Thursday, August 09, 2012

Post-Chick-fil-A reflections

Now that everyone's done eating their Chick-fil-A sandwiches . . .

I remember election day in November 1994. All of us Republicans were convinced that Bill and Hillary Clinton had been driving our country into the moral sewer for the last two years, so we showed up at the voting booths in droves. I came home from work, grabbed my coat and went out in the rain to the local polling place where I blindly punched every chad next to every Republican name I saw. The result was that Republicans won control of both houses of Congress that year. At the time it felt good, it felt empowering, like we had a voice and made ourselves heard. So there!

At the moment it also felt very "Christian," as if I and others were standing up for God's righteousness against the Clintons' liberal agenda. But now, in retrospect, I don't view that moment as being a proud highlight of my Christian life at all. I didn't grow from it, I didn't become more Christ-like from it, I didn't benefit spiritually from it. Rather I look back and wonder at my anger and impulsiveness, that I would rush out and vote for candidates about whom I knew absolutely nothing. And what was the long-term outcome of our collective impulsive action in 1994? Newt Gingrich.

Ten, twenty years from now, many of the people who stood in line at their local Chick-fil-A restaurant last Wednesday will feel a similar emptiness about it. It will be a forgotten or forgettable moment.

Why? Because there is nothing particularly Christian about turning out in droves to make a statement of self-interest about a piece of civil legislation. Any group can do it, and just about every group does. Sure, you can argue that these sorts of demonstrations aren't necessarily wrong in themselves. But in the case of Chick-fil-A--even if we could convince ourselves that the whole circus wasn't hurtful to the gay and lesbian community, damaging to the gospel message, and embarrassing for Christians in general--neither was there anything wonderfully Christ-like about it either. There was no revelation of the Jesus who ate with tax collectors and sinners, who stood next to the adulterous woman and dared anyone to cast the first stone, who hung parched and suffocating on a cross while praying for God to forgive his enemies.

But, you say, we are perfectly justified in opposing the gay agenda. They're the ones who are always organizing and protesting. They're the ones pushing for their legislation and their rights. And what about those liberal politicians trying to ban Chick-fil-A restaurants from their cities?

The call to follow Christ is not about meeting the status quo with the status quo: "They're pushing their agenda so we're pushing ours." "I have a right to support my cause." "When Christians speak up we always get slapped down. Well, I've had enough!" This is exactly the sort of mediocre thinking that ensures there will always be so many Christians who make so little difference.

The apostle Paul asks, "Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?" Jesus says, "If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers to the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" Peter says, "When [Jesus] was reviled he did not revile in return, when he suffered he did not threaten but committed himself to him who judges righteously." John says, "By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

Our sins have been wiped away. Glory will someday be ours. We have riches beyond measure in the heavenly places. We are heirs of the world to come. God is our Father, Christ is our brother, the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. Surely we can afford to let go of some of our rights and privileges in this passing world. Surely we can afford to let some of the love and grace we have received overflow in our lives to others. Surely we can afford to be more generous and less petty, more confident and less victimized, more humble and less resentful.

Talk to someone who's gay. They were right outside the restaurant picketing while you were standing in line at Chick-fil-A. You could have skipped the chicken sandwich and taken someone to lunch on neutral ground at Burger King. But don't just talk, listen and learn. Because when it comes down to it being gay is not a political agenda or a religious doctrine, it is a human experience. And once you find the courage to connect with another human being on that basic level, you will know that God loves them, because you will feel his love for them in your own heart.