Chick-fil-A, a Baptist Preacher & Free Speech

Chowing down on a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich in the mall in Las Cruces, NM on August 1, 2012, National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day

It has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” If I weren’t an attorney-turned-Baptist Preacher (and blogger to boot), I would let the picture of me eating a chicken sandwich and holding a coke (I’m one of the few Southerners who doesn’t do sweet tea) outside the Chick-fil-A in Las Cruces, New Mexico do all the talking for me on this particular post. As Dana Carvey, impersonating George H.W. Bush, would say, “not gonna happen.”

Why not, you may ask? Because some folks would misinterpret what this picture represents. In fact, after posting it on Facebook yesterday, I have already had at least one liberal friend draw the wrong conclusions. Shortly after posting my picture, someone wrote on their FB page:

“It’s not about tolerance, people; it’s about love. This Chik-Fil-A hoopla is not about fried chicken or freedom of speech. Everyone smiling with a dang chicken sandwich in his or her hands clearly advertised that his or her love has limits, and that ain’t Jesus. Thanks to you Chik-Fil-A eating folks, I am sure that millions of Americans felt hated and rejected today. Great job spreading your message!”

Notice that this person — herself an attorney — has been able to somehow discern the motives of “EVERYONE” who was “smiling with a dang chicken sandwich” in their hand. Not to quibble, but I wasn’t really smiling. It’s hard to simultaneously smile and bite down on one of the best chicken sandwiches in America at the same time. So, maybe she didn’t have me in mind with her remarks after all. But, make no mistake. There are many who will look at my picture and believe that, just because I chose to eat at Chick-fil-A yesterday, I am spreading a message of hate and rejection towards homosexuals. That could not be farther from the truth, but people will believe what they want to believe about Christians like me who were willing to exercise our freedom of speech and freedom of religion by simply eating a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries.

However, ascribing wrong motives to me and other like-minded Christians is not the sole province of liberals. A few conservative Christians — including well-known blogger Barnabas Piper — believes that eating at Chick-fil-A on Appreciation Day was a “bold mistake.” Among other things, Mr. Piper believes:

“Convictions, especially biblical ones, will divide people. That is inevitable, but not desirable. The separation of believers and unbelievers, when it happens, must be a last resort or an unavoidable result. Actions to the contrary, those that clearly promote an “us versus them” mentality, are most often unhelpful. There is a time for Christians to engage in boycotting, such as when a business deals in obviously immoral areas or is clearly unethical in its methods. But for a mass of Christians to descend upon Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country tomorrow to support the leadership’s view on this issue is, I believe, a bold mistake.”

As I shared with Denny Burk yesterday in a comment that I left on his post, “Is Chick-fil-A Day a Bold Mistake?”:

“I read Mr. Piper’s post yesterday. With all due respect to him, I think he utterly misses the point. Perhaps because of my own legal background, I look at this issue in a different way. This is not about Christians “swaggering in triumph over boycotts” or about an “us vs. them” mentality. It is certainly not about “relishing division between Christians and their opponents,” although to argue in such a way (as Piper seems to) that Christians are somehow putting an obstacle in the way of the Gospel is misguided at best.”

Barnabas Piper seems to think that Christians who chose to eat at Chick-fil-A yesterday were just a mass of uninformed people who — without giving it much thought like he obviously had — descended upon our local Chick-fil-A restaurants like Pavlovian dogs who were responding to our masters at Fox News, including Mike Huckabee. Well, Mr. Piper didn’t exactly say that, but the condescension for grassroots Christians (read “non-elites”) was dripping from almost every paragraph of his article (his claim not to “question the motives of Mike Huckabee or those thousands joining him” to the contrary notwithstanding).

I’m not sure who I’m more surprised at: the liberals who attack Christians for taking a positive stand against the rising tide of the cultural swamp that surrounds us OR conservative Christians like Piper who accuse Chick-fil-A supporters of swaggering into the restaurants with fists shaking and fingers wagging. I can only speak for the group that I was with at the Chick-fil-A in Las Cruces. Between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, I did not notice anyone who remotely fit Barnabas Piper’s description. Everyone was just hanging out, waiting to get to the counter to place their order. It was, as I posted on Denny Burk’s site just before I boarded the bus to Las Cruces:

There will be no swagger, but there will be a bold confidence in our right as Christians AND Americans to support the rights of everyone — gay or straight, Christian or non-Christian — to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Supporting those freedoms — Mr. Piper’s arguments to the contrary notwithstanding — is never a mistake! A lack of boldness to do so? Well, maybe.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what does my picture say? On Wednesday, it said that I support the right of all Americans — including Christians — to freely speak their minds without fear of government oppression. On all other days, it just means that I’m a Baptist Preacher who happens to love fried chicken!

