Chicken Wars: Both Sides Trivialize Equal Rights
The nation's most loved chicken fast-food restaurant chain, which advertises "Eat Mor Chikin," is under assault.
I've read the arguments for and against Baptist businessman Dan Cathy's comments on the biblical view of marriage and his opposition to same-sex marriage.
It's no small thing that he is Chick-fil-A's CEO and that the views he's expressed have sparked a national firestorm.
Chick-fil-A is a beloved company for many reasons, not to mention the fact they serve delicious chicken.
They are not open on Sunday because Cathy's father believed that to be open for business on Sunday meant his employees would not be able to worship.
But there's been a price to be paid for voicing such conservative social and religious views.
Today, those in support of gay and lesbian rights have advocated a "kiss-in" protest, where same gender couples are encouraged to visit a Chick-fil-A store and give one another a kiss in protest of the CEO's public comments.
"We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives," Cathy said.
The chain has more than 1,600 restaurants and annual sales of more than $4 billion.
Employees are trained "to focus on values rooted in the Bible. We don't claim to be a Christian business," Cathy said, "but as an organization we can operate on biblical principles."
To counter the kiss-in protest, conservative Christians have responded by inviting those who share the owner's views and his right to hold such views and to show their support by purchasing a meal at one of the restaurants.
As for Chick-fil-A, Cathy said the company's leaders "intend to stay the course. We know it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."
To be clear, not every store owner shares the CEO's comments, and the restaurants do not discriminate in their service to those wanting to purchase from their stores.
I'm also assuming the chickens are slaughtered indiscriminately regardless of their views on the matter or their behavior.
My wish is that the struggle for equal rights should be seriously waged and kept from such trivialization. But we live in a culture where symbolic gestures are powerful even when they are not effective.
The so-called biblical model for marriage is not as simple or as clear as it's unquestioningly taught or practiced in Christian tradition. Even the simplest study of Scripture recognizes that the Bible offers multiple models for how persons live together in socially acceptable relationships.
I've always appreciated Dolly Parton's sassy view, "Let the gays get married. Then they'll be as miserable as the rest of us!"
Since evangelical Christian couples have a higher divorce rate than the general public, no claim to moral superiority can be made, and some humility on the subject of God's view on marriage would be welcomed.
As for Chick-fil-A, go or don't go. Purchase a lunch there or not, based solely on whether you're hungry and love chicken. When you go, kiss whomever you wish, but do it appropriately as a sign of your love and don't make it a political message.
The wish for equal rights is an honest concern and deserves serious conversation in our time. Protest or support for how couples come together in love and mutual commitment seems to be missing in this week's hullabaloo over chicken.
All theology begins with God, and our models for God become the foundation upon which theology is formed.
I believe in a God where every human is a child of God made in God's image and the recipient of God's love and unrestrained acceptance. What we do with that love and acceptance in turn forms us and how we choose to live in response to God's overwhelmingly generous gift.
Keith Herron is the senior pastor of Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo.