Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
As some of you may be aware, recently Dan Cathy has made comments that have proven incendiary.
Dan Cathy, president of one of America's largest and most successful fast food restaurants, is a devout Christian. This should not make us nervous.
Because of this, and the fact that he tries to operate Chick-fil-A on biblical principles, this businessman is often interviewed by Christian publication. This should not make us nervous.
In one such interview, he made the following comment: "We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that...we know that 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." This should not make us nervous.
In another interview, he followed up with this comment: ""I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say 'we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about." This should not make us nervous.
What should make us very, very nervous is the response of many in government to Cathy's second comment.
Cathy's second comment, when read in light of certain contributions he has made to conservative Christian causes, is widely believed to be a stand against gay marriage. In the aftermath, many American politicians are saying that Chick-fil-A is not welcome in their cities.
Friends, we are all in trouble if government officials are threatening a man's business because he calmly and tenderly expounds a view supported by the Bible. Regardless of what we believe God's will to be on this issue, we must never acquiesce to government officials calling comments like Cathy's "hate speech" and threatening to stymie his business as a result of his beliefs. There is NO EVIDENCE that Cathy or Chick-fil-A has EVER discriminated against GLBTQ people. There is NO EVIDENCE that Chick-fil-A denies employment to people in same-sex relationships. The statements above are purely based on Cathy's Bible-supported views of marriage.
People who find Cathy's statements offensive should be encouraged to boycott Chick-fil-A. But, Friends, let's discourage our government officials from discriminating against Cathy based on his religious beliefs.
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
I believe that Cathy's central concern is not with homosexuality but with the collapse of marriage and it's impact on children, something that you experience first-hand in your work. You see the cause in strictly economic terms. I agree there is an economic component to it, but I also agree with Charles Murray's take, discussed widely here in a thread about his book Coming Apart(the collapse of marriage among the white working class) that there is a cultural/spiritual dimension as well- this is Cathy’s position and that of numerous social conservatives.
We can agree that gays have NOT destroyed marriage. I believe an increasingly consumerist society that exalts individual liberty and autonomy free from communal traditions of restraint is somewhere at the core of the problem… along with economics. I believe this philosophy of life tempts us to give divinity to the “earthquake, wind, and fire” of selfish human desire(greed, lust and pride) and drowns out the “still small voice of calm.”
I have always been in favor of gay rights and communal affirmation of same gender relationships(Celebrations of Committee, Rites of Brotherhood or Sisterhood, what have you). In an age of radical individuality and loneliness, we should do everything we can to foster bonds of fidelity to the “other. “ But marriage to me is NOT just a committed relationship of two people, it’s a very particular relationship that mediates the male/ female divide and unites the two into one flesh from which comes at least potentially… family. Removing the definition entirely from biology does seem to weaken marriage. It certainly opens marriage to polygamy and polyandry as well and pretty much any definition that individuals choose to make irrespective of the “fruit” or consequences.
Here’s a piece in the NY Times today extolling the importance of embracing a “clash of cultures” that challenges our human tendency to live unthinkingly within the norms of our “tribe.”
I think this is what Paul meant when he said, “… I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” I wish humans could learn to wrestle together in love after truth, rather than lobbing bombs of tribal accusation across the culture divide but I guess this is where the cross comes in.
Hi, Howard! Thanks for clarifying! I agree that Dan Cathy should be forced to deal with the consequences of his statement, but I doubt that they will be what you think. Chik-fil-A is biggest in the South, where people were already aware that it was operated according to biblical principles (as interpreted by the Cathys). That is why it is the only fast food restaurant that is always closed on Sunday. I would not be surprised if Chik-fil-A saw a spike in business as people patronize the shop to show solidarity or just to see what all the fuss is about.
As to the testimonies, they were invented by Howard Brinton. They are descriptions of some Friends hold dear, but they aren't, as I view them, prescriptive codifications of what Friends should do. What Friends should do is obey the promptings of the indwelling Christ, subject to the discipline of others committed to doing the same. Sometimes this means testifying to the fact that all are created in the image of God; sometimes it means preaching woe to those who transgress the laws of God. Sometimes it means celebrating community; sometimes it means reading someone out of meeting. I think that SPICE can't capture the nuance and richness of Friends' faith, the way Cliffs Notes can't capture the richness and beauty of a work of literature. The testimonies are useful, not as a "rule or form to walk by," but as a short description of some of the distinctive characteristics of Friends. As you have doubtless noticed, in their simplest form, they they leave out a lot - refusal to take oaths, refusal to celebrate holidays (why there are Christmas trees in Friends meetings continues to mystify me. And Easter egg hunts? Heaven help us), and the possibility of perfection in this life.
