Thousands and thousands and thousands of people proudly lined up to support Mike Huckabee’s “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” yesterday. By all accounts, it was a successful campaign, perhaps one of Huckabee’s most memorable actions, a deed that might warrant etching “#ChickFilA” on his tombstone so future Americans will learn of the greatness that occurred on August 1, 2012.
Many of yesterday’s appreciators were born again Christians, people who, I can only assume, claim to love God, put their trust in Jesus, and have a desire that all people hear and experience the Good News of Christ. That fact alone changes the headline of what happened yesterday.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Chick-Fil-A owners felt loved, made lots of money, and greatly appreciated the somewhat positive press they received all day long. And yes, Mike Huckabee has reason to be proud (dare I say, even cocksure?) of the influence he wields to get Americans to buy chicken. Those CFA cows no doubt love Mike Huckabee!
So good for Chick-Fil-A! And three cheers for Mike Huckabee! And good tidings of great joy to cows everywhere.
Yet, amid all of that CFA-appreciating success, the Church (at least, the part that exists here in America) failed miserably. Every member of the Church isn’t to blame, of course. Many individual churches and denominations played no role whatsoever in promoting yesterday’s Great Chicken Awakening. Some Christians, churches, and denominations even tried to throw a social media wrench into the festivities. Some of those attempts went viral and garnered a great deal of attention. But still, chicken-loving Christians everywhere rallied behind CFA yesterday. The crowds were so big that you might have thought that Chick-Fil-A was giving away free iPads or Cabbage Patch Dolls or freshly fallen manna from Heaven. And while lots of Christians chose not to participate for various reasons, many did and the Church as a whole suffered.
Yesterday’s campaign, while I don’t think it should be considered or called “hate,” neither can it be called love. Christians all over America ignored the second greatest commandment: to love our neighbors. Call yesterday what you want, freedom of speech, a rally behind “family values,” a sincere fascination with CFA’s brand of fried poultry… but it cannot be called love. It was not love.
People felt hate and we ignored that. At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not your Christian understanding of scripture harbors hate or not, a large group of people felt hated. Again, we can debate this point all day long, but that does not change the fact that people felt hatred because of what happened yesterday. Whether or not hate actually existed is not the point, people felt hated. And rather than acknowledging those feelings or trying to understand or engage them in any way, Christians everywhere marched off to their local CFA like it was a cross to bear, a necessity, a battle cry of some sort, the waffle fry’s last stand.
By rallying behind CFA, Christians put an issue above people. And it’s impossible to follow Jesus when issues trump people. Jesus never said “love God, love causes.” That is not the message that gets preached in churches all over America on Sunday mornings. I’ve heard a hundred different explanations from patrons of yesterday’s rally and nearly every one of them gives precedence to “the cause”. We can’t embrace love, mercy, hope, and peace when our causes (or a place of business) trumps people.
Once again, the mass actions of Christians built another wall of distrust between the Church and the GLBTQ communities. Nobody was surprised that the CEO of CFA is against gay marriage. Nobody was surprised that Mike Huckabee made the decision to rally support behind CFA. And nobody was surprised that Christians took Huckabee’s words as marching orders, leading the charge with more passion, delight, and Instagram pictures than what we express for so many more important issues facing this country. If Mike Huckabee had declared yesterday “Homeless Appreciation Day,” would the response have been even half as large and loud? Yes, I know; that’s an unfair question. But we’re Christians, so we’re very familiar with the use of unfair questions to make a point.
Once in a while, our culture needs to be surprised by how much we love people–all people. Once in a while, our culture needs to be overwhelmed with joy that we are involved in the greater story. Once in a while, our culture needs to see us being a part of the solution and not the problem. But yesterday? There were no surprises. And no surprises only builds more distrust, not peace, not grace, not hope, and not love.
Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people. Oh I know that most Christians will say, “I don’t hate gay people!!”
But did supporting CFA Appreciation Day prove that?
Trust me, I understand that most people who ate chicken sandwiches at CFA yesterday did not do that as an act of hate. I get that. And that’s cool and all, but did the act of going out of your way to CFA prove that to be true? Do you think that the GLBTQ communities believe you? Would you, if you were gay, believe you?
Now before you answer that, remember that yesterday’s CFA Love Day was just one action in a long line of many. Because let’s face it: Christians go WAY out of their way to “hate the sin”–i.e., by voting against gay marriage, voting against civil unions, voicing their angst about gay people adopting children (just to list a few). Is it possible that Christians lose the ability to truly “love the sinner” because they’re so busy “hating the sin”? Do Christians put anywhere near the energy into “loving the sinner” as they do “hating the sin”?
All I know is that the GLBTQ communities are becoming quite used to feeling unloved by Christians. And with good reason.
How many times do we hear Christians say something like, “I don’t hate gay people. I may not agree with their lifestyle. But I don’t hate them… ”
If you were gay, would you believe that? Think about it. Would you feel loved by somebody if they included rules, context, and/or explanations about your lifestyle every time they spoke about how much they don’t hate you? Only when talking about gay people do Christians feel the need to preface their “love” or “non-hate” with some variation of “I don’t agree with your lifestyle, but…” Christians don’t talk about any other group of people like that–only gay people.
So, I want to believe Christians when they say “I don’t hate gay people.” But sometimes proof of that is necessary. And yesterday did not prove that. Honestly, yesterday proved little more than how shallow Christians can be sometimes.
Not only did supporting CFA Appreciation Day declare that Christians believe that an issue is more important than people, that declaration was made by the mass consumption of junk food. That fact doesn’t need a punch line. It is a punch line.
Yes, on some level, yesterday was successful. I’m sure that today CFA feels really loved. And I’m sure Mike Huckabee feels loved, too. And I’m sure lots of people, many Christians included, feel great pride for supporting the cause. But there’s also a large group of people, good people, people you might disagree with, that today, feel really unloved.
If it’s true that Christians don’t hate gay people, today would be a really good day to prove it.
Posted by Matthew on Thursday, August 2, 2012