Thursday, August 2, 2012

So, you ate mor chickin yesterday. Now what?

First, let me say what this post is not:

It is not an attack or rant against Chick-fil-A.
It is not an attack or rant against anyone who ate at Chick-fil-A or boycotted Chick-fil-A.
It is not a discussion about anyone’s freedoms or rights - be that of a business owner, franchise owner, employee, or anyone who chooses whether or not to patronize a business.
It is not an argument about taking any particular stance in an already-heated culture war.
Now, here is what this post is: a call to authentic discipleship for those who confess Jesus as Lord - whether they are liberal, conservative, bleeding hearts, tea-partiers, FOX News or MSNBC watchers, gay or straight, rich or poor, black or white - whatever.  Whatever label you want to attach to yourself as a modifier to “Christian,” then this post is for you.
In that spirit, let us begin.
I had to run a quick errand on my way home from the office last night.  My destination was only a mile and a half away, and I got out to my usual route to this place along the main road.  I approached a major intersection where I would need to be turning left and traffic ground to a halt.  Several hundred yards in front of me, I could see the traffic signal going through its cycle, and despite the fact that I watched the double left-turn arrow turn green, no one in my lane or the one next to me was moving.  And then it hit me: there was a Chick-fil-A on the road I was turning onto, a few hundred feet off the intersection.
Because of the congestion, what should have been a five minute errand stretched to more than an hour.  The traffic blocked my access for the return trip as well, causing me to head pretty far out of my way to find an alternate route back to the interstate for my commute back home.
If you have just awoke from a coma, and turned on your computer for the first time today, mostly conservative Christians (and other socially-conservative non-religious groups) flocked to Chick-fil-A yesterday in a nationwide show of support for the company in response to some recent controversy regarding a hot-button social issue.  I’m not weighing in on that today.  Just google it if you really don’t know what I’m talking about.
I live in Charlotte, which is sort of the shiny metal stick part on the buckle of the Bible Belt.  Leaving the Charlotte-Douglas International airport usually puts you on Billy Graham Parkway toward the library of the same name (they frown on you if you ask where the books or checkout desk are - don’t ask me how I know this).  Evangelical Christianity (with a capital “E”) is as much part of the culture here as sweet tea and, well, fried chicken.
And so, when the conservative Christian community is called to action around here, you can feel the movement.  A Chick-fil-A on every other corner across town made for a powerful display of solidarity as they were all packed with folks demonstrating their support for the company and the convictions of its founding family.  It’s a pretty good deal - you get to be part of a movement, one of a large crowd of like-minded people, and there is a Spicy Chicken Biscuit in it for you.
What I wonder is this: did our focus on Chick-fil-A also cause us to neglect “the more important matters of the Law: justice, peace, and faith” (Matthew 23:23, CEB).  My fear is that some (by no means, all) of the folks who patronized, boycotted, or protested Chick-fil-A yesterday went home feeling justified in their good works, and put a gold star on their chart for doing something for the kingdom of God.
My hope from the whole Chick-fil-A saga - whether you were one of the people eating chicken and waffle fries, one of the people protesting, one of the people boycotting, or one of the people rolling your eyes as you read the facebook posts and agitated at the traffic jams (I’m in that last category) - is that the same passion that fueled people to pick up a side either for or again Chick-fil-A would also lead all of us who claim to follow Christ to consider the more important matters of the law.
Sadly, however, I am left to wonder if this is the case.  My unusual route back to the interstate took me through parts of town I don’t frequent, and I happened to pass by a homeless shelter preparing to serve the evening meal to its male guests.  I would have expected to see Christians around the block, waiting in line for 45 minutes to serve these men, but you know as well as I that was not the case.  I did, however, see the men lining up, jockeying for positions near the front of the line, knowing that the shelter would serve the meal until the food ran out, and there are always more mouths to feed than there are spoonfuls of food in the warming trays.
There was a lot of passion yesterday that entwined faith, freedom, and food.  I can’t help but wonder if some of that passion wasn’t misdirected.
I searched my Bible long and hard yesterday, and I couldn’t find anywhere where Jesus was concerned about whether or not we ate chicken.  He was, however, consistently concerned with showing us that the kingdom of God is tied to those more important matters of the Law: justice, peace, and faith, and he spent his ministry encouraging us to devote ourselves to the things that bring them about, that’s God kingdom may come and God’s will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.
The whole of the Law, Jesus said, hung on the great commandment to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40).  It’s not about the minutia we so often focus on.  The whole thing really is about love, which is simple to remember, but the most demanding requirement Jesus could have made because none of us knows how to love as we ought.  He didn’t say that the world would know we are his disciples based on whether we ate chicken yesterday or boycotted it; he said we would show ourselves as disciples based on our love for one another (John 13:34-35).
Many of you, because of your genuine convictions, are eating chicken, boycotting chicken, or protesting chicken right now.  Good for you (I really mean that, by that way).  But, be sure that you are not neglecting the more important matters of the Law.  In everything you do, make sure it advances justice, peace, and faith, as Christ would have it.  Do it all with love, so the world will clearly know that you are a disciple of Jesus.  For those who claim the name Christian, may the world be a little bit better reflection of the kingdom of God today than it was yesterday because you have walked through it.

