Being Holy in an Age of Being Right

How the Chick-Fil-A debate exposes our inability to dialogue.

The culture wars wage on. It seems just about everyone has an opinion on Chick-fil-A these days. The "Do you like their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries?" discussion has been traded for asking whether or not you’ll be boycotting the fast-food-chicken chain for their stance on gay marriage.

From the maker of The Muppets to the Mayors of Beantown and the Windy City, the list of folks cutting ties with the chicken chain is growing. The culture wars are in full swing, complete with protests, blog posts, name-calling and threats of glitter bomb violence.

 As you probably know, a couple weeks ago, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy made comments in an interview with the Baptist Press that have brought some attention from groups advocating equal rights for same-sex couples. 

This, on the heels of a report from LGBT equality group Equality Matters, which stated that Chick-fil-A had donated over "$2 million to anti-gay groups in 2010." Newsy politics picked up on the interview and made this video, and that’s when things started to really heat up.


 Roughly 6,000 people have signed a pledge to boycott Chick-fil-A, while others rallied behind former Arkansas governor and one-time presidential candidate Mike Huckabees’ declaration of August 1st as "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." Christian opinions emerged all over social media networks and the blogosphere.

As often happens, these voices led to a flurry of other voices from both sides of the aisle. Some reasonable and well-intentioned. Many not. Unfortunately, the discussion has brought out the worst in American Evangelicalism. Clear, balanced conversation has been traded in for simply shouting past one another. Even the most helpful dialogue starters seem to be inevitably overrun with hate-filled comments slung back and forth across perspectives.

In short, this thing blew up.

If only Jesus had said something specifically regarding how to treat people who think differently than we do.

Untouchables

Imagine the scene. Jesus just finished what is now his best known teaching—the Sermon on the Mount—a practical manifesto for this new Way. He’s just touched on nearly everything, and their heads must have been spinning as they tried to make sense of it all. Key phrases still lingered in the ears of the listeners, now making their way down the rocky path.

"Treat people the same way you would like to be treated."

"Don’t just love those who look, act and think like you—love your enemies, too."

As the Great Teacher led the way down the mountain, perhaps in an effort to put skin on his words, Matthew in his gospel describes a leper approaching. One who is unclean. Rejected. Perhaps even sinful. From beyond the borders of community the outcast approaches, asking if this "christ" would be willing to make him clean. And what does the rabbi do?

He touches him.

This leper’s dying flesh was literally eating away at him, and Jesus breaks Jewish custom and law, reaches out his hand and touches the man. In front of the crowds who followed him, watching. His contact immediately brings healing and restoration—life to that which was dead.

What did his followers think? Did this encounter change how they viewed the next leper they saw, shunned by the masses as he crawled through the streets declaring, "Unclean! Unclean!"?

the same week western Christianity was abuzz about whether or not Rob Bell is a universalist, a 9.0 earthquake and devastating tsunami hit Japan, killing over 25,000 people and injuring some 10,000. But we wanted to talk about Rob Bell.


Does it change us?

The last time the church's dirty laundry got aired with this type of excitement was in 2011 when Rob Bell was just about to release a book and let a teaser trailer slip in which he asked the now infamous question, "Ghandi is in hell? He is? And someone knows for sure, and felt the need to let the rest of us know?"

That question unleashed a slew of blog posts prior to the book's release declaring that Rob Bell was a heretic, claiming he doesn't believe in hell. For many within Christendom, Rob Bell became untouchable.

It was an interesting debate that certainly got people thinking about an important subject, but it too often devolved into bickering and line-drawing. Interestingly, the same week western Christianity was abuzz about whether or not Rob Bell is a universalist, a 9.0 earthquake and devastating tsunami hit Japan, killing over 25,000 people and injuring some 10,000.

But we wanted to talk about Rob Bell.

And it seems, in the midst of worldwide pain and heartache in recent weeks—the tragedy at the premier of The Dark Knight Rises, the Colorado fires, the Penn State abuse report, the Syrian massacres, unrest in the Middle East or even the drama surrounding the Olympics, that Christians would have plenty to not only talk about, but plenty in which we have an opportunity to participate with God in his redemptive plan for the reconciliation of all things.

But we want to talk about Chick-fil-A.

This begs the question—if Jesus were leading us down the mountain today, where would he be leading humanity?  Probably not into the ring to fight each other over this issue. The seeming inability of many Christians to appropriately engage the LGBT community is merely symptomatic of a much deeper issue—how we view "the Other."

The Other

The issue is not homosexuality. We do the same with Muslims and Hindus, with Atheists and Agnostics. We do it with Christians that think differently regarding heaven and hell, baptism or remarriage, or those who get a little too charismatic when their favorite worship song is played. We do it with anyone who we view as "the Other."

The real issue is us. 

We struggle to "put skin" on the words and message of Christ with anyone who thinks differently than us. Too often, we demand conformity prior to connection. When we approach one another as brothers and sisters—image bearers of the God we claim to serve—and celebrate what we have in common, we better position ourselves to helpful dialogue in the midst of disagreement. 

We carry divine potential for healing and restoration. We have an opportunity and responsibility to allow our words and actions to surge with the power and energy of a life of love.

Here’s a question: what it would look like if we, instead of taking sides in the Chick-Fil-A debate, simply stretched out our hands and touched the Other?

