Chick-fil-A: No One Wins in War

(Part I of II. See Part II here.)

A wise man once uttered the words, “A man reaps what he sows.” The last week or so of the culture war has provided ample evidence to this truth.

American Evangelicals have spent much of the last several decades waging a bitter war for the the very soul of our country and culture. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that our single-minded quest for victory has resulted in the forfeiture the gospel. The still-scarred combat zone of The Battle of Chick-fil-A is demonstrating that in this war, like all wars, there are no true winners. There are only those who have lost the least.

We’ve lost everything by reconfiguring our God-given mandate to make disciples into a war of attrition over ideas, morality, and political power. We were called to love our enemies. Instead, we’ve taught them how to boycott.

What’s even worse is how inadvertently successful we’ve become. I’ve heard a lot of talk over the years of being ‘culture changers,’ or challenges to ‘impact the culture,’ or desperate pleas to be used by God to ‘transform culture.’ But even though recent events reveal we’ve actually waged a pretty successful war, no one seems to be celebrating.

I’ve felt the heat of outrage generated by comments from Mayors Menino and Emanuel (more on my own reaction in the next post). Their unsuccessful attempts to levy political pressure in the arenas of business or religion were labeled “fascist,” “communist,” and my personal favorite, “un-American.”

I wonder if Menino and Emanuel learned their tactics from the politicians (many of whom were evangelical) who tried to levy their influence against the construction of Park51 (aka Cordoba House/Ground Zero Mosque). Let me be clear: if you denounced the attempt then to build a “mosque” in such close proximity to Ground Zero, then you must now support any attempts to block Chick-fil-A. Either you support religious liberty or you do not.

But even more importantly, the way you approach your politics teaches others either how to love or how to hate.

I can do nothing but smile ruefully at the growing consternation stemming from the public reaction to Cathy’s statements or the impending Chick-fil-A boycots. Our reaction has been to simultaneously assume the role of Crusader and martyr, alternately  hammering our fists into our palms in anger or pleading with others not to punish individuals or companies simply because their religious beliefs may be different than our own.

Really?

Then I hope we get a “take-back” on that whole Disney boycott. And the JC Penny/Ellen Degeneres boycott. And the JC Penny Father’s Day add boycott. And the Target boycott. And any boycott involving “Happy Holidays.” And the Levi’s, Starbucks, and any other boycott we’ve screamed about until our voices grew hoarse.

I know a ton of people who consider the idea of a ‘Same Sex Kiss Day’ at Chick-fil-A to be over-the top, abhorrently offensive. They consider it an act of war, not of love.

Which is EXACTLY how my other friends view those of us who hold placards outside a Planned Parenthood.

It would seem that those who need our love the most have begun to mimic our tactics, but now that the mirror is turned all we see looking back at us are acts of war and aggression.

We’ve fought the culture war for decades now. Too bad we’ve been successful as Hell.

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About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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4 Responses to Chick-fil-A: No One Wins in War

  1. Daniel Vance says:

    I don’t consider myself a culture warrior at all, but I don’t think I agree with your conclusion that it is a pointless and self-defeating activity. It’s true that God tells us to make make disciples–an individual charge–but there are many, many passages, especially in the prophets, that would address more directly social charges. To pick some low-hanging fruit: whatever the religious climate of Britain was at the time, it was William Wilberforce’s public, legislative efforts that were the spearhead in abolishing the slave trade. If we refrain from “legislating morality” (which is itself a stupid and thoughtless phrase, but that’s another topic), and we refrain from social actions like boycotts, and we refrain from individual actions like holding up signs at an abortion center there are precious few ways to affect change. I’m a biblical theologian as much as the next guy–laity or clergy–and I agree that real social change begins and ends with individual transformation of lives, but I think it’s pretty naive to jettison all of the other tools in the bag, so to speak. I’m certainly glad that Martin Luther King did not wait until the the entire country (or at least a voting majority) were actual Christ-followers before he began pointing out that lynchings and turning dogs on people was, you know, wrong. Whatever your opinions on civil options might be (and you might be surprised at how liberal I am, despite the tenor of this comment) the inescapably obvious Biblical conclusions on touchstone issues like abortion and gay marriage is about as cut-and-dried as it is on issues like slavery and racism. And I’m tired off people saying or insinuating that we shouldn’t point out such things because it’s “divisive” or “lacks nuance.”

    • Tim Owens says:

      Dan, great thoughts. I think we probably hold to similar beliefs on this, just a slightly different perspective. I agree that we’re called by the prophets, Jesus, and others to live in a way that is tangible to those around us, and to fight against injustice wherever we see it. My post, however, was directed against the idea and reality of the ‘culture war.’
      We can never spread love through war. (I think part of our problem is mistaking God’s war against the curse of sin for what we’ve been called to do). I also don’t see a distinction between making disciples and the social action the prophets call us to; both are parts of the same spectrum of loving God by loving people. Thus, if our social/civil actions prevent us from making disciples, or if our method of discipleship renders our voice mute in the social/civil arena, then we’ve failed at both. We fail at both because they are part of the same thing.

      However, I see a huge distinction between the war of today and the peace-loving demonstrations of MLKjr, Gandhi, or even the efforts of Wilberforce. In many ways, their efforts sought to treat people more human than others were doing. I believe efforts like boycotts etc actually treat people less human.

      If we truly get to a point where we truly believe that there are precious few ways to affect change beyond boycotts and placards, then our ship is truly sunk. This is partly because I believe the Bible would encourage us to find a still more excellent way to get our point across. However, even if we leave the Bible out it’s pretty clear these methods have largely failed in what they were supposed to accomplish. So, either way, if those are our tools, we’re sunk.

      Lastly, and this is a bit of a separate issue, I think this is more of an issue of power than almost anything else. Wilberforce, MLKjr, Gandhi, Jesus, and others found creative ways to outmaneuver an evil that held a greater position of power than they possessed. The culture war/religious right seems to be primarily designed to retain power and consistently reacts to events with an effort to consolidate power. I wish others wiser and more eloquent than I would say more about how much power has infected our faith.

      thanks for the comment, thanks for reading.

      Lastly, and almost as an aside,

  2. Pingback: A Truly Christian Boycott | inexhaustible significance

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