 

14 comments for “Chick-fil-A, a Baptist Preacher & Free Speech

  1. Shane Morgan
    August 2, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    Howell,

    Kathy and I went to Chick-Fil-A yesterday and ate dinner with a couple of church members as well. I’m not surprised at all that the gay community and its supporters lashed out against Dan Cathy’s statements. That’s exactly what we should expect. But I am surprised at Barnabas Piper and Denny Burk. I don’t have a legal degree, nor am I very good at precise argumentation. But here are the things I see at the heart of the issue.
    1.) An attack on the first ammendment. Our constitution grants us freedom of religion and freedom of speech, which means I should be able to live my faith outloud here in America without incurring any angst from the media or the political elite. And when those two parties rise up in opposition to Christian values, I see it as a subtle form of religious persecution, that, if left unchecked could eventually result in the disallution of those rights. Obviously, that is not the case. There is no doubt that the social tides have been moving in that direction for a long time now. We cannot let this continue to happen! To be clear, I know the media has the right to report whatever they want, even if it is sickeningly slanted; my point is that if they are as “tolerant” as they want us to believe they are, I should be able to stand for traditional Christian values without it even making a blip on their radar screne. And when governors of states begin to use their political clout to demonize a particular religious belief, I see that as a violation of the establishment clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF!”

    2.) An attack on the Lordship of Christ. When you look at what’s happening in mainstreem American culture, it seems that any religious belief system is OK now-days, except Christianity. Now, unlike the media and political arenas, free people have the right to clammor for or against anything they want. And when enough people clammor agianst something it creates a very particular social environment. In this case, the social environment is crying out for a watered-down Christianity. It really isn’t Christianity per-sa that they have a problem with, it’s a handful of the Biblical truth claims to which Christians adhere. If we were to gutt Christianity of every truth claim that flies in the face of American culture, of course they would no longer have a problem with it. But WE would certainly have a problem. Adherence to these truths is not just a hobby to us; it’s a Lorship issue. Jesus has revealed these truths and expects us to hold them dear to our hearts. We can no more throw out the biblical model for marriage, than we can throw out the great commission, or substitutionary atonement, or Christ’s bodily resurrection, or the exclusivity of the gospel. At stake here is not just the threat of a watered-down Christianity (which would be bad enough), it’s a test to see if we’re going to deny the Lorship of Jesus Christ!

    3.) Inevitable misunderstandings. We need to remember that we’re confronting a culture that exists within a naturalistic worldivew. Whenever we stand for truths that fly in the face of that worlview, there are going to be people who misunderstand our motives. The homosexuals think we’re standing against gay marriage out of hatred for gay people. (And lets be honest, there are some Christians who do so out of hatred; but that calls into question the authenticity of their faith doesn’t it?) That’s why it’s not enough just to stand for certain truths. We must share the life-changing good news of Jesus Christ, while we’re doing it. Otherwise, those who misunderstand us have no worldview context within which to make sense out of our stance, and so they jump to conclusions. Incidently, it’s never wrong to stand for truth, even if we know in advance that such a stance is going to be misunderstood. If you’ll allow me to torture a well-known metaphor, We have to provide the bath-water along with the baby. We have to provide gospel context along with the message in order for our message to be understood as love and not hate. This brings me to my last point.

    3.) Gospel witness. As Christians, we are called to proclaim the gospel in it’s entirity! If you ask me, we aren’t very good at it. Whether it’s fear, or apathy, or feelings of inadequacy, or just plain laziness, as a whole, we just don’t seem to be very good at getting the gospel out. We’re pretty good at standing for individual issues like traditional marriage, as the overwhelming lines at Chick-Fil-A’s all over the country yesterday testify. But when it comes to explaining to people how they can enter into a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, we’re falling short. I will say that if there is a grain of truth at all to Barnabas Piper’s blog post, it would be this: I’m not sure the world saw a gospel witness yesterday. That doesn’t mean that what we did was a “mistake,” as Piper so “boldly” suggests. But it does mean that what we did was incomplete. What we did yesterday was the easy part. Now that we’ve stood up for one of Christianity’s most cherished truth claims, it’s time to get our butts out there in the trenches and explain to people why we did it. And it’s becaue we serve a Savior who died for sins, was buried, rose from the grave on the third day, and invites all peoples everywhere to repent and believe. And it is HE who has revealed the truths upon which we must stand – one of those truths being marriage between a man and a woman; another being that all sinners, including homosexuals, are invited to enjoy the blessings of His kingdom through faith in His completed work and surrender to His supreme Lordship. We’ve done the easy part. Now let’s do the hard part!

