We live in a world which is increasingly bizarre and surreal. There are many examples, from identity politics to cultural insanities. But for me it is nowhere more surreal than in the culture wars surrounding fast food chicken.
I searched for guidance in the scriptures and apart from Jesus talking about wanting to gather Jerusalem as a hen gathers her chickens (Luke 13:34), I can find nothing about chicken in the Bible. However this has not stopped much clucking from Christian leaders and commentators – and endless social media posts.
But this is no joke. It is an important and revealing issue. Little did I realise that when I wrote about the intolerance faced by Chick-Fil-A recently - praising their heroic stance - that a month later I would be writing about their capitulation to that same intolerance.
So from a land down under let me try and explain why this actually matters far beyond the shores of the US.
This week, BisNow reported that Chick-Fil-A were going to rearrange their charitable giving and remove The Salvation Army and the Christian Fellowship of Athletes from their giving, focusing instead on charities that helped with education, hunger and homelessness.
Chick-Fil-A President Tim Tassopoulous told Bisnow: "There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are.... There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message....as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are."
So what's the fuss about? Helping with education, hunger and homelessness; expanding into new areas and being clear about who they are – what could be wrong with that?
Let me walk you through the steps:
- Dan Cathy, the son of the founder of Chick-Fil-A, stated that he and his business stood by the biblical definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. As a result the 'progressives' called him a bigot and started a campaign to get people to boycott his company.
- Mr Cathy did not give in. Chick-Fil-A stood by its policy on marriage, just as it has stood by its policy of not opening on Sundays. The Cathy family asked the Christian community to support them – as we did. In great numbers. Business flourished.
- Chick-Fil-A continued to give charitable support to a number of groups, including The Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, who both uphold the biblical stance on marriage.
- This week the company announced they would no longer fund these organisations, stating that they would only fund those organisations which reflect their values. The implication was obvious – that these now defunded organisations, did not.
- Chick-Fil-A has stated it will significantly support Covenant House, which supports gay pride activism and requires its staff to do so. It is pro gay affirming and proudly participated in the NYC Pride parade.
- Chick-Fil-A has claimed that it continues to support Christian charities, but has not said whether it will support those which hold to a biblical position on marriage.
What are the lessons from this?
- It's encouraging to see a company like Chick-Fil-A donating substantial sums of money to charity. For example they have said that they will give $25,000 to a local food bank in the area of any new restaurant they open. In total they have budgeted for $32 million to be given to charities – out of $10.5 billion turnover. It's not exactly sacrifice!
- Great damage has been done to The Salvation Army and others. They have been accused of being a 'hate' organisation and it seems as though Chick-Fil-A have accepted that accusation. The SA stated: "We're saddened to learn that a corporate partner has felt it necessary to divert funding to other hunger, education and homelessness organizations — areas in which The Salvation Army, as the largest social services provider in the world, is already fully committed.....We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population."
- This surrender to the LGBT lobby will be in vain. It is not enough. LGBT groups have stated that Chick-Fil-A remain anti-LGBT and therefore will need to do more. I suspect unless they pay reparations, fund gay pride events, create rainbow chicken burgers, and fly the rainbow flag over their restaurants, nothing will ever be enough. For example, the militant secularist website Patheos accused the company of 'flip flopping' and warned they were still anti-gay. Another group argued that Chick-Fil-A owner Cathy was still in charge and even though he had 'learned to keep his mouth shut', the company should still be pursued.
Although Chick-Fil-A have stated that their decision has nothing to do with giving into political correctness, very few people believe that. I suppose it could just be a 'coincidence' that they have dropped the charities they have been condemned for supporting, and ended up supporting charities that their critics endorse – but is it likely? It's disappointing to watch a Christian company not only give in to the bullies, but then seek to spin their way out of the criticism.
The surrender of Chick-Fil-A to the LGBT activists will do a great deal of harm. It sends a very clear message: if a company with impeccable Christian credentials, the third largest fast food chain in the US, whose business is expanding despite the opposition, cannot stand the pressure, then what hope do the rest of us have? If a Christian company backs off funding The Salvation Army – one of the largest and most effective providers to the poor in the world – because of the pressure they have faced from LGBT activists, then God help the rest of us.
As Australian pastor and blogger Steve MacAlpine observes: "Keeping the Sabbath is no longer the true resistance in our culture. It's twee and cute and a point of cheeky difference. The true resistance in our culture is looking the sexual tsunami and its culture warriors in the eye and saying 'Thus far shall you come and no farther.' And if the big boys, or the big chickens in this instance, can't resist, then good luck the local corner cake shop. Or the small Christian school."
Why have Chick-Fil-A sold out? The most obvious reason is money – but they were doing really well financially. I suspect the real reason is that the people who run the company were just tired of being called bigots – the social pressure was worse than the financial one. And so they thought – as many of us do – 'why bother? It's not worth the hassle....its not a key issue of the faith'.
And yet so often is the case that where the devil is attacking and testing us, that is the key issue. Because of their capitulation Chick-Fil-A have done a great deal of harm. So much so that they would have been better not making their stand in the first place.
James 1:27 tells us that "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
Many of us are not prepared to suffer financial loss or social kudos because of our Christian faith, and so we give in and become polluted by the world. May the Lord grant us all strength to stand in the day of temptation and when we fail, may we swiftly repent and return to Christ.
Yes, there is a lot to learn from the tale of the Chicken restaurant.....
David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at www.theweeflea.com