Since the first posting of the article from which the brouhaha about Chick-Fil-A and the same-sex marriage debate erupted, I’ve been “sitting” with the whole thing, watching the responses from people with varying perspectives on the issue, trying to distill my own feelings and thoughts into words.
I happen to have several friends and extended family members who are closely acquainted with the Cathy family and have been for years — one who sits on the boards of more than one nonprofit organization started by the founder of Chick-Fil-A, one who grew up in Truett Cathy’s Sunday School class, one whom I knew in a completely different arena who sits in a position of influence at the company. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of doing some consulting work with the company because of him.
I have never completely agreed with the religious beliefs of Truett Cathy, but that fact has never stood in the way of my respect for the actions he has taken through the years, the most prominent of which is, of course, the fact that Chick-Fil-A stores are closed on Sunday. The devotion of Chick-Fil-A and the heretofore millions spent by the founders to provide housing and solid, loving home environments to children of high-risk circumstances, though less widely-known in a national sense, is a standard of “practicing what one preaches” that I wish I had the financial wherewithal to emulate. I like to tell friends from out of state the story of how the original “dwarf house” might not have gotten off the ground and stayed there (serving steak, by the way, I hear) except for the employees of Delta and the Ford plant long gone from Hapeville, and of Mr. Cathy’s loyalty in making it his and the company’s policy to fly only Delta (when possible) and buy only Fords.
None of my vicarious pride in those things has changed. And it won’t.
But I don’t share Dan Cathy’s views on the subject of same-sex marriage or the apparent views of many that Christianity or democracy or patriotism is “under attack” and in need of the safety of numbers (or the wrath of God) to prove it one way or the other. For the record, it’s also my opinion that the “cow theme” has run its course. I no longer look forward to the next new commercial or billboard because the marketing concept has become stale for me. However, I am quite aware that the marketing decisions of Chick-Fil-A are not mine to make, and have not felt it my duty to try and influence another’s decisions about fast food because of it.
But I am offended. Not by Dan Cathy’s statement of his belief, but by what I consider the trespass of those who claim the authority of their versions of God or the U.S. Constitution over mine, the crossing of borders into a region over which they do not have jurisdiction. And I am saddened, because for a time, I will not be able to defend Dan Cathy’s rights to his own beliefs and my right to my own at the same time. A line has been drawn where there need not have been one and as a result, that most important principle underlying the notion of America (in my view, straight from the teachings of Jesus as well as John Locke) that all humans are created equal and are entitled to their beliefs as long as the manifestation of one’s beliefs does not unnecessarily diminish the value or opportunity of another who does not share them, has once again been trodden underfoot for me.
I don’t know how I’ll feel in a month or two or a year from now. Things change and thankfully, so do feelings and perspectives. Meanwhile, if you see me at Chick-Fil-A, know that it is because I wanted a piece of chicken fried in peanut oil. Nothing more, nothing less.
And if you don’t, check a billboard to see if a cow’s gone missing.