Our Missed Opportunity with Chick-fil-A

August 3, 2012
Chick-fil-A-protesters

People supporting Chick-fil-A

Well, support-Chick-fil-A-day has come and gone. It is being reported as a huge success. I view it as a huge missed opportunity.

We talk so much about sacrificial love in the church, but when the biggest moments come to do it — the ones that would make the biggest impact and go the furthest towards healing the wounds between the Christian and LGBT communities — we lose the love talk and lapse into political cliches about free speech. This reminds me so much of what I wrote in my last post about how men and women are constantly missing opportunities to love each other, and then complaining that their spouse does not really love them. The whole post is here, but the point is that both say they want to be loved, but actually only want to be loved when it’s convenient for them. When the man is up late at night on the computer and she asks, “Are you coming to bed?” it’s very easy for him say, “Nah — I’m doing this thing right now.” She invited him to bed, and he missed the invitation — the opportunity to love her and be loved by her. She does the same thing, ignoring him in favor of cleaning or laundry or whatever else she has going on.

At Chick-fil-A this week, millions of Christians had a chance to love the LGBT community in a way that mattered hugely to them, and instead many of us said, “No thanks — I’m doing this other thing right now.”  It’s a shame. The biggest shame is how many keep saying, “It’s not about love, it’s about free speech.” That’s true, it definitely wasn’t about love. It was about a huge missed opportunity to love, and to surprise a very oppressed and hurting and alienated group of people with unusual grace and compassion. Instead, as the church collective, we drove our stakes further into the ground, and our lines deeper into the sand.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the father has all kinds of legitimate complaints. He could have said, “Son, I love you, but this is about your status on this farm. You can’t just waltz in here thinking it’s going to be the way it was.” He could have said, “I love you son, but what will your brother think?” He could have said, “This isn’t a love issue, son, this is about you stepping all over my rights as your father.” He didn’t. In Jesus we see a God who lays down all his “rights” to the Godhead. According to Christian theology, that’s the only reason he’ll have anything to do with the likes of us.

To the man on his computer or the woman folding clothes, those tasks seem important, even urgent, and must be attended to. There may even be some legitimacy in those feelings. What is unmistakable and inarguable, is that both failed to respond to an opportunity to love. Whatever merit there may be in the “free speech’ arguments, and in all the invective I have heard from Christians toward the LGBT (and liberal) communities the last few days, it simply cannot be denied that in this hour we had an opportunity to love, but we chose to do something else. Every response to this line of reasoning that I have heard comes off as little more than a shallow “Yes, but…” and finger-pointing of the worst kind. I am not angry, though I was a day or two ago. Now I am just sad, once more, that the Christian community as a whole, is still content to be one that finds excuses, even reasons, NOT to love. The world has a right to expect more from us. After all, we’re the ones claiming to serve, and to know, the God who IS love. No wonder the love of God has not yet changed the world. It has barely begun to make its way into the church.

 

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  • Joanie Williams

    I am saddened as well…. How many souls were lost for The Kingdom of God because of this controversy. Are we not called to make disciples of all nations?? I don’t think the bible is talking geography here…. But the Word does speak differently to everyone who reads it. It is not my place to judge, as a matter of fact the Bible states I CANNOT judge. It is my responsibility to lead others through love and hope and promise to my savior Jesus Christ and righteousness is of Him. Millions may never make their way to The Word because of the Chik Fil A controversy. So yes I am saddened.

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  • http://Deepcave.Wordpress.com Jeremiah Diehl

    I was one of those people who initially said “Well it’s about free speech” – but through our conversations and some reflection on the whole situation I realized how right you are. I need to set pride aside. I’ve become tired of “making stands” and I’m much more interested in showing the world God’s love.
    I’m tired of making excuses for not living as Christ would have me live. There is a much deeper issue here than someone’s right to their own opinion.

    • http://davidkflowers.com David Flowers

      All I can do is throw my opinions out there, Jerry, and leave it to individuals to decide whether, and to what extent, they apply. I don’t judge any individual. You know me, and you know I’m one of the least judgmental people in the world towards individuals. But I have no problem at all “judging” the Christian community for our miserable failure to uphold the one commandment that matters most — the one our Lord said was most important — the law of love. Even on that point, my frustration is often more towards pastors and church leaders than to everyday Christians, for the lack of love in the church is the direct responsibility of leaders who have failed to model it and teach it, preferring that vile “love the sin but hate the sinner” theology. This essentially creates a loophole to hate sinful people because of the sin they commit, but of course only sins that bother us and not the ones the Christian community dearly loves and treasures — like war, American divine exceptionalism, and — in many cases — greed. I do not exempt myself, for I am part of this twisted system as much as anybody, I just hope I’m seeing it for what it is and telling the truth about it.

