So much anger and hurt today. On both sides of the aisle. How do you discuss a topic that is seemingly a fight for one’s life versus a fight for one’s faith?
I could have spent today feeding the flames of my own passion by talking with like-minded people. I was blessed instead to hear from my conservative, heterosexual, Christian, fundamentalist, and republican friends. It was time well-spent.
I know where I stand. I know why I believe what I believe. I needed to understand members of the “opposition”. This goes beyond a chicken sandwich or a pint of chubby hubby. It is a heated topic that will not see a resolution today. As we wait for that resolution, many of us are vilifying those with whom we disagree. Many of the people we are branding as the enemy or the instigator are good people. They share our desire for an end to the controversy, for peaceful resolution, and for preservation of relationships. My real fear is that each side sees this issue (perhaps rightfully so) as too crucial to back down and there will be the proverbial bloodshed before it is all over. We will have all lost on that day.
My first conversation of the day was with Ryan – a white, heterosexual, Christian male who was raised in a fundamentalist home. He’s also an employee of Chick-fil-A.
Ryan had been “on call” all day and had to go into work this afternoon to help with the bombardment of Chick-Fil-A supporters. He told me about being confronted at work over the last week by people from both camps. He bemoaned the gay rights activists who were using the drive-thru window to challenge him (As though Ryan made the ethical/financial decisions for corporate). He also bemoaned the conservative Christian woman who came up to his counter spouting off incorrect information about the issue at hand. What did Ryan have to do with any of this? How is he possibly supposed to correct it? Both parties owe an apology to the employees like Ryan who are caught in the crosshairs and are handling it with overwhelming grace and patience.
We touched on the many arguments: freedom of speech, the “right” Christian response and so on and so forth. Where did we land? We landed on the “why?” Why do “traditional family (TF)” Christians (remember not all Christians fall into this group) have so much passion for supporting Chick-Fil-A? We weren’t absolving the other side of their single-minded focus. This was simply where the conversation went.
Why were the TF Christians lining up around the block to buy a sandwich today? Why were they willing to give their time and their money? Why this issue? Together, we puzzled over the fact that organizations around the nation struggle to engage the Christian church. These organizations are working for an end to slavery, poverty, oppression, illiteracy and more. They are struggling to ignite passion, to raise up volunteers, and to get people to give of their finances. Most have never known what it is to have the church rise up in support of them and line up outside their doors. What a sight that would be. I yearn for the day Florida Abolitionist supporters can be seen waiting in line a ¼ mile down the road, all saying, “Here I am. How can I help?”
My second conversation of the day was with Pastor Neely and occurred over Facebook – the birthplace of the most volatile and antagonistic posts I’ve seen on this matter.
Pastor Neely is a heterosexual, African-American, born-again Christian pastor. I posted an article addressing the Christian or non-Christian nature of the “Chick-Fil-A appreciation day” occurring across the nation.
Pastor Neely, a man I have always respected and enjoyed hearing preach, said,” There are so many different ways of looking at this situation. I would like to think that most of the Christians that went to Chick-Fil-A today were doing so to encourage a brother who simply expressed his biblical beliefs about marriage. If you go and read his comments in their entirety he never mentioned Gay marriage one time. The majority of his comments were made on father’s day and dealt with the absence of fathers in the home. Sometime later on another date he was asked if he believed in traditional marriage and he said yes. The man has been accused of being a bigot and condoning discrimination. Just because I disagree with you does not make me a bigot or a person who discriminates.”
This led into a discussion about Cathy’s words, the Chick-Fil-A funding of groups that do not support LGBT people, freedom of speech, and came around to the issue of reparative therapy. Money from Chick-Fil-A has been donated to reparative therapy programs.
I explained the dangers of reparative therapy – the links to self-mutilations, drug use, and suicide. I shared how it has been denounced by the American Psychiatric Association, and even conservative groups like Exodus International – “world’s largest ministry to individuals and families impacted by homosexuality”.
The reason I found this conversation so valuable is not because of what I brought to it but what pastor Neely brought to it. His humility and willingness to hear others out is an important lesson for all of us. He could have played the clergy vs. layperson card or dismissed me as some liberal LGBT advocate person but he stopped and he listened.
“Wow. thank you for your insight on Reparative therapy. I have a great deal of respect for Exodus international and Value their opinion highly. This is the first time I have heard about this information. I would like to however give Cathy the benefit of the doubt that even in his support of this particular therapy he trying in his own way to help people. I don’t know the man’s heart so I guess all we can do as mortals is judge a man’s actions. Again thank you for your insight. You have helped me today and challenged me to think critically about this issue some more.”
Because of his willingness to listen I was better able to receive his words on Dan Cathy’s behalf. We are not in the same place on this issue but we are also not divided.
My last conversation of the day was with my boss. The founder of Florida Abolitionist, a republican, and a Mexican-American, heterosexual male. Tomas is a peace-maker by nature and wants more than anything for the fighting to stop. We talked about how, if, and why it should or should not stop. Can it stop before TF Christians have sufficiently protected heterosexual marriage? Can it end now without ensuring that LGBT people end up unprotected and underrepresented? How do we ride the wave of this civil rights movement without destroying each other?
We discussed so many of the underlying issues around this and settled on Tomas’ concern for those opposing the LGBT movement who are trying to be civil and loving but have it thrown back at them. Tomas lamented the way in which certain LGBT people/supporters seem to reject Christians and Republicans without even hearing them out. He shared the story of a friend and republican politician who was “offended” by the outright rejection he felt from the LGBT community despite never having said he was against them. I shared with Tomas how, much like Christians having to apologize on behalf of the church even when they did not personally commit an act, that people like his friend must take the first step, make the apologies, and initiate the dialogue. For years now the republican party has become synonymous with rejection of LGBT people and one man’s words may not be enough to wash away a well-founded distrust and wariness of members of his party. It takes work.
All of this takes work. It is going to take painful discussion, grace, healing, patience, and a monumental effort to process our anger and not speak straight from it.
People feel they are fighting for their rights and potentially their lives. A loss for them feels tantamount to a loss of freedom . Others are equally driven to live by their faith and not “go against God”. They cannot see a way to compromise. These feelings can be an all-consuming passion and motivation. They cannot both win – at least not as they would define winning. Someone will be the “victor”, but if we continue the discussion as we have, we will all lose. We are on a path towards creating fractures that may never be repaired.
So how do you discuss a topic that is seemingly a fight for one’s life versus a fight for one’s faith?
- The Chick Fellatio: stuck in the craw (owldolatrous.com)
- Confession: I love Jesus and “The Gays” (browneyedamazon.com)
- Memo To The Media: Chick-fil-A Condemns, Discriminates, And Campaigns Against LGBT People (thinkprogress.org)
- The Genius of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day (brandonmouser.wordpress.com)
- Some words for Christians on both sides of the Chick-fil-A war (rachelheldevans.com)