On Chick-fil-A and Community

Today was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. This was not a day to appreciate their chicken sandwiches and sweet tea (which as a good Southern girl I admittedly find pretty tasty). No, this was a day to show your support for Chick-fil-A and its CEO, Dan Cathy, whose statements that his company was “based on biblical principles” and supported “the biblical definition of the family unit” came under fire by gay rights groups.

I want to be clear, I support Mr. Cathy’s right to free speech, and his right to live his beliefs. I will firmly defend this right to any and all. I also want to be clear that I can vehemently support this right and still find his statements objectionable. I can support this right and choose to take my money elsewhere. I don’t want to talk about free speech. We are lucky to live in a country where it exists, Mr. Cathy exercised that right, as did the folks calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-A. As far as I am concerned there is nothing more to be said about that.

What I want to talk about is what the actions of those people who went to Chick-fil-A today said to those around them, especially the folks who are not in (or do not aspire to be in) “the biblical definition of the family unit”. I want to talk about how those actions hurt me, how they made me feel sad. Now, I don’t believe that your right to free speech has to bow to my feelings. But I do want to say, clearly, unequivocally, that your actions, as the friend or family member of someone gay, as the member of a community in which queer people live, hurt someone today. At best, you gave them a twinge, a fleeting moment of discomfort. More likely for many people, you made their heart hurt, you made them feel unwelcome or even unsafe in their community.

I have a troubled relationship with Christianity. But I try to live a moral, ethical, and compassionate life. I try to treat people with respect and kindness. I fail. I fail all the time – just as many Christians will tell you they fail in their attempts to live a Christ-like life. But my goal is to never hurt my fellow inhabitants of this planet, to never cause other people pain. Especially knowingly.

If you went to Chick-fil-A today, if you posted or tweeted or stood in line for hours to buy a chicken sandwich, you hurt someone today. You chose a corporation over a living, breathing human being. You had a right to do so. I will defend it. But you caused someone (a family member, a coworker, a friend, a neighbor, a depressed queer teenager driving by the local Chik-fil-A) pain.

This “Appreciation Day” was organized by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and by his words was to: “affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick Fil-A”. To repeat, this Appreciation Day was not to support a right to free speech (which was never in doubt), but instead to take a stand for Godly values, for the biblical family unit, for families that don’t look like mine, that aren’t made up of two women who love each other, who are married to each other, who parent a baby girl they adore.

That’s the message you were sending today if you went to Chick-fil-A. You were sending the message that my family, that many, many people’s families were not valid, were not worthy of respect and consideration, were not worth more than the cost of a chicken sandwich. You hurt someone today. You can say what you want, buy what you want, but you have to own the consequences of your actions. Next time, when you face an action like this, I hope you think about this. I hope you think about whether or not you feel more strongly about this action than you do about treating your fellow human beings, whatever family form they find themselves in, with dignity and respect. And next time, I hope more people choose dignity and respect.

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On Chick-fil-A and Community

25 thoughts on “On Chick-fil-A and Community

  1. Very well said! It’s interesting living in the UK they have laws against ‘hate speech’. Apparently you can go to jail for saying certain things about, to, or to incite violence against a group of people. Like you I do think freedom of speech is very important and I’m not sure how I feel about that law – but I also don’t think that it’s okay to promote bigotry. Not sure if it should be illegal but I think that’s its’ WRONG – just as wrong as many things that are illegal, so it’s a hard thing to wrap my mind around. I think that organizing an event like that isn’t just about freedom of speech, and it doesn’t just have the indirect consequence of hurting people- I think that it is a way of harassing people, and as you say making people feel unsafe – which is a kind of terrorism. That’s what terrorism does: it makes people feel unsafe. It is illegal to harass an individual – shouldn’t it be illegal to harras a group of people? But then I suppose it’s a question of where to draw the line…

    Anyhow Civil Partnerships have been legal & recognized nation wide for awhile, but Scotland just decided to legalize gay marriage, making it the first country in the UK to do so – so if too many of your neighbors are indulging in those unfortunately delicious chicken nuggets & waffel fries for your taste, you should totally come over here. Health care is free too and also I’d like it. xx

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    1. cransell says:

      Germany also has the prohibition against “hate speech” and I always felt conflicted about that too. I understood why they had it, but as an American, I believe so strongly in free speech.

      Scotland does sound pretty dreamy – if, dare I say it, a bit cold – it’s definitely on the list for a visit, if not a move!

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  2. Bill heyman says:

    CFA is only one of thousands of indignities we have been thru. Too bad our country now stands behind chickens to support hate. But this surprises you?

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  3. Eva Marie says:

    Very nicely said. I’m so tired of telling people it’s not about freedom of speech, it’s about promoting discrimination. Equality for all, discrimination against none.

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  4. Janis Ansell says:

    I love you Carrie. You are as precious today as the day you were born. You are a good person and one of the most compassionate human beings I know. You are also articulate. Thank you for being you and for loving Jami and for parenting Frances Gloria so beautifully. Mom

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  5. wonderfully written. i don’t understand people who support the freedom of people whose ACTIONS (lobbying for laws) that are designed solely to deny others’ freedom. isn’t hypocrisy one of those christian sin things? ugh… i can only hope people read your words and think a little more about their actions, and even their words.

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  6. Carolyn says:

    What a beautifully worded statement. I live my life much as you have stated. I believe in our “rights”. I do not believe that those that call themselves Christians live what they preach. One that I always hear is to love thy neighbor. I have heard them preach these words and to not judge least you be judged, etc., however, they do not live what they preach.