  • http://davidkflowers.com/2012/08/our-missed-opportunity-with-chick-fil-a/ Kimberly Stoeck

    Mr. Flowers-
    Your post so readily shook your finger at us Christians for not loving the GLBTA but gave no examples of what you thought that love would have looked like. Personally, I took a lot of abuse from my GLBTA friends for being a Christain who supported Chic Fil A for being proud of their beliefs. I don’t condem them for their beliefs but they sure were more that happy to condem me for mine! I don’t see how supporting Chic Fila A was a lost opportunity. We, as Christians were being attacked for our beliefs and a fellow Christian was trying to be run out of business so we stood up and said that we support him! Nothing is wrong with that. You didn’t see Christains standing outside locations with hateful signs. No, you saw Christains come together to say, we support our beliefs.
    I just don’t see the lost opportunity. I do however see posts such as yours, by a Christain man, being harmful to Christains. Why? You painted us as unloving and wrong. Case in point, I found your post after it was posted by a GLBTA friend who LOVES to find ways that Christains are hateful people. You gave him fuel for the fire that Christains are horrible people and wrong to have supported what we believe in.

    • http://davidkflowers.com David Flowers

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Kim. The question of what that love would have looked like is a good one. Perhaps I should take that on in another post. I did respond at length to that same question from another reader, (see http://davidkflowers.com/2012/08/our-missed-opportunity-with-chick-fil-a/#comment-3415) so perhaps you might want to look that over. You’re right that I saw no one with hateful signs, etc. I have, however, read a lot of plainly (as contrasted with questionably) hateful comments from so-called Christians about the situation. I stated clearly I felt it was a missed opportunity and I was sad about it. That is far from finger-shaking, I believe. I think at a very deep level the church still “doesn’t get it.” I appreciate the time you took to respond. Best wishes.

    • Lori Rymer

      I agree Kimberly. I have five gay family members and other friends that I dearly love. They know that. I just wonder what we should have done instead. The issue was Chick-fil-A’s statement of where they stand and Rahm Emanuel’s response. I’m confused. What were we supposed to do? I believe we were simply misunderstood. I love all kinds of people. I don’t necessarily love all that they do as they may not love all that I do. But it doesn’t mean I don’t love them as a person and who they are. But you did take the words right out of my mouth. It was NOT about hate. God is a God of Love but people need to really read his word thoroughly. He is a righteous God. And long suffering. And a forgiving God. But He is very serious in His word. What He says is what He says. Just wanted you to know that I agree with you. I wish I knew just what it is that we can do to show we love them. I support anyone who takes a Godly biblical stand with a Christlike attitude.

      • http://davidkflowers.com David Flowers

        Thanks for commenting, Lori. As I have mentioned, (see http://davidkflowers.com/2012/08/our-missed-opportunity-with-chick-fil-a/#comment-3415) this issue, I believe, is like the argument spouses continually have with one another that no one seems to be winning. Eventually they simply have to let it go. The issue is not how we could have supported our “rights,” and still loved gays, the issue is whether doing that was worth doing further damage to our reputation with a maligned and ignored group of people we’d like to be able to reach.

        I did not claim it was about hate for any particular individual. If that doesn’t apply to you, that’s great. But it clearly was about that for many, and even when it WASN’T about hate, it was obviously about either not knowing or simply not caring how we’re coming across. Think of this from the perspective of a married couple. One says, “I don’t feel loved by you.” The other says, “I do love you.” The other says, “But I don’t feel it.” To which the other responds, loudly, “I just told you I do,” to which the other says, “I hear you, but it doesn’t seem like it,” at which point the other screams, “I’m sick of trying to show you this. You’re just gonna have to take my word for it.”

        That conversation would be a disaster for that relationship, and I believe that is exactly the conversation Christians keep having with the gay community. “We don’t feel loved,” say the gays. “Well we love you, and if you don’t feel it, too bad for you. We’re gonna do whatever we want to. Let us know when you come around to feeling the love.” That makes absolutely no sense, and is a terribly unloving position to take, especially if we think of the Christian response to the gay community in terms of 1 Cor. 13 love.

        Regarding being misunderstood, perhaps we have no right to insist on this when we keep doing the same things, over and over, that others are saying are hurtful to them. Perhaps something else is going on. Regarding Godly stands, I don’t think anything is more godly than love (Jesus corroborated this on several occasions), and all I hear are people making excuses for why other things are more important. I am not judging a single sole. Anything, or nothing, I have said may apply to any specific individual. All I can do is explain what appears to be happen en masse.