Eat where you want.  Or don't.  Either way, it's your choice.  But for Christ's sake, be loving.


  1. AJ, I certainly would agree that there are more important issues for the church to address. I don't have a television...nor a chick-fil-a in my community so other than the facebook fees I haven't had this issue intrude into my life. It is interesting that some of the issues in the scripture do not seem to be as important to us today. After all I think most people...myself included might find the death penalty a bit stringent for gathering wood on a Saturday. Feeding the homeless...those who are hungry and have nothing is quite important and significant work perhaps one might consider that seeking to foster a culture of virtue may offer benefits to people as well. There are certainly many unsophisticated voices that offer confusing and misleading witness to holiness, but this doesn't mean they are the enemy. The wolf is the enemy.
    Luke Smith

  2. AJ,

    Thank you for your reflection, but this is what I was getting at in my post yesterday. When the conversation is deflected, re-directed, or guided away from justice for GLBTQ folks it is a large disservice to God's blessed community. I exhaust myself in efforts of justice, peace and faith. Sometime to the point when their are Christian communities that push me away. If you want to change the hearts and culture within the church to focus on these things you cannot sit in the middle for the sake of unity. I leave you with this from a friends Facebook post...
    "There is no 'agree to disagree' on this issue. When we agree to disagree, you walk away with your rights intact and I’m still left unequal in the eyes of the law. I can’t 'live and let live' because I’m being denied the right to do just that. You could do that. You could live and let live. You could agree to disagree and walk away from this fight and still have all of your rights. But I can’t."

  3. Thank you, A J.

    Linda W, Boone

  4. I agree with what you have to say but at the same time it is important at times to take a stand when things happen that are contrary to scripture or to our freedoms that were given to us in this great country. This to me was one of those times. I do feel it could have been handle differently but that is the case so often when we look back and wish we could have handled things differently. We are to love the lovely and the unlovely.....we are to feed the poor......we are to help those that can't help yes there are many more important issues but that still doesn't mean we don't take a stand when the time comes. I am sure Jesus wishes many times we would handle things differently....but I do think he expects us to be faithful and loving ........all at the same time and be human we often fail.

  5. "What I wonder is this: did our focus on Chick-fil-A also cause us to neglect “the more important matters of the Law: justice, peace, and faith” (Matthew 23:23, CEB)."

    Excellent post- this needed to be said. People are took quick to "take a stand" when it's some controversial point they like to argue about, but what about "taking a stand" on the obvious, non-controversial things that Jesus commanded, like loving and serving others?

