A few years ago, Mr. Cathy would have been heralded as a model citizen for such comments. Nearly every study on economic, physical, emotional, and social well-being shows that the key factor is a stable family, including this one in The New York Times on July 14, 2012. For years, the Cathy family has put their money where their mouths are. Since the founding of the company, Chick-Fil-A has been closed on Sundays so that employees can go to church and spend time with families. They have started orphanages, supported family causes, and have engaged personally in helping others in numerous ways. Aren’t these the kind of good citizens we want? Apparently not.
Dan Cathy’s words have started a firestorm across the country. Mayor Tom Menino has vowed to