Christianity, Chicken, and Why I’ll Eat at Arby’s on August 1st

by Camille on July 30, 2012

I understand the frustration. First Oreos, now chicken. Every time we check the Facebook feed, we’re left wondering how long it will be before every food formally declares a political ideology.

Can’t you see it? At night, we’ll close the pantry door, and the debates will begin. The fruit roll-ups will fight for marriage equality for all, while the conservative spaghetti noodles will preach traditional family values. And I’ll open the pantry in the morning to find a hot mess of spilled flour and crunched Cheetos all doused in hot sauce.

Situation Review

In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past few weeks and are wondering why I’m talking about chicken, here’s a recap.

A couple of weeks ago, Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-a, did an interview with the Baptist Press in which he said:

“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.”

He also provided this lovely radio interview in which he said:

I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about”

The above passages have been well-publicized, but I find the words prefacing the marriage quote equally interesting:

…there’s some essential emotional DNA that God intended for us to get from a mother and a dad….that we can only get from our dad, and only get it from our mother, and we’re to get it in a home dynamic environment where they’re relating together, to build the stability and the self-esteem that God wants us to have to get through our teenage years. Now when we don’t have one side or the other, you know, I think I’ve just got to tell you, I think we’re emotionally handicapped…

Any single parents out there? How about folks raised by single parents? Are you missing your “emotional DNA” and suffering from your “emotional handicap?” Gees. With a divorce rate of over 50%, that’s a lot of customers he’s potentially insulting.

In any case, the media snatched the marriage comments and ran, and in a blink, people all over were taking sides….on chicken. Some politicians even proposed to block Chick-fil-a from building restaurants in their districts.

After a lot of thought and considering several different and well-written opinions, here’s

What I Think

It’s ridiculous for political figures to suggest banning a business based on the personal beliefs of its president. 

If you read my post on Oreos, you might guess that I’m not exactly a fan of guys like Mr. Cathy. But until he starts denying gay individuals the right to chicken or discriminating in hiring practices, then he’s allowed his opinion….even if I disagree.

In her recent post,  In the Basement, Jen Hatmaker argues that personal opinions should have no place in determining business permits. She writes:

Where would it end? The CEO of the Phoenix Suns is gay; shall we all boycott their basketball games or deny their right to play in the public sphere? Is it time to quiz small-business owners on their positions on gun control, abortion, and immigration reform, and decide if their companies are “welcome in our cities”?

Because this will swing every way, you know. Perhaps Chick-Fil-A is banned in Boston, but we will also stand by if a Muslim business owner is banned from operating in Huntsville, Alabama? Mark Zuckerberg is an atheist; should Christians all delete their Facebook accounts? 

Basically, if we start banning businesses with conservative Christian values, we need to ban Lifeway, Family Christian Stores, K-Love radio, and dozens of other companies. We’re saying that only companies with certain beliefs will be allowed to operate in America….and isn’t that decidedly un-American?

However, I don’t think Mr. Cathy was wise to share his personal belief as it has brought the investment practices of his company into the light. 

In the comment section of his post, Muppet Madness, Michael J. Kimpan of the Wayward Follower writes:

• the fact that chick-fil-a has financially supported groups that are proactively fighting against marriage equality and same sex rights ($2 million last year alone, according to the report from equality matters) is not inconsequential in this conversation, regardless of the content of the interview.

It’s well-documented that Chick-fil-a donated over $2 million to anti-gay groups in 2010. Cathy can send his money where he wants. It’s America, and I agree he should have the freedom to express his opinions. Of course, as a gay-rights supporter, I don’t agree with many of the places he sends his money, and as an individual, I can express my thoughts by buying chicken elsewhere. Personally, I prefer Arby’s. Just saying…They have chicken and roast beef. And their seasoned curly fries can throw down some deliciousness on those waffle fries anyday.


In general, I think boycotts are rarely well-organized enough to be effective, and I’m certainly not going to care if you choose to keep buying your nuggets there. But over the past few days, I’ve decided that Chick-fil-a will be a rare stop for me…primarily because of stuff like this:



This advertisement has been all over my Facebook feed, and I wonder what it is the Christians who post it are trying to say. I’m fairly certain that when the gay community reads these, they don’t exactly see the love of Christ. They don’t see the welcoming arms of Jesus who died for us all.  Jen wrote in her recent post:

The lines we draw in the sand do absolutely nothing except assure everyone else: YOU’RE OUT…

…How are these culture wars working out for us? Well, the church is losing around 50K folks a week, and the next generation downright refuses to come. The gay community is ostracized entirely (oh, they’ve gotten the message alright), and Christianity has turned into white noise.

I’ve seen Chick-fil-a tributes and cartoons and professions of love for “standing firm” that exhaust the word “abomination” and border on hate-speech.  I love Jen’s post and its message against the angry, finger-pointing, name-calling mess on both sides, and I initially liked her metaphor of hunkering down in a basement and just loving one another. A grand Jesus party of acceptance and a focus on love sounds fun, y’all.