267 Comments

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Roy Bear commented…

Well said. Whatever happened to WWJD? We need to stop-think- react--instead of reacting without the other two. My dad used to say, "if you don't have something good to say about someone, don't say anything." Maybe he was right. Think of how many that we WOULDN'T offend. Do we really think we can influence anyone we have offended? Probably not!
Once we die to this flesh, this pride of thinking that we are really important----- then we can be useful to God. Though the woman caught in adultery was guilty as charged by old Hebrew law, Jesus didn't condemn her. Jesus didn't come in the fleshto condemn people, but to save. Maybe many people today think that He left the condemning for them to do-----wrong. We are all guilty. There is NONE good, no not one. I certainly have no authority to judge or condemn.

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michael j. kimpan commented…

thanks for your thoughts, dru. i actually wrote a post about just that ('go and sin no more') recently at my blog. would love for you to check it out and let me know what you think ::http://www.mjkimpan.com/me-nei...

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Cropdogg2 commented…

Exactly; and no amount of handing people a flower and saying, "Love" is going to stop this push by a VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE of the nation's population (of the activist variety particularly) to force as many people as possible to approve of and co-sign and facilitate a lifestyle which is not in the best interest of the individual and especially society.

People who resist evil are not the bad guys and deserve better than the type of criticism that this OP ED levels. It is important not to appeal to extreme negatives to bolster one's argument to say, "See, we're doing it all wrong"; it should go without saying that not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one by a biblical standard. The question is not whether someone claims Christ, it's whether Christ would claim that someone. I just don't think Christ would claim people who are too concerned about not offending their friends, and out of that concern, being to cowardly to stand for things that are worth standing for. Just to be clear: I do not believe that aggressive political activism is the way God wants His people to manifest His will; but neither do I believe we are supposed to sit idly when some group wants to run us over with evil attempts to dominate and dictate our way of life. If we are asked, we need to be ready to give a succinct, unequivocal, unambiguous answer than sides with God--not trying to straddle the middle so that our friends' feelings won't be hurt or they won't be offended. There is just no way to handle this appropriately without choosing to favor God's righteous cause when it's time to vote for something. This is not about battling to prove we are right (as this OP ED writer suggested) this is about a spiritual REALITY OF WAR that just exists. You are either a soldier sojourner, or you are someone feigning esoteric understanding to disguise your cowardice because you are more concerned about being cool than suffering for righteousness' sake.

Thanks for being a different voice

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Centenosalad commented…

Frankly, I've had enough of people (young people or whomever) talking against those who take a biblical stand, and overlook the fact that scripture uses warfare language to describe our passing time here. It's as if they think they are enlightened in a way that people not apart of their generation aren't and others just don't get how SIMPLE it all is to solve. But unfortunately, time and again, the things said betray gross ignorance of what the Bible says about the nature of man's fallenness and evil in the world. The comments in the post above don't really say anything of biblical consequence, because it is very clear in scripture (which you either believe God breathed into writing or you don't) by both the words of the apostles AND Jesus that YOU DO have to take a side. Sad but true, it looks like cowardice to me. I am always leary of people who have multiple and long diatribes about how clueless the church is or about how Christians are going about things the wrong way, and I don't really think those that do this, especially like some kind of trademark or personal brand, are biblically loyal and true, because 1st John teaches that love of the brethren is a top priority and so does Galatians 6:10.

2nd Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18; Matthew 11:11-14, 12:25-30; Luke 1:68-71, 9:59-62,10:16-20, 21:10-19; Galatians 4:16; 1 Peter 5:9; James 4:4; 1 John 3:8, and the practically the entire book of Revelation all demonstrate that there is an inherent animosity between God's Word, will, and people (even if we never enter the any discussions)--it is spiritual in nature and evil is persistent. So you see, the answer to the question, "Can't we all just get along" is an emphatic "No!" and Satan, through the actions of people, is manifesting that very truth in this latest societal example.

Even if one doesn't call him or herself a Christian or believer or whatever, you have to look at the implications of a VERY small activist group like this exercising this kind of undue influence on publicly-elected officials; they are supposed to represent the majority who have already spoken on the issue, and DO NOT share the goals of the lobby they are currently pandering to. America loses its distinctives when any one group can push people around like these city and state officials have threatened to do; if you don't get ANYTHING ELSE out of this situation, get that. The American people who care about real rights, and real tolerance, and real freedom must stand up and say, "Okay, you all, enough. You got your anti-discrimination laws, you got your "marriage equality", you've got the media pushing your image in almost every popular television show to convince everyone that you are stylish and fun (or victims depending upon what goal needs to be met at the time), you even have mandatory programs in schools to indoctrinate our children (in some cases without the parent's knowledge of which day it will occur or the option to sit in). You have all of those things you've demanded, but you will not DICTATE to our elected officials as if we are not even here, and our concerns are so much less important than your sexually-based concerns, and expect us to be so scared that you'll sick GLAAD on us that we will just sit and allow it."

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Maldiving commented…

Right, the mayor of Boston and the Chicago Alderman have used a kind of bully pulpit. They know that these words will be perceived and heard in terms of the office they hold, and therefore as the opinion of the majority of their constituencies and that simply is not true; at the very least it is extremely irresponsible use of their office and shows their potential for corruptibility. The reason, probably, they think they can get away with this aggressive and even disrespectful language is because of how president Obama, stating his personal "evolved" view has been interpreted as an endorsement by the LGBT or Gay lobby.

Language manipulation has been a huge nucleus for the inner workings of their lobby and media campaign; because illiteracy is at an all-time high by our developed standards as a nation, they cannot afford to not leverage it.

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