Saturday, August 4, 2012

More than chicken.

I’m offering my last thoughts on Chick-fil-A. Maybe this is therapeutic for me.

This past Wednesday I ate at CFA three times. Several other folks ate there, too. I’d be way afield if I tried to interpret the “why’s” – there may be a doctoral dissertation or two that comes out of this phenomenon. Without empirical evidence, my guess is that what began as a show of support of the chain, the Cathy’s, and an affirmation of centuries of orthodox traditional marriage became something that transcended chicken. It became a recognition that we are all Americans, and we have the right to hold our own values and speak our own minds. My engagement in Wednesday’s event was primarily because I felt that a significant line had been crossed. When you go beyond being repulsed by the views someone else holds, and seek to silence their voice – well, I have some real problems with that.

The events of Friday were an interesting, even paradoxical reflection of Wednesday. Because free speech was exercised Wednesday, free speech took place in like fashion Friday. If one group had been silenced, then the rights of the other group would have been threatened, too. I’m grateful to live in a country where these rights are still available to all of us. And as much as I hesitate to use such a loaded word … for mayors of major cities to suggest they would disallow the opening of a business primarily because they disapproved of the business owner’s ethical stance – well, that’s fascism, even by the loosest definition of the word.

Regarding the use of words … it would serve us all well that before we use words like “bigot,” “intolerant,” “hate,” etc., we spend some time gazing in the mirror. It’s easy enough to stand off at a distance and lob firebombs at folks we disagree with. But I can disagree with you passionately and “hate” never be a part of the equation. I have a hunch that the overwhelming majority of the people patronizing Chick-fil-A Wednesday didn’t hate anyone.

Finally, regarding boycotts – this is an easy one. Don’t patronize a company or organization you don’t care for. It is acceptable for you not to put one cent into the coffers of Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, Forever 21, Interstate Batteries, Tyson Foods, In-N-Out Burgers, etc. Granted, the executives of these companies may not be on the public record standing for traditional marriage in the same fashion as did Dan Cathy. But it’s entirely possible, even probable, that they give a tithe to a church that supports traditional marriage. (It occurred to me just this week that, in the eyes of some, I belong to a church that espouses “hate speech,” simply because the church and denomination defines marriage as being between a man and a woman and not between a same-gendered couple.) In like fashion, if someone chooses to not patronize Starbucks, Apple, JC Penney, the Home Depot, etc., that’s fine, too. None of this has squat to do with being bigoted, intolerant, or a hater. It’s simply holding to one’s convictions, and this is the United States – so far, we can still do that. If your convictions preclude you from eating a chicken sandwich or buying craft supplies at Hobby Lobby, or using an iPhone or having AT&T as a service provider, or shopping at Kroger because they sell alcohol, or buying gasoline from Shell because of their connection to OPEC (remember Muslims take an unabashedly hard line against homosexuality), that’s perfectly fine. On a personal level, if someone accuses you of being a bigot, intolerant, whatever, recognize that they have a right to feel that way about you, whether it’s justified or not. Not everyone is going to like you. Imagine that.

All this is sociological talk. But to take it into the Christian realm (and non-believers, feel free to tune all this out) …

I’ve said and written plenty about this already; the blog entry prior to this one was my stab at articulating my beliefs. There is a tendency to play “dueling Bibles” in this discussion … as in, “Your interpretation of scripture doesn’t coincide with my interpretation of scripture.” Indeed. Even now, my denomination is all a-stir over the issue of Calvinism – free will, predestination, all that. That particular debate has been going on for centuries, and it’s not going to be settled in the next couple of weeks. Controversy over interpretation is nothing new.

But if you’re going to use scripture as a means to carry your points, beware. There are right ways and wrong ways to interpret the Bible. Once upon a time, it was the responsibility of scholars, judges, theologians, preachers to find the fixed meaning of a text (the Bible, the Constitution, a thesis), justify it with grammatical and historical arguments, and explain it. It was a matter of integrity to determine what a writer intended. But NOW, it’s common to say that meaning is whatever you see, not what the author intended. From where I stand, based on the best tools I have on hand to interpret scripture, I have concluded that the whole counsel of scripture points toward a definition of marriage as being between one man and woman, in a monogamous relationship for life … and Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:4-6, should you care to isolate one passage, are just about as clear on this matter as one could wish for.

So, with a desire to speak the truth in love, I have long since resolved this issue in my mind and heart. And as I have stated before, I try to balance the conviction of scripture with the compassion Christ Himself showed. He had some pretty harsh words for the Pharisees who were on the verge of stoning the woman caught in adultery, but He also told her to go and sin no more. He loved her, but He judged her, too.

I’ve talked this to death, I know, but I still hear the question, typically couched in terms like – “How can you impose your religious views on others?” I simply have to say that every law on the books is evidence of imposed morality – morality based on a conviction growing out of a particular worldview. Laws are convictions imposed on culture. My conviction comes from God as He has revealed Himself in scripture. Your conviction may come from somewhere else.

Finally, just reiterating a point here for my fellow sojourners: We can anticipate spending the rest of our earthly lives increasingly out of synch with culture. Change is coming, as unstoppable as the tides. It is change that will run counter to all we have held dear. The state may continue to adopt policies that hurt us deeply and devalue us and our beliefs. But we don’t lose heart. We love and we minister in the midst of pain with hearts of joy. We hold fast to our faith, with that blessed hope that one day all the misery in the world will be made right and creation will be redeemed.

In light of this, we stand firm. We don’t back down. And while it’s tackily presumptive to put ourselves in the shoes of Martin Luther, his words carry significant weight as we face our culture, and the temptation to capitulate becomes more attractive: “Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear and distinct grounds and reasoning—and my conscience is captive to the Word of God—then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God.”