Monday, February 07, 2011

Is it Time for Chick-fil-A to Abandon its Christian Identity?

Photo Credit: Link576
Chick-fil-A, the fast food restaurant popular in the southern United States, is currently facing something it is not used to -- controversy. After donating some free food to an organization that is against gay marriage, a number of gay rights groups have publicly condemned the company.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution weighs in on the story:
"We're not anti-anybody," said [Dan] Cathy, son of the company's founder, Truett Cathy. "Our mission is to create raving fans."

Earlier this month, Cathy appeared on a Facebook video to argue that the Chick-fil-A sandwiches and brownies to be provided at a marriage-training event sponsored by the Pennsylvania Family Institute are not an endorsement of the group's politics.

On Saturday, Cathy issued a statement saying that "While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees." Cathy said Chick-fil-A would not champion any political agendas on marriage and family. That is not a change from previous practice, Cathy said -- "just a confirmation."

"We've opted not to get involved in the political debate," he told the AJC. "It's never been our agenda."

But Chick-fil-A finds itself squarely in the political debate. A New York Times story published Sunday noted the conservative religion that is built into Chick-fil-A's corporate ethos have run it against the gay rights movement. Students at some universities have tried to get the chain removed from campuses.

Recently, administrators at the Indiana University South Bend suspended weekly Wednesday sales of Chick-fil-A items at two main dining areas, according to the South Bend Tribune. The administration wanted to review complaints raised by a student group and members of the executive committee of the Academic Senate.

Cathy says Chick-fil-A operates its business on Biblical principles but "is not a Christian company." It's a nuanced distinction, and many customers may miss it."
Chick-fil-A is a unique business. In respect for the Judeo-Christian tradition of Sabbath rest, they are the rare business that closes operations on Sundays so that their employees and customers have the day for focused time with family or to spend time at the house of worship of their choice.  They often play Christian music in their stores and the toys contained within their kids meals often are educational in nature, with a strong moral message.

But the reasons I go to my local Chick-fil-A are not simply because of the Christian foundations that the company was founded on.  I like Chick-fil-A because they have great chicken sandwiches, I can take my children to their play place, their restaurants offer free Wi-Fi, they have free newspapers available and their customer service is unparalleled in the fast food service industry. (For example, when I ask for a refill on my Diet Coke, the response is always, "It would be my pleasure.")

As a Christian, I seek to support businesses that reflect my values and the values that I wish to instill in my children.  I choose not to support companies that promote other value systems that I don't agree with.  And make no mistake about it. Every business promotes some kind of values.  The question is which values does it support and will I support those values with my dollar?

Unlike some of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters, I do not have a problem with gay rights groups boycotting or discouraging others from buying their food at Chick-fil-A.  I happen to disagree with them but I support their right in an American society to do so.  As some of the leaders when it comes to boycotts and organizing campaigns against companies that send a message contrary to what we think is appropriate, Christians should not be surprised when others do the same. If they feel like a business is actively treating them unfairly, they should boycott them.

To my understanding, though, Chick-fil-A does not discriminate against gay and lesbian customers or have some sort of policy against gay employees (which I would not support).  They simply gave some food to a local organization that was holding a local event (as do many restaurants throughout the country). For sure, if Chick-fil-A was in the business of selling Jesus they would have had to shut their doors a long time ago since there is no Jesus combo meal on the menu.  But, as it is, they're in the business of selling chicken sandwiches and they do a wonderful job.

I, for one, hope that Chick-Fil-A continues to do what it does. I hope that they continue to support a variety of local charities, whether those organizations are Christian in nature or not. In addition, their continued refusal to be open on Sundays defies conventional wisdom yet they've still been able to run a profitable business by being open just six days out of the week.  Their "Closed on Sundays" policy declares that there are more important things than just making money and that is something that is worth supporting.

If none of that convinces you to support Chick-fil-A, perhaps Tim Hawkins will.  Please click here if the video player does not show up.


Dakota said...

That's absolutely crazy. To think that somebody would be cold-hearted enough to condemn a company for being charitable blows me away. Apparently we're supposed to ask gay rights activists for a list of acceptable charities before making a contribution if we hope to avoid a national uprising...

Angie said...

Great post! I also choose to support Christian businesses when i can. My family and I love chick-fil-a and a lot of that is because of the stand that they take for their faith.