Royal Confusions about the Support of Chick-fil-A

August 5, 2012

A recent post by blogger Matthew Paul Turner argued that Christians who participated in supporting the Chick-fil-A (CFA) restaurants failed miserably to do the right thing as Christians.  While the article is well-intentioned, it is very confused.

Point #1:

Yesterday’s campaign, while I don’t think it should be considered or called “hate,” neither can it be called love. Christians all over America ignored the second greatest commandment: to love our neighbors. Call yesterday what you want, freedom of speech, a rally behind “family values,” a sincere fascination with CFA’s brand of fried poultry…but it cannot be called love. It was not love.

RESPONSE

Here Matthew confuses standing against an issue with loving the people who engage in the issue.  We should stand against abortion, but still love people who get them.  We should stand against opponents of free speech and advocates of gay marriage, but also love individual homosexuals.  So he confuses a macro-issue (the issue of marriage and free speech) with a micro-issue.   Moreover, he also seems to think that love cannot be tough.  Sometimes the best thing you can do to love someone is to confront strongly their harmful, immoral behavior. So even in with regard to the micro-issue (involving a specific person) it is the right thing, given an adequate relational context, to say that their homosexual behavior is deeply immoral, their desire for marriage to be re-defined is contrary to Scripture and the natural law, and it will harm society significantly, and their desire to have political censorship brought against CFA is egregious.

POINT #2

People felt hate and we ignored that. At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not your Christian understanding of scripture harbors hate or not, a large group of people felt hated. Again, we can debate this point all day long, but that does not change the fact that people felt hatred because of what happened yesterday. Whether or not hate actually existed is not the point, people felt hated. And rather than acknowledging those feelings or trying to understand or engage them in any way, Christians everywhere marched off to their local CFA like it was a cross to bear, a necessity, a battle cry of some sort, the waffle fry’s last stand.

RESPONSE

Regarding his point about people feeling hate, this is the other side's issue, not ours, and to be quite honest, they may need to search more deeply within themselves if they, in fact, felt hated.  Very few went to CFA with hate; they were angry about the other side's hate, but they were not hateful.  Matthew confused hate with the hard virtues of confrontation of moral evil and standing for what is right, and he confuses real hate with the feeling of hate.  The feeling of hate was not the protester's fault; it was a projection of the other side onto the protesters and probably reveals a need to be more discerning about those who disagree with you and not to react emotionally.  Such an emotional reaction is often narcissistic (I and my feelings of acceptance are all that matter; the issue, and people’s right to disagree with me are not the issue).

Point #3:

By rallying behind CFA, Christians put an issue above people. And it’s impossible to follow Jesus when issues trump people. Jesus never said “love God, love causes.” That is not the message that gets preached in churches all over America on Sunday mornings. I’ve heard a hundred different explanations from patrons of yesterday’s rally and nearly every one of them gives precedence to “the cause”. We can’t embrace love, mercy, hope, and peace when our causes (or a place of business) trumps people.

RESPONSE

Regarding the point of putting an issue above people, this is hopelessly misguided.  How can you even know, love and care for people without truth and knowing “issues (alleged truths) about people and how they think?  One of the most loving things one can do to someone is to stand up against their harmful behavior.

Also, how about loving the CFA people and all those on their side?  Don't they need love, mercy and support?  Yes they do, and people chose to express that love and respect
Wednesday.  That was a very Christian thing to do.

Point #4:

Once again, the mass actions of Christians built another wall of distrust between the Church and the GLBTQ communities. Nobody was surprised that the CEO of CFA is against gay marriage. Nobody was surprised that Mike Huckabee made the decision to rally support behind CFA. And nobody was surprised that Christians took Huckabee’s words as marching orders, leading the charge with more passion, delight, and Instagram pictures than what we express for so many more important issues facing this country. If Mike Huckabee had declared yesterday “Homeless Appreciation Day,” would the response have been even half as large and loud? Yes, I know; that’s an unfair question. But we’re Christians, so we’re very familiar with the use of unfair questions to make a point.

Once in a while, our culture needs to be surprised by how much we love people–all people. Once in a while, our culture needs to be overwhelmed with joy that we are involved in the greater story. Once in a while, our culture needs to see us being a part of the solution and not the problem. But yesterday? There were no surprises. And no surprises only builds more distrust, not peace, not grace, not hope, and not love.