However, in a comment, Paul A. shared his concerns with the money Chick-fil-a spends supporting groups that promote intolerance. He writes:

At what point should we get out of the basement and lead the fight for Christians to start spending their millions on causes for which Jesus lived and died? Does staying in our basement do much to help the hurting LGBT men and women who have been and continue to be wounded to the point of suicide by the organizations Chick-fil-A supports with our money?

In a beautiful post entitled “We’re Not Arguing Over Chicken,” Conor Gaughan, a gay man, shares that there are over 1,100 rights offered to married individuals that are denied to gay people. He says that the fight against discrimination is a fight against justified fear.

…in the last seven days, a lesbian in Nebraska was carved with a knife, a gay man in Oklahoma was firebombed, and a girl in Kentucky was kicked and beaten — her jaw broken and her teeth knocked out — while her assailants allegedly hurled anti-gay slurs at her.

I am your coworker, your frat brother, your cousin, your neighbor. And I am watching as you defend institutionalized discrimination.

Eat all the chicken sandwiches you want. But, realize that behind this debate are real people — kids like the girl in Kentucky who fear for their safety, women like Sally Ride’s widow who are denied their spouse’s Social Security benefits.

So I won’t eat at Chick-fil-a on August 1 (or anytime in the near future) because I don’t want to be associated with this kind of message.  Jesus clearly said in Matthew 22: 34-40,  the greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor. LOVE. Is this a message of love? Or exclusion? 

The Wayward Follower ended his post by asking, “Is it possible to hold a traditional perspective on sexuality and marriage without being offensive to those who desire equality?”  Most certainly, yes. But being FOR traditional marriage doesn’t necessitate aggressive action against gay people or their desire for equal rights. I think the August 1st plan draws a line, and that line does more than say, “I support traditional families.” As a result of Mr. Cathy’s comments and financial choices, the line says, “Gay people: you are OUT.” But they’re not out, and no chicken and biscuit is worth taking the risk of making a child of God feel that way.

I’m not saying that we should never eat at Chick-fil-a again. There are a lot of franchise owners out there who had nothing to do with Mr. Cathy’s words and likely don’t share his views. There are a lot of employees just trying to serve good chicken sandwiches…probably more than a few of them are gay. But I think Christians need to consider what they’re saying, what they’re supporting, and who they’re hurting when they make special efforts to support Chick-fil-a. As Gaughan said, it’s time to realize there are real people behind this debate, and we should start considering how Jesus would want us to treat them.







michael j. kimpan July 31, 2012 at 5:05 pm

appreciate your thoughts on this, camille. i believe that we can – and must – find a better way forward, regardless of whether or not we agree with our gay neighbors. when we draw lines in the sand stating (or even celebrating!) our disapproval, we are doing nothing for the kingdom. ‘no chicken and biscuit is worth taking the risk of making a child of God feel that way.’ couldn’t agree more.

keep writing!
michael j. kimpan recently posted..hellbound.My Profile

Camille July 31, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Thanks so much for commenting. You are a blog rockstar; I feel like a celebrity just commented on my blog. On a day when I’ve been de-friended and told I’m going to be “spewed out of God’s mouth” by some folks on Facebook, it’s encouraging to see your name here. Again, thanks for the support and for each lovely word you write. 🙂

Thomas August 1, 2012 at 11:03 pm

God tells us to love the person But hate the SIN.

Camille August 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Likely, we disagree on sin and how to show love to “sinners.”

Pam Fontenot September 25, 2012 at 2:17 am

Thank you for your post. I am an L in the LGTBQ community and have been very active in following the statements being made from both sides. I am not religious, but I respect those who are. I, too, want progress and more harmony and less discord. Seeing your blog, and the message group I linked to it from, gives some hope that there are Christians out there who are not calling us abominations, or hating us (our sin- it is received as you when pointed to us), animalistic, or with some sinister agenda to overthrow any other group. We just want to live freely, and in peace and joy. Thank you for being a beacon of hope for that future.

Camille September 25, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. 🙂 My heart hurts when I see Christians hijacking Jesus as an excuse to hate others or deny them rights. I’m SO thankful for the amazing friends from the gay community God has placed in my life that have helped me form my own understanding. I’m often the loner in my opinions as most of my Christian friends don’t agree with my views, but there are some of us out here. I’m encouraged by many recent on-line conversations and posts that at least seem to be calling for a peaceful bridge to the gap between conservative Christians and the LGTBQ community. I’m sure you’ve read the Wayward Follower? Love him. In any case, thanks again for stopping by, and I wish you JOY. 🙂

Pam Fontenot September 25, 2012 at 2:19 am

I found you via: in my search for understanding the “Other” side.

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