving it ahead of Cuba in that category.”

    But surely things are better on this side of the Pond? Well, maybe a touch, but the trends are not encouraging. In Canada, since so-called gay “marriage” was legalized in 2005, there have been 200 to 300 proceedings against defenders of marriage — including Christians — launched in the courts, and on human rights commissions and employment boards.

    And what about the United States? We have the First Amendment’s gurantee of religious freedom, don’t we? Well, of course — on paper. Given what Farr calls the current administration’s “consistent downgrading of religious freeom,” the picture isn’t too rosy here, either. The HHS mandate, which would force religious organizations to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion inducing drugs, is nothing less than a direct assault on religious freedom.

    Folks, Chuck Colson reminded us again and again that religious freedom is called the first freedom for a reason: As our founding fathers knew, without it, no other freedom could be secure.

    And Chuck was adamant that, of all people, Christians must defend religious freedom — not just for ourselves, but for every human being. That’s because we know that God, who enjoys perfect freedom, created us in His image. And every son of Adam and daughter of Eve should enjoy the freedom to follow Him. Or not.

    Here’s what I’d like you to do. Please come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary. We will link you to the Manhattan Declaration. Please read it, sign it, and begin to educate yourself and your church on what you can do to defend religious freedom.

    Chuck felt that co-authoring the Manhattan Declaration was one of the most important things he ever did. I think he was right, and that’s why I’m on the board of the Manhattan Declaration. I urge you to sign it today.

  5. Thank you for sharing, and God bless you. I wrote a piece on this subject yesterday.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s