Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Food for Thought

(As I near my return from sabbatical, it's time for a blog. Warning: This blog will not be nearly as satisfying as waffle fries.)

The employees of Chick fil-A are running around like chickens with their heads cut off today as Christians all over the country gobble up chicken sandwiches and drink lemonade in support of the company's stand against gay marriage. It's all over Facebook. Many of my students and friends are posting pictures of ketchup packets and empty fry boxes. I'm a little jealous. I like Chick Fil-A. I don't like pickles on my chicken sandwich, but I might be there, too, if it didn't cost me eight bucks for a #1 meal.

I can understand the outcry. I believe marriage is designed by God to be for a man and a woman. It is getting difficult to publicly hold any convictions in our society without being labeled a hater or a bigot. In a country based on religious freedom, it's outrageous that any politician would threaten a company because its owners, operating in full compliance with the law, hold a personal religious conviction. The Mayor of Chicago said, "Chick fil-A's values are not our values." Given that it's a city of 2.7 million people, I can't imagine what Chicago's unified "values" might be, but my guess is that many of its residents don't really value the mayor's opinions much. I doubt he's as popular as a good chicken sandwich.

Nevertheless, politicians in Illinois, New York and Vermont have pledged to oppose the opening of new Chick fil-A stores in their regions. This is a ridiculous intervention by self-proclaimed "thought police." Chick Fil-A didn't invent the traditional view of marriage -- they invented the chicken sandwich. As one of my friends posted on Facebook, "Let's ask the Christian conservative owner of a business that isn't open on Sundays his opinion on gay marriage, and then get offended when we don't like his answer." I liken these modern-day attempts at intimidation to opposing black-owned businesses in the south, or worse, closing Jewish-owned businesses in Nazi Germany. Can you imagine the outcry if New York decided to oppose the opening of a Jewish business because of the owner's religious convictions?

To add salt to the wounded waffle fries, Jim Henson's company pulled their toys from Chick fil-A kids' meals. I didn't know Muppets even had a sexual orientation, other than Miss Piggy shamefully lusting for Kermit. She's really quite immodest, and I admire Kermit's commitment to purity. I'm sure not giving out plastic Elmos will cut into the Chick fil-A profits by 0.00%.

However, while I'm in support of Chick fil-A, I have a few thoughts of my own to share, a few feathers to ruffle, or pluck, so to speak.

First, to my friends who are gay: You are still my friends. I hope you don't hate me for having convictions. There's a big difference between trying to honor what I believe God says, and being a hateful bigot. Really, the only people I have trouble loving are the super self-righteous. We can probably agree on that.

Second, to my conservative friends: Instead of making a big show of eating at Chick fil-A today, wouldn't it be a bigger testimony to your faith to support Chick fil-A's convictions about the Sabbath? What if, for the next year, instead of saying, "I wish Chick fil-A were open!" as you head to Subway, Olive Garden, Chipotle--or, heaven forbid--McDonalds, on your way home from church, you invited somebody (new, or different) to your home for peanut butter sandwiches and milk. Now THAT would honor the spirit of Chick fil-A! (I could never keep this pledge, but it's an amazing idea!)

Lastly, I wonder where Jesus would be eating lunch today? Would he be at Chick fil-A, supporting the traditional view of marriage with chicken nuggets and a hand-spun vanilla shake? Maybe. I'd love it if he could multiply a couple of those to feed me 5000 times. But I doubt it. From what we know about his tastes, it seems more likely he would be at Long John Silvers or Panera Bread (He couldn't afford Bonefish Grill). From what we know about his character, he'd probably be eating jello at the hospice house with a dying AIDS patient.

In a nutshell, I'm challenging myself -- and anyone who reads this -- to hold convictions with passion and humility, to honor God with actions that speak louder than words, to love people, no matter what they believe, and to emulate Jesus as best we can in a world that just doesn't understand him.

I'm going to go make myself a sandwich now, without the pickles.