Can’t we just enjoy Oreo cookies without making a statement about gay rights? Or savor a chicken sandwich without fear of being labeled a hater or homophobe?
Though I’m weary of our culture’s tendency to politicize everything, I believe this Chick-fil-A boycott has revealed some fault lines in our culture that will lead to increasing pressure upon Christians who uphold the sexual ethic described in the New Testament. Furthermore, in listening to the mayors of Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, it’s clear to me that – political posturing aside – this discussion may not be about the alleged homophobia of Chick-fil-A’s president but the actual Christophobia of the leaders of the cultural elite.
Christophobia? Isn’t that a strong word? Yes, it is. So let’s define our terms.
First, let’s define homophobia. According to the Anti-Defamation League, homophobia is “the hatred or fear of homosexuals – that is, lesbians and gay men – sometimes leading to acts of violence and expressions of hostility.”
Consider the comments made by Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy that triggered this escapade:
“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.”
That’s it. Cathy said, basically, “We believe in the traditional family.” In context, it appears he was speaking primarily about divorce. (What’s next? A sit-in protest led by divorcees?) But this was enough to bring down the wrath of gay-rights advocates upon Cathy and the company.
Though Chick-fil-A hires homosexuals and serves homosexuals (“with pleasure,” no doubt), the company and its president were suddenly labeled “homophobic” and “anti-gay” for articulating the traditional vision for marriage that has been the norm for thousands of years. If the word homophobic has any meaning, then we should reserve it for egregious offenses against homosexuals – not throw the label on anyone who has a conviction about what marriage is.
Now let’s define Christophobia. It is “anti-Christian sentiment expressed as opposition to Christians, the Christian religion, or the practice of Christianity.” When the mayors of prominent U.S. cities in the north and west told Chick-fil-A they would not be welcome there, they were making a statement that goes beyond one’s position on gay rights. These remarks were an example of social ostracism – not just toward those who hold to traditional views on marriage but especially Christians who hold these views and seek to practice their religion accordingly.
Why do I think they were singling out Christians? Why would this be an example of Christophobia?
Consider a different scenario. What if Dan Cathy were a Muslim? What if he had been a Muslim speaking to an Islamic news organization when he said something about marriage and family? Would there have been an outcry against his organization? It’s doubtful. I can’t imagine Rahm Emanuel taking on a prominent, well-respected Muslim business
And therein lies the discrimination. Do you see the double standard? Those who are problematic, those who must be shut down and made to feel unwelcome, are not really the people who believe in traditional marriage but conservative Christians who seek to practice the tenets of their faith in the public sphere.
What we are seeing today is a massive cultural shift that permits leaders to label Christians as intolerant and bigoted simply for expressing their views about how society should function. But strangely enough, the same social ostracism and cultural condescension are not extended to Muslims and faithful adherents to other religions. No, the prejudice appears to be directed toward Christians who dare to speak publicly about their deeply held religious convictions.
That’s why, at the end of the day, this conversation isn’t really about marriage, gay rights, or restaurant permits. It’s not about the cultural divide between north and south, liberal and conservative.
It’s about Jesus. It’s about the radical sexual ethic He put forth in His teaching – a moral zealousness that hits our current culture’s sexual permissiveness head-on. And it’s about His forgiveness offered to all sexual sinners, so long as we agree with Jesus about our sin and embrace Him instead.
As weary as we may be of the culture wars, the Chick-fil-A controversy is a harbinger of further ostracism to come. In the United States, the words of Jesus are coming to pass for those who hold tightly to His vision of sexuality: You will be hated because of Me.
So how should we respond? We’ve got to go beyond boycotts and political statements and feigned offense at perceived persecution. We’re called to love those who ostracize us, not boycott back. So let’s trumpet the message that Jesus is for all kinds of sinners, from the self-righteous deacon to the promiscuous transsexual, no matter what kind of vitriol comes our way.
The world tells homosexuals, “It gets better.” The church tells homosexuals, “Jesus is better.”
And that is why this boycott is really about Him.