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  7. Melissa says:

    I have gay friends and family members, however I do not hate them…I love them and care about them, even though we may not always agree. I supported Chick-Fil-A yesterday and I would do it again because I’m in agreement with their values. You don’t have to agree….just as I don’t have to agree with you. I have had discussions with my friends who are with a same-sex partner and that’s the lifestyle choice they have made. I respect it and I’m happy for them if they are truly happy, however I’m not in agreement and have expressed this to them. We didn’t argue about it or get angry with one another…we just accepted we live different lifestyles. I’m a Christian and I don’t hate anyone, however I disagree with the lifestyle. We will all answer to God on judgement day for the sins we have committed, as least…that’s my belief. If you don’t believe that….ok. Our society is way too accepting of immorality and thinks it’s okay living in the world, I choose not to be so “easy,” but I’m not going to get angry or sad about it. Life is a learning experience and EVERYONE has very different beliefs and interpretations. You don’t answer to me and I don’t answer to you, but I’m thankful we each have a right to express our feelings. I know my heart and that’s all that matters.

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    1. cransell says:

      Hi Melissa, I have thinking about how to respond to you, since I saw your comment. I think we are talking past each other. I’m trying to say that however you believe, if you went to Chick-fil-A yesterday, that was hurtful to people in your life or your community. It is hurtful to see your friends side against you. It is hurtful to have your family devalued. We all have things that we believe in strongly, and we all have to decide for ourselves whether standing up for our beliefs is worth hurting someone we love. Sometimes, it is. It sounds like you thought this through and decided that this was. That your belief that homosexuality is sinful was important enough to you to make a public stand. As I said in my post, I support your right to do so. I think one of the great thing about America is our ability to demonstrate peacefully for our beliefs. But I still believe that, for me, treating others with respect and trying to not cause others pain, is how I want to live my life and is the model of a community in which I want to live.

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      1. Melissa says:

        Cransell,

        Honestly…I feel as though we are speaking directly to each other. If Chick-Fil-A’s president had spoken in favor of homosexuality and the gay and lesbian community had supported them, would that make it okay? That would not have devalued my family or my beliefs and I would still eat there because I like the food and excellent service. Like I said, I love my friends and family that have chosen a different lifestyle and accept the fact we are not always going to agree and have the same beliefs. Yes, people’s feelings will get hurt, I’m certain yours have and so have mine, but if this is our only focus then we are going to need to get a thick skin living in this world. Treating others with respect and not causing them pain is how we should all live our lives, however those qualities and characteristics alone will not get you into heaven and if that isn’t important to you, okay. You telling me I decided to purposely hurt someone by buying a meal there yesterday is your opinion and you are entitled. We see things differently, however I wish you well.

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    2. Meghan says:

      Being gay is not a “lifestyle” seriously. Choosing to believe that the “lifestyle” is wrong is certainly your choice but a) not going to make it go away and b) is extremely damaging.

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  8. Carrie. So wonderfully written. I have to say that I just learned about Chik Fil A (because I am under a rock, apparently) and was admittedly sad about the loss of my newly found favorite chicken sandwich but more so just so sad that people can be so awful, that the world is still so awful. I have given up the chicken but not the fight for equality.

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  9. I love the tone of this dialogue – would that all blogs were so polite and respectful, even when in disagreement. And, I can imagine some Chik Fil Appreciators saying, “Well, your lifestyle (choice?) hurts God!” as they munch on a cholesterol-rich, clot-creating, hormone-fueled chicken concoction, hurtling ever faster toward their creator with each and every bite. Oops – I hope I didn’t just alter the tone of the dialogue. Any Iron E appreciators out there?

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  10. Grace Alexander says:

    Eating at CFA doesn’t “just” mean you are “standing up for your beliefs”. It’s putting dollar bills in the pockets of people who deliberately try to buy my government to illegally deny me rights you have. It’s putting dollars in the pockets of organizations who torture and brainwash kids to get them to pretend they are something they are not (and many of these kids end up killing themselves as a direct result of these boot camps.) It’s putting dollars in the coffers of those who fund governments and legislation in other countries, making it a death penalty to be gay.

    You read that right. CFA sent so much money to Uganda that they managed to get simply BEING gay criminalized, and the penalty for being gay is execution. When you eat CFA, you aren’t “standing up for biblical marriage” – you are funding the murder of real human beings. Stop and think about that for a minute.

    And BTW, Biblical marriage isn’t one man, one woman and god. It’s one man and one woman; one man, one woman and her sister; one man and a harem of women; a rapist and his victim; or a soldier and his war slave <— again, a rapist and his victim – sorry, but these are ALL Biblical marriage.

    Oh, and in case you missed it, CFA head honchos say they are for Biblical marriage AND that all of them are still with their first wives, including divorce as unacceptable. So all of you divorced people who ate at CFA – you were actually supporting a guy who thinks you are going to hell, too. Only it's not as popular to publicly hate on divorced people, so Cathy mainly focuses on the gays, instead.

    And news flash – being gay isn't a lifestyle. It's our life. When did straight people choose their straight "lifestyle"? That's just another copout.

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    1. exactly. it stops being “free speech” when it starts being laws to deny people basic rights. ps, i’m a biologist, and one of my first projects basically shows that homosexuality is in fact not a “choice”, nor unnatural. 🙂

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    1. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m sorry, Carrie, that the world sucks so much. We’ll get there someday, but… in the meantime, I’m glad we all have each other in this journey for equality.

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  11. Oh Carrie, this was so wonderfully well said. And for the record, I think your family is shining and beautiful and full of love, which is something more families should aspire to. I completely support you.

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