  • http://www.reflectionsfromthealley.org Dave Arnold

    Great post! This is a message the church needs to hear.

  • Ruth

    Reading the blog post from The Weed that you shared on facebook this week really helped me to understand the situation better and to want to love better. I’m being challenged to rethink some of the ways in which I live out love and truth in my life. I stay out of the kind of stuff where groups of people protest and cause a scene. It never seems to help anything, just stirs the pot. But I want to be more available to love others…all, well. Thank you for writing,…it’s making a difference in this church girl’s life.

    • http://davidkflowers.com David Flowers

      Thanks Ruth. That’s the goal of my life. I appreciate your comment very much.

  • jaime

    Hi Dave,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I miss your preaching :) I’d be interested to hear more- how do you think it could have been done more lovingly? Do you feel the event itself was unloving toward LBGT? I think at the heart of it (for Christians) is FEAR. We are afraid of what we see happening around us, and tired of how much we see on TV that is lying to our culture- this is the “New Normal-” the glorification of a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s plan. We see family structures breaking down around us and it’s disheartening. I think about raising my 1-year-old son in the midst of “new normal” and wonder if I’ll have what it takes to parent him. In my heart, I feel God has reminded me that He is in control! But, boy am I scared! And, if we have messed up on this one, I’m sad. But, I also really like Chick-Fil-A and wish for more of the same. I wish for more family-friendly movies. It was an opportunity to vote with our dollars. So, I’m conflicted. How do we get this right? I don’t think hate was the driving intent, but unfortunately, perception is reality for those who were offended.

    • http://davidkflowers.com David Flowers

      Hi Jamie, nice to hear from you!

      Yes, I feel the event itself was unloving.

      how do you think it could have been done more lovingly?

      It couldn’t have! You know those arguments you get in with your spouse where you go around and around and you never see eye to eye and you’ve both said hurtful things, and tried to win over and over, and finally you realize you have to choose between being right and being healed? This is the same thing. We keep thinking that if we just go about it the “right” way, we can make our protests and still be considered loving. So I ask you, how could your husband go about lovingly convincing you that you are right and he is wrong? Would flowers help, or a nice dinner? No matter what he did, you would realize it was all about him trying to just find another angle, another way to win, and you’d start resenting him for it.

      That’s what gays have done with the Christian community because we refuse to let this go. It’s about the sanctity of marriage, it’s about what’s best for the children, it’s about free speech, it’s about avoiding the judgment of God, it’s about “family values,” ad nauseum. Christians find every possible way to avoid the truth, which is that it’s about Christians deliberately choosing to continue a) fighting this fight that nobody can ever win; and b) denying what it’s really about, which is Christian FEAR (as you correctly named — in this case we call it homophobia) of gays, fear of a society that allows gays to live as they wish, fear of God’s condemnation, etc. Coupled with this fear is a very intense hatred that, though it doesn’t come from everyone, comes from a HUGE number of people who identify as Christian, judge gays for their behavior, and are probably more filled with hate than most.

      The reason Jesus taught love was precisely because love is that great what I call “biasing agent.” When you really love someone, you stop objectifying them. You no longer see them as “other” because they are part of you. That’s why many Christians are blown away when a son or daughter comes out as gay, because all of their lives they have been taught that it’s essential to condemn homosexuality, then their beautiful child comes out, and they still cannot see anything in that child but beauty and there, for the first time, they see homosexuality CLEARLY. It’s not that our judgment is clouded when we have a gay family member, it’s that that’s the only time we actually understand the issue for what it is. It’s the only time we have “skin in the game.” Jesus called us to love because love gives us skin in the game in the biggest possible way. As I come to love the whole world with deeper and deeper love, I become more and more “biased” towards each and every individual. I have more and more skin in the human game because I am seeing each human being as part of myself, and vice versa. This is clearly the same “bias” God has for each of us, able to love us perfectly in spite of our shortcomings. This is why we are called to love and why love MUST be what we practice. It is the only antidote to fear.

      And that is why I am so disappointed with the church this week. We have simply found one more angle, one more way to keep saying what we always most deeply want to say to gay people, which is that we wish all of them would just disappear and stop making us uncomfortable, stop challenging us — by their existence — to consider that God might actually love them as desperately as he loves each of us. We want them to stop troubling our theology and our comfortable assurances that we know who’s in the kingdom and who’s out. So instead of dropping the rope in this tug of war and going over and hugging the other team, we keep pulling harder on our side of the rope. The other side then pulls harder, so we pull harder, etc. Resistance begets resistance. Jesus knew this when he told us not to strike back, to go two miles with the person who demands that we go one, to not resist an evil person. Love, in its nature, is a giving up of resistance. I cannot love Christy or be loved by her if I resist her, and every time I resist her, I am doing the opposite of love. Love always submits, always remains open and flexible and tender and available. And as a wife, you know that true love NEVER tries to figure out how it can score points for its own side while appearing to be loving.