RESPONSE

Regarding the fourth point (e.g., that we need to march for homeless appreciation day) is irrelevant to the issue.  Yes, we need to be better at a whole host of things in the church, e.g., showing love to the poor and so forth, but it does not follow from that, that we should not stand up against abortion, human trafficking, violations of free speech and political coercion against CFA, the attempt to change the definition of marriage.  Just because we need to be better at issue A does not imply we should not stand up against issue B.  This was a really bad argument.

POINT #5:

Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people. Oh I know that most Christians will say, “I don’t hate gay people!!” But did supporting CFA Appreciation Day prove that?

Trust me, I understand that most people who ate chicken sandwiches at CFA yesterday did not do that as an act of hate. I get that. And that’s cool and all, but did the act of going out of your way to CFA prove that to be true? Do you think that the GLBTQ communities believe you? Would you, if you were gay, believe you?

Now before you answer that, remember that yesterday’s CFA Love Day was just one action in a long line of many. Because let’s face it: Christians go WAY out of their way to “hate the sin”–i.e., by voting against gay marriage, voting against civil unions, voicing their angst about gay people adopting children (just to list a few). Is it possible that Christians lose the ability to truly “love the sinner” because they’re so busy “hating the sin”? Do Christians put anywhere near the energy into “loving the sinner” as they do “hating the sin”?

All I know is that the GLBTQ communities are becoming quite used to feeling unloved by Christians. And with good reason.

How many times do we hear Christians say something like, “I don’t hate gay people. I may not agree with their lifestyle. But I don’t hate them… “If you were gay, would you believe that? Think about it. Would you feel loved by somebody if they included rules, context, and/or explanations about your lifestyle every time they spoke about how much they don’t hate you? Only when talking about gay people do Christians feel the need to preface their “love” or “non-hate” with some variation of “I don’t agree with your lifestyle, but…” Christians don’t talk about any other group of people like that–only gay people.

So, I want to believe Christians when they say “I don’t hate gay people.” But sometimes proof of that is necessary. And yesterday did not prove that. Honestly, yesterday proved little more than how shallow Christians can be sometimes.

Not only did supporting CFA Appreciation Day declare that Christians believe that an issue is more important than people, that declaration was made by the mass consumption of junk food. That fact doesn’t need a punch line. It is a punch line.

Yes, on some level, yesterday was successful. I’m sure that today CFA feels really loved. And I’m sure Mike Huckabee feels loved, too. And I’m sure lots of people, many Christians included, feel great pride for supporting the cause. But there’s also a large group of people, good people, people you might disagree with, that today, feel really unloved.

If it’s true that Christians don’t hate gay people, today would be a really good day to prove it.

RESPONSE

In response to his fifth point, our protest was not about proving we don't hate gay people--we do that by warmly inviting them to attend church, to receive love and healing and so forth--rather, the point was to stand up against a cultural evil (the attempt to silence free speech, use political coercion to accomplish this) and to stand for the views expressed by the owner of CFA.  You can't accomplish everything in a single action and the focus of the protest was appropriately limited.  What's wrong with that?

The underlying problem the author has is that he seems to think that loving people is a sentimental feeling of empty acceptance that does not also include admonition to change.  He also confuses standing up against a macro-issue (e.g., abortion) with showing grace and forgiveness to individuals who have had an abortion.

Try this:  Run his 5 arguments against having a pro-life day where Christians march for the unborn.  Wouldn't that make people who have had an abortion feel unloved, etc. etc.?  Yet is he really arguing that Christians should not march for life?  His is a sentimentalism that does not express the true nature of love.  Jesus Himself stood against public evil, e.g., Pharisaic purity laws.  If we followed his misguided advise, it would silence the church’s protestation of evil, which homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage truly is.

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22 Responses to 'Royal Confusions about the Support of Chick-fil-A'

  1. I don’t think Matthew Paul Turner’s argument was precisely that Christians need not oppose (even vocally) SSM, but that a Chicken Referendum on the issue poorly articulated a position and appeared to do so for everyone. Others who prefer a more nuanced approach are left having difficulty affirming, defending or repudiating the message of the event and the message apparently received by onlookers doesn’t seem congruent with the message Christians who attended the event say they wanted to send. No one need question the motives of those who supported the event, but some of us think it may have done as much or more harm than good with respect to our offering to the dominant culture a clear and compelling reason for the hope we have.