  6. I'm sorry, you may be the nicest, most loving, fair-minded guy on the planet, and you may really mean what you say about the fairness of your attitude, but this article doesn't really sound like it. In fact, it seems to have a bit of a chastising tone toward the folks who stood up for the Cathys yesterday. Of course, the Bible doesn't say anything about Jesus being concerned about how much chicken we eat! What a ridiculous statement (and maybe a bit smirky), how completely beside the point that line was. Eating chicken was a show of support for a man who was being grossly mistreated for actually believing his Bible. You also seem to be missing the point that Christians didn't start this in the first place; gay rights activists and a few big city mayors did. They encouraged fascist measures to be taken against Chick-fil-a in response to the views of the Cathy family. Christians did a good thing for refusing to allow the Cathy's to be bullied into relinquishing their rights, and I, for one, did go home feeling pleased about standing up for them. I rather resent the implication that the love of Christians who supported Chick-fil-a yesterday should be called into question. They behaved in a loving and respectful manner all day yesterday, but the same can certainly NOT be said about their opponents. Nor do you or anyone have any idea how much time, energy, and money those in the Chick-fil-a lines yesterday invest in acts of love, peace, charity, and justice on any other day of the year. Judging by their impeccable behavior, I doubt that that many of them need to be reminded to do so. I'm sorry that the outpouring of support for Chick-fil-a caused you some inconvenience yesterday, but standing up for freedom does necessitate some inconvenience at times.

    1. Well said! I totally agree. I think Jesus would be proud of those who are standing on his Word! I can not understand a pastor who only believes part of the scripture. God wants us to love one another but he also wants us to follow His Word! We should not be "skip and dip" Christians who only want to believe the part of the scripture that makes us feel good. People! Please wake up before the US falls just other countries who have pushed God aside.

  7. A.J., this really touched me, so much that I wasn't sure how to reply. Will a simple "Amen" do, or will that seem simplistic and cliched? In any case, thank you.

  8. Forgive me if I am mistaken but I detect an underlying disdain for those who chose to show support to a fellow Christian brother who has been unfairly attacked for simply standing up for what he believes. Which, as I recall, is his right as a citizen of the USA. I for one had a peach milkshake from Chik Fil A yesterday and enjoyed it immensely. The hour or so that it took me to obtain it in no way detracted from my love of neighbor and might have actually been a show of love for a brother in Christ who is being persecuted for his beliefs. However, I appreciate your concern that Christians show love for their neighbors. I assume you got out of your car and helped out at the homeless shelter, right? Shared the gospel with the men as they stood in line, gave the workers money to buy more food, right? Just sayin'

    1. Great replies by Leslie and Anonymous. You both have articulated what I was thinking after reading this blog. Thanks.

  9. I got it. love your neighbor means even if they disagree with your point of the protest. Stop making time to protest start making time to make a real difference for those in need! Thanks for your perspectives.

  10. I very much enjoyed this post - thank you!

    Regardless of where I stand on the Chik-fil-a issue, I find myself convicted by the fact that I am not taking advantage of the opportunities I am presented with to be the hands and feet of God in my community.

    I am reminded of high school, actually. In one English class, our teacher gave us the choice of several projects to complete as a major part of our grade. The amount of effort required varied, but the grade received would be the same. It should come as no surprise that the majority of students selected the projects that required the least amount of effort.

    This scenario is played out in most areas of our lives. Somehow, we've come to value putting forth the least amount of effort...particularly if the reward (in the form of recognition, pay, etc), is the same regardless of the effort expended.

    I suspect we do the same as Christians. It takes very little effort to buy a chicken biscuit (a yummy one, I will admit). It takes very little effort to post a quotable quote on Facebook (guilty!). In fact, there are plenty of low-effort things we can do that seem to satisfy the letter of the law without addressing the spirit. Or the Spirit.

    Meanwhile, we pass up on the opportunities to reach out to those who need us. The excuses that seem most popular--not enough time, the little I could do wouldn't make a difference, etc.--should apply to things like the Chik-fil-a event, too. But they don't.

    Until we put our time and money where our mouths are, until we spend time serving the way we all know we should, then our participation in things like buying a chicken sandwich will always be met with ridicule and derision. And honestly? They should be.

  11. Wednesday must have been a difficult day for those Chik-fil-A employees and franchise owners who are gay, especially those who are gay Christians.