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!