    Let us continue to stand strong on every issue!!!! But let us be equally vigilent in sharing the gospel, which provides the only context within which our stance can look like what it truely is, love!

    • Shane Morgan
      August 2, 2012 at 8:16 AM

      Some silly typo’s in there. Sorry, I hate to proof read stuff!

    • August 2, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      Shane,

      Thanks for sharing this morning. Hope you and Kathy are doing well. I think you make many valid points regarding our culture, the Christian witness, the Gospel, and how all this ties in to the Chick-fil-A controversy. You maybe right that what we did yesterday was “incomplete” and that it’s time we get out in the trenches to explain what we believe and why we did what we did. I think that we are already seeing an opportunity to do that, particularly through social media like Facebook. God into a lengthy dialogue with some friends of a friend last night on FB. They are strongly pro-gay marriage and just as strongly anti-Christian (at least of the biblical variety). Gave me an opportunity to share what I believe and where my beliefs come from. I didn’t change anyone’s mind, but at least I was able to take what was given to me and try to plant seeds. I think more of these opportunities will present themselves. Eating at CFA is now done. Where do we go from here? We will be misinterpreted and our motives will be questioned. We don’t need to do things that intentionally feed into that misinterpretation or misunderstanding of motives, but neither do we (as Piper seems to suggest) do we need to be silent in the face of attacks. Speaking the truth in love is never easy. It will always be easier to just love. But, we have to keep speaking the truth, knowing that it is the truth of Jesus Christ and His Gospel that is ultimately loving, even if lost people don’t understand. Thanks again for stopping by. Keep contending for the faith! God bless,

      Howell

  2. August 2, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    Well, Howell, had I been able to get out to Chick-Fil-A, I would have dined there to make the same statement as your last paragraph. I love their chicken. My grandkids love their chicken and their waffle fries.

    Now, to me, the whole “chicken” thing is that government seeks to limit the businesses to come to our cities, it is more than the freedom of speech. Ben & Jerry’s and other businesses are pro-gay; I don’t have to purchase their products, however my city government does not have the right to discriminate against those businesses in my city.

    Right at this moment I’m watching Dr. Robert Jeffries, FBC Dallas, is on Megyn Kelly’s show on Fox News and did a marvelous job of expounding this issue. He said he’d stand beside the gay who wanted to open a church because our country gives him the right to worship as he believes. He doesn’t even care that the gays have their kiss-in. However, he sees this by Rauhm Emanuel, and mayors in other cities such as Boston and councilmen in New York, do not have the legal right to discriminate against businesses because of their religious expressions and freedom of speech. That is where we are going in America if we allow this suppression and oppression of religious voice.

    See Sally Quinn’s answer to the Chick-Fil-A issue? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/chick-fil-a-day-dont-boycott-infiltrate/2012/08/01/gJQArrGOPX_blog.html

    Great post you wrote. I’m a bit tired of people with selective protection of speech. It’s not just on the national scene, but it goes on in our own blogging system. And that is sad. Very sad. selahV

    • August 2, 2012 at 12:16 PM

      Hariette,

      Thanks for the kind words and for sharing my post on Facebook. While the attacks on Chick-fil-A coming from the radical gay rights groups, coupled with Baptists love of good fried chicken, may have created the perfect storm for a counter-protest, I do think that we are witnessing the beginnings of a new front in the ongoing culture wars. However, I believe that the new attacks, much like on CFA, will be frontal, all-out assaults on churches, Christian businesses, and Christians in general who take a stand against the rising tide of liberalism, as particularly personified in the push for same-sex marriage. What the mayors of Boston and Chicago did was to see how far they could push the envelop this time. Even thought there was resistance, they ultimately know that, just like with the Borg, “resistance is futile.” I don’t think it is, but we will continue to get hammered on this issue. It will be interesting to see how Christians respond in the days ahead, now that the hoopla surrounding the National Day of Appreciation for CFA has passed. Will we go back to our unengaged lives and become oblivious to the subtle and not-so-subtle attacks on our religious liberty and free speech that take place on a daily basis? Will we become complacent? Or, will we continue to “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints?” Thanks again for sharing. Hope you have a great day and God bless,