  2. avatar Stephen says:

    I think the big difference in the homosexuality issue and other issues (like abortion) is that homosexuality is an identity issue. Rightly or wrongly, those who identify as gay tend to see it as their identity…more than mere sexuality…and maintain they did not choose to be gay (as someone would have to choose to have an abortion.) So Christian attempts to proclaim “hate the sin, not the sinner” fall on completely deaf ears. It’s not a sin (a choice) to them…it’s their identity. Also, they are a group of people that has been grossly mishandled by many sectors of the Church. There are deep wounds and scars. Is it automatically hateful to speak against homosexuality? Of course not! Do many people (even Christians and churches) speak out against homosexuality hatefully…YES. There’s no way around this. Far too many. And those who claim to do so in love are the quiet ones. Is the only way we “love” them inviting them to church? Inviting them to our turf where they’re sure to feel a little out of place and unwelcome? Is that how Jesus loved the sinners and outcasts? No, he went to them. He met them on their turf, in their homes (Zaccheus, for instance)…to the point where religious leaders were scandalized. Sure, he told them to go and sin no more, which is very important. (I don’t know where MPT would stand on this). But it’s done after He’s gone and met them, listened to them, etc. He doesn’t “love” them only by trying to fix them…He loves them. And then flowing from that love, He calls them to follow Him.

    I think what MPT is getting at is that we need to put ourselves in their shoes. Understand (and repent) of the ways we as a Church have wounded and alienated those who identify as gay. We need to love them…not as projects, but as PEOPLE. And that love need not be conditional on them coming to church or changing their orientation. Our job is not to change hearts…our job is to love, and point them to the One who can change hearts.

    We can get very black and white and say we did nothing wrong with the Chick-fil-A protest, and perhaps you made that point. Okay…we didn’t do anything wrong. But we have a higher calling. The gospel calls us to love the hurting in radical ways.

    I think the Church has made it clear where we stand on the morality of homosexuality. We need to start doing a better job of proving the love part.

  3. avatar David says:

    “Just because we need to be better at issue A does not imply we should not stand up against issue B. This was a really bad argument.”

    I think it is a valid argument. Given that not caring for the poor is a sin, and a behavior God feels strongly about. Most of the GT prophets are concerned with this, Jesus keeps bringing it up (unlike homosexuality). And, Jesus says to take out the beam from our own eye before we look for specs in others.

    The not caring for the poor, or 50% divorce rate amongst Christian to make an example related to marrige, are veeeery large beams we need to take care of first.

    Also, when Jesus spoke hard truths to people, it was to the people of God. We have no business telling those that are not part of the kingdom how to live.

  4. avatar Jon says:

    Respobse to Response #2. Since when are we as compassionate and empathetic Christ-followers excused from taking responsibility for how our words make people feel? Saying that it’s not our responsibility how those on the “other side” feel is only one step away from condoning speech that intentionally upsets and hurts them. The Jesus I know and love would NEVER stoop that low, even if the government’s free speech amendment made it legal.

  5. avatar Timothy says:

    I understand the “logical” stand you are taking against MPT’s arguments, and can see the logic in what you are saying. But I disagree. Being sensitive to someone with a differing belief is a paramount characteristic of grace. You may not agree that people feeling hated is not your problem but it actually is. Perception is reality. The protest was not just about free speech and people standing up for their traditional views of marriage, it was an attempt to posture and to keep the lgbt community down. You cannot tell me that every person in line understood that their participation had to do with free speech. Do I call someone hateful for believing gay is a sin, no. That is their belief and they are entitled to it. But marching out that way did hinder and further solidify a precedent that has been shoved down the throats of gays and lesbians all over this country with Prop 8, Amendment 1, etc..

    I don’t think Christ would have participated in this protest.

    Lastly, I have no issued with Cathy holding the views he does, but I do have a problem with him using company profits to support organizations that actively and politically seek to hinder the rights of millions. For this reason and this reason alone, I will never spend money there again. And that is my personal option.

  6. avatar J.R. says:

    As Christians, we’re called to be intolerant – of sin, not people. Jesus told the woman surprised in adultery that He didn’t condemn her; He also told her to just stop sinning.

    I understand J.P.’s point in this. We are not being loving if we let people do what they want and I understand Turner’s side of doing an awful job loving the sinner. However, I also understand that the Church in general cannot seem to voluntarily arrive at the balance of these two points that Jesus lived out. Interestingly enough, I think the reason we can’t arrive at this balance has as much to do with Christians as it does with homosexuals.

