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.