      Howell

  3. Max
    August 2, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    You can bet if Southern Baptists are going to draw a line in the sand on something, it will be near a piece of fried chicken! When we can get as many Christians to show up at a prayer meeting as they do for a chicken dinner, we will get somewhere in turning back the tide of moral chaos sweeping across America. “If” my people … “Then” will I.

  4. August 2, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    Max, maybe we should start catering Chick-fil-A on Wednesday nights.

    • Max
      August 3, 2012 at 8:19 AM

      Hariette, that would probably draw a bigger crowd to church on Wednesdays, but I fear that they would just eat the chicken and go home!

      I remember the good old days (I’m telling my age now) when prayer meetings used be … well, prayer meetings!! One of my most vivid memories of church as a child was sitting on the back row on Wednesday nights making spit wads out of the bulletin while the old folks prayed … and did they pray! Agonize was a better word! They wept and prayed for the pastor, sick folks, lost neighbors, wisdom for national leaders, to keep liquor stores out of town, and a host of other things. I saw many prayers answered in that little church. After awhile, I grew up, laid the spit bombs down and joined in intercession.

      I guess Southern Baptists have gotten over that kind of prayin’, since I don’t observe much anymore. My observation has been that prayer meetings in the organized church are too often just that … organized. To keep things on schedule, prayer meetings are confined to time-slots and saints are then directed to the next spot on the agenda. Sadder still, many Wednesday prayer meetings have been cancelled for lack of interest. We can’t expect God to show up on queue when we dispatch prayer by hurried duty. We ain’t going anywhere or scaring anything with that sort of prayin’. It’s time to lay the chicken leg down and put on the armor of God … yep, it’s come to that!

      “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” (Ezekiel 22:30)

      • August 3, 2012 at 9:35 PM

        Max, oh to see a Holy Ghost Awakening and witness the outpouring of God’s Spirit upon His people. May we each be convicted of a greater desire to pray for that to occur.

  5. Ivory
    August 5, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    Thank you! I so appreciate your article and your support for Christian values and our freedoms to express those in the public arena. I was so shocked by articles like Piper’s and others. They came across as arrogant and condescending–basically saying that if you are the more ‘loving’ Christian, the more thoughtful and mature believer, you would certainly not show appreciation for the Cathy’s and CFA. Presumptuous to the highest degree.
    By his rationale Christians who are members of evangelical, biblical churches should stay home for fear of offending others. After all I’m sure there are plenty of people offended every week when they drive by my church and see all those cars, all those happy people gathering. All those people at church must have gone out of their way, adjusted their schedules, maybe even showered and dressed up a little to make it to the church and probably stood around in parking lots chatting and maybe even laughing and having a good time with others.
    How offensive, right?

    • August 5, 2012 at 5:47 PM

      Ivory,

      Thanks for reading and the kind words. I do not think that Barnabas Piper was alone in his thinking and attitude. I have read several other Christian bloggers who seemed to have the same type of condescending attitude toward those who would dain to go to Chick-fil-A. Of course, much of what Christians do is offensive to the world. The Gospel is always offensive to those who are lost. I was quoted in the local paper in Las Cruces, NM about why I was at the CFA. I told them it was for the fried chicken and for the opportunity to support faith and freedom (speech and religion). I never mentioned being against anything, including so-called same-sex marriage. If Christians cannot even show support for one another — even if it is a high-profile person like Dan Cathy — then we will be relegated as Christians and Americans to the “seen, but not heard” category. I think that many, like Piper, badly missed the point. Not only that, but they arrogantly (I agree with your assessment) dismissed those who would eat at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday as somehow unenlighted rubes who were duped by Mike Huckabee and Fox News. Perhaps they should get out more from their bubble and try to understand why this touched such a nerve amoung Christians of all varieties, not just those who happen to love fried chicken 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. God bless,

      Howell

  6. Ron
    August 6, 2012 at 6:37 PM

    Great piece of writing and chicken!
    Blessings,
    Ron Hale

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