    Stephen, up there, mentioned that “homosexuality is an identity issue […] those who identify as gay tend to see it as their identity.” This is very true. Sadly for the Christian’s sake, the culture has been indoctrinated with the erroneous fact that our identity comes from our sexuality. In this sense, one cannot simply walk up to a homosexual and say “You’re wrong for feeling what you feel” – you cannot win that argument. So, the misconception of our identity must be dealt with first.

    We are not defined by our sexuality. It’s misguided to think that we are defined by an impulsive and instinctual aspect of our lives. We are not animals; we are rational and thinking beings with the ability to do what is right despite our feelings (because what FEELS right isn’t necessarily so).

    AS Christians, we have the responsibility to not water down the message and the truths of the Gospel, but we must be wise in our delivery. Not to defend Turner, but I think this is what he might have been getting at, but got a little lost along the way. J.P.’s point, however, is much more spot-on: it is not loving to let people consume themselves in sinful behavior.

    Bravo, J.P.

  7. Regardless of intentions, it’s a lousy image for non-believers to see that a culture warrior FOX News contributor like Mike Huckabee can rally Christians to go out in droves somewhere in a single week. That confirms for them the stereotype that we are predominantly a special interest group of prudish suburbanites whose greatest moral concern is patting ourselves on the back for having stable, two parent heterosexual nuclear families.

    I don’t disagree that the mudslinging done by the other side was atrocious and it was completely out of line for government officials to make any implication that they would punish Chick-Fil-A for their owner’s beliefs. But there’s a difference between what is within our rights to do and what best serves the cause of evangelism. The more that we stoke the fires of the culture war, the more that Jesus loses. We are not looking to create a Christian society; we are looking to build the kingdom of God. There’s a difference.

    Here is the piece that I wrote: “Are we an interest group or a kingdom of disciples and evangelists?”
    http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/are-we-an-interest-group-or-a-kingdom-of-disciples-and-evangelists/

  8. avatar Sam Harper says:

    I don’t think anything short of full acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle will make the homosexual community feel loved. They feel hated merely on the basis that Christians think homosexuality is immoral.

  9. avatar Robert says:

    David wrote, “Also, when Jesus spoke hard truths to people, it was to the people of God. We have no business telling those that are not part of the kingdom how to live.”

    This is just not consistent with scripture. John the Baptist was beheaded for condemning the sin of Herod. Jesus condemned sin often. The Pharisees were not believers. He condemned them. I also take John 17 to contradict you here. Jesus prays for our unity, telling us that the world will know He sent us because of our oneness. In other words our winsomeness will be in our identification with each other. We will do more for the gospel through our unity than we ever could by identifying through a false sentimental love with the homosexual. Matthew’s post sends the opposite message, both in its content, and in its tone. He would have us identify with the homosexual before Dan Cathy, a brother. And in his post title he condemns the entire part of his own community that did identify with Dan Cathy. This is wrong.

    Timothy wrote, “Being sensitive to someone with a differing belief is a paramount characteristic of grace. You may not agree that people feeling hated is not your problem but it actually is. Perception is reality.”

    ‘Perception is reality’ is a strong statement that probably requires more in the way of an argument than you’ve provided. I certainly don’t take this to be true. Second “we hate gays” is a narrative that the gay community has created. While I’m certain that there are instances of the church failing in regards to the homosexual community, the motivation for their claim hate is SIMPLY BELIEVING that Romans 1 is an accurate prescription for human sexuality. If that is the reason they feel hated, then how could we ever change that? By accepting their terms for the dialogue, we lose the conversation before it starts. This is why Christians came out in droves in support of CFA. They are rejecting the notion that calling homosexuality sin is equivalent to hating someone.

  10. […] gospel has come up recently in some of the conversation around my last post. You can also see it in J.P. Moreland’s response to Matthew Paul Turner’s Chick-fil-A […]

  11. avatar Marc Newman says:

    1) Some argue here that we need to be sensitive to the feelings of those who may be hurt by our advocacy of what JPM calls macro-issues to the extent that lining up at CFA was a bridge too far. While I would agree that we need to choose our words carefully, to relinquish argumentative or public policy ground to those who advocate for what the Bible calls sin simply because they claim hurt feelings would be to place all the power of advocacy into the hands of our opponents. If that power were uniformly utilized, no one could ever say anything of moral substance. All sides would simply claim offense. We could not proclaim the cross, as it is an offense. No one could claim law, as the law is an offense to the lawless because it tells them that they must not do what they want to do. This ties into —

    2) That we must tread lightly because people in the LGBTQ community are identified by being gay. All kinds of people have identity issues with things which are harmful to themselves and others. Many people “identify” with their work — and some are pimps and prostitutes (it is a whole lifestyle). Others identify with hetero-based sin — they are “players” or “sluts” (I have been stunned in recent years to hear female students use the term “slut” about themselves or others in what they claim is a non-pejorative way). Pedophiles identify as pedophiles — hence groups such as NAMBLA. One of the most common excuses for sinful behavior is “that’s just the way I am, I can’t help it.” That people identify with sin is another way of saying that they are enslaved to sin. No one ever escaped sin by being comforted in it.

    So our words should be seasoned with salt, making the most of the opportunities that are before us. But we are also, as citizens of a democratic republic, responsible for the creation of public policy. At least insomuch as we can advocate for good policy, or have a hand in making and enforcing it (if we are government officials). In a sense — and without any first century parallel — we are Caesar. And we will be accountable to God for both our relational and civic activities.

  12. avatar Jason says:

    Excellent and thoughtful article, Dr. Moreland. Thank you for this exposition and your insight into this issue and the arguments surrounding it.

  13. […] Christians on both sides of the aisle (here’s Matthew Paul Turner’s take, and JP Moreland’s […]

  14. avatar Zane says:

    Didn’t the Christian response make the same mistake that you tag Turner with in your response to point #1? They confused a macro issue (responding to proponents of gay lifestyles) with a micro issue (what fast-food to eat today)?

  15. […] Royal Confusions about the Support of Chick-fil-A (J.P. Moreland) […]

  16. avatar Joel Hughes says:

    Turner is misguided, but here’s something no one is talking about: the NT does not contain any instructions on opposing homosexuality in the larger culture. Homosexuality was rampant in the first century (and slavery, and domestic violence, etc.) but the NT doesn’t suggest strategies for opposing homosexuality in society.

    Rather, homosexuality is clearly called sinful and wrong; but only Christians would get this. See 1 Cor 5:9-12; we don’t judge those outside the church, but we do judge those within the church. Therefore, it’s fine to campaign against censorship if you want to (the CFA issue), but opposing gay marriage is a red herring/distraction because the pagans are going to be carnal. That’s what pagans do–they’re sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters, abusive, drunk thieves. When people are set free from their slavery to sin we want to see them sanctified–and we don’t tolerate rampant carnality in the church. Outside the church, the world is going to be the world–fallen, broken, and depraved. I suspect 1st century Rome was pretty bad.

    The institutional church will most certainly lose the gay marriage debate, as well as the larger homosexuality debate. So what is our strategy for rescuing whomever we can while the world “goes to hell in a handbasket?”

  17. avatar Gabriel Rodriguez says:

    Timothy said, “Being sensitive to someone with a differing belief is a paramount characteristic of grace.” This same statement is always directed at Christians but never at homosexuals. Why is that? The supposed tolerant are intolerant.

  18. avatar Brian says:

    Jon said, “Saying that it’s not our responsibility how those on the “other side” feel is only one step away from condoning speech that intentionally upsets and hurts them. The Jesus I know and love would NEVER stoop that low…”

    Jon, I respectfully disagree. No one is talking about intentionally hurting anyone. And if you don’t think Jesus said things that could have hurt people (not that it was his intent) I would ask you to look in Luke 9 where Jesus tells one man to not even bury his father. Jesus tells another man to not even say good-bye to his family. Apparently Jesus wasn’t concerned if those sayings would hurt their feelings.

  19. […] JP Moreland responds to a Matthew Paul Turner piece. Turner argues that the church “failed” last Wed, […]

  20. […] Turner wrote a critique of Christian’s support for Chick-fil-A. J. P. Moreland has responded here. I was surprised to find that many of the comments were critical of […]

  21. […] I’m motivated by the recent Chick-Fil-A controversy this summer to address a sort of “meta-issue” regarding the church’s response to cultural conflicts. I’m not referring to the public debate but the more intramural conversation happening among believers. That conversation was sparked by a blogger named Matthew Paul Turner here. Turner indicted the church for their support of CFA. He accused the church, or the part of it that supported CFA on Aug. 1, of putting up walls between ourselves and the homosexual community. There have been a few good responses. Most notably, J.P. Moreland responded over here. […]