Hope that helps clarify!
Howard Brod said:
Oh my, I sound worse than my intent. I did not mean the statement as a condemnation of the man. All I'm saying is that he is taking an unpopular moral stand to many, in a public manner. So, he's a "big boy", and should expect a boycott reacton.
I indeed attempted to labor with him via the only means at my disposal- email. Consequences are not bad. They help people rethink their actions. I've had many in my lifetime that have reshaped me. I thank God for them. If they don't happen, things will never change. As John Woolman exemplified, we need both consequences and laboring to help change our hearts.
I am mystified how you can separate the testimonies from spirituality. They are the active result of our spirituality.
It's no surprise that we see things differently- that's the nature of fallibale human testimony and witness and the reason that we need to wrestle patiently within the church to discern how the body will procede. This is what the early church did in Acts 15 in doing a major revision of the Mosaic Code!
I accept that you are trying to do what's best and trust that you see me attempting to be faithful as well. What I'm hoping to do is turn down the polarizing judgment(seeing the speck in neighbor's eye and missing the plank in our own) that appeals destructively to our tribal gene- "Cathy is anti gay and a hate monger." It does often lead to polarization and then violence.
Let's make our witness and leave the judgment to God.
As a woman who was born transsexual, and who therefore knows that it's like to really be forced into the margins of society by prevalence of religious fundamentalism -- I probably find Dan Cathy's remarks a bit more threatening than some others here do.
I'm not saying that Dan Cathy's freedom of speech should be taken away, no matter how much I disagree with it -- because I know what doing that would open the door to -- I know that doing so would tread upon a slippery slope. It would mean that someone would have to be given the power to arbitrate what speech is "acceptable" and what speech is "unacceptable" -- and the power I give such a person today to prevent Dan Cathy from making his anti-LGBT remarks can tomorrow be turned against me, preventing me from renouncing them as a blatant distortion of scripture.
If a government agency is given the power to stop Dan Cathy's remarks today --- how do I know that tomorrow the same government agency won't stop *me* from quoting the Bible where Jesus reprimands the Pharisees for placing burdens on the people that they themselves don't face --- and pointing out how they give gays and lesbans the burden of being unable to marry the gender they can actually be attracted to while they as straight people don't have that burden -- or give transfolk the burden of having to live in a gender-role that is psychologically destructive to them when they themselves (as cis-gendered people) live comfortably in a gender-role that fits them? Frankly, if Dan Cathy is prevented from saying what he has to say -- I might tomorrow be prevented from saying this response of mine.
I agree with Adria that I have much to be nervous of if Dan Cathy's freedom of speech is taken away. But to make the leap and say that Dan Cathy's speech itself shouldn't be a cause for me to be nervous? I wouldn't go that far. Because frankly, his speech *does* make me nervous.
Dan Cathy's speech makes me nervous because it makes it invokes every time that I was just starting to make friends --- only to have that derailed because venue-of-choice of the social circle I was starting to make headways into decided not to give me safe restroom access.
It calls to mind every time that I was prevented from forming normal female-to-female friendships on the basis of religious reasons.
It recalls how I was unable to even go to school during the five years of my transition -- because the school administration wouldn't allow me safe restroom access.
Also --- I'm sure there are gay and lesbians out there who read Dan Cathy's remarks, and remember their life-partners dying in the hospital, and being unable to spend their last minutes together because of the attitudes that he declares the intent to perpetuate.
So sorry - but Dan Cathy's comments *do* make me nervous. Very nervous. And they are nothing short of an all-out assault on the brothers and sisters of Jesus based on a blatant distortion of the Bible.
However --- I don't trust the government to the the arbitrator of this fact that I just mentioned. And that is the reason - the *only* reason - why restricting Dan Cathy's freedom of speech makes me nervous too.
I do not find his view to be at all respectable - not in the least bit. I just don't want some government Department of Censorship to be the one to determine this.