      That’s why there is simply no way we could have done this in a loving way. Because the act, in and of itself, is not loving. It is defensive and resistant and, for many people, angry. It is invulnerable. To disagree with someone personally, you look them in the eye. You risk their anger. You risk knowing you might hurt someone you care for. You are gentle and careful. You time it just right. You know it might not go well and you pray that it will be well received. And then you sit down one on one, and you gently bring it up. These public demonstrations, in their very nature, will do nothing but inflame the other side because they require no investment. No one has to tell, or hear, the hard truths. No one has to really listen because it’s all about which side yells the loudest and insists most firmly on its demands being met. It’s a parody of real human confrontational action and it can never work.

      Sorry to go on so long. I have another whole post here. :-)

      • Jaime

        “it’s about Christians deliberately choosing to continue a) fighting this fight that nobody can ever win; and b) denying what it’s really about, which is Christian FEAR (as you correctly named — in this case we call it homophobia) of gays, fear of a society that allows gays to live as they wish, fear of God’s condemnation, etc. ”

        Oh no! I never would think of myself as homophobic. I do not avoid homosexuals- I have had plenty of opportunities to know them as genuine caring people (family member, neighbors, etc). My fear, if I could articulate it better, is in what I am seeing in media & businesses. Personally, one of my favorite shows is the Ellen Degeneres show- I think she is hilarious. She is a sinner, just like me. It would make no sense to say “I don’t watch her show because she is a sinner.” We all fall short of the glory of God. But, there’s also a continuing breakdown of the family system. I am sad when I see so many of my students with broken families (in their various forms) and feel powerless- I hurt for them.

        I saw Chick-fil-a “day” as an opportunity to vote with my wallet- to tell businesses that traditional values still exist and that many people want more of the same. Are you saying that we don’t need to express our desires to media & businesses?

        I do feel ashamed that it wasn’t on my radar to consider the impact of my participation. It did not occur to me that it would be viewed as a protest. That was not my motive. I think many Christians would probably say the same. This dialogue is important for that reason. Pastors and leaders are wise to talk about it and help us to adjust our perspectives. And it reminds me of my imperfection and my need of God to help me every day. Those that want to disprove Christianity will look for as many ways as possible to make Christians look bad. Well…..we ARE wretched. Only God can make us right and by His strength.

        If that day was a missed opportunity, maybe there’s another opportunity here. Clearly, the LBGT community was hurt and angry. God, please show us our errors. Forgive our ignorance. Provide new opportunities to make it right.

        • http://davidkflowers.com David Flowers

          Sorry, I wasn’t suggesting that you personally are afraid of gay people. I was speaking in general.

        • http://davidkflowers.com David Flowers


          Are you saying that we don’t need to express our desires to media & businesses?


          I am saying that we need to realize that many times when we choose to do this, we are choosing to forfeit the opportunity to love. Spouses ask me all the time, “Are you suggesting I should just tell my spouse they’re right when I don’t really believe that?” To which I always reply, “I’m suggesting that as long as your being right and your spouse being wrong is the issue, you will not be free to love.

          Perhaps, after a considerable period of national repentance for our blindness, brutality, and naivety towards MANY people groups over many years, we can have conversations about how to handle the media and what it means for Christians to participate lovingly in culture. That conversation needs to be had and should be taken seriously. But first we need to come to see ourselves honesty — come to realize that, though we are not ALL of the problem, we’re a large part of it, especially because we do so much of the unloving stuff we do in the name of a God of love.

          So many Christians fear taking the love thing too far and not talking enough about sin and punishment and God’s wrath. I get that, and many are well-intentioned with it. But even focusing 100% on love, we will still fall so short. Since the New Testament says love covers over a multitude of sins, let’s believe that. Let’s commit to learning how to love as fully as Jesus did, and trust that love will cover up any sin we may commit by failing to major in punishment and wrath. Since I know for sure that there are things I can’t possibly know until I see God face to face, I’m fully committed to erring as often as possible on the side of grace. Perhaps if Christians make that mistake for a couple of thousand years, we could swing the pendulum back to the middle for our failure to even take love seriously over the previous 2000.

    • Lori Rymer

      agreed.

  • http://hlobergblog.wordpress.com/ Howard

    That is so true. I have some gay friends who aren’t Christians and political stunts like these just make the job of witnessing that much harder.

    • http://davidkflowers.com David Flowers

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Howard. Drop by any time! I checked out your blog too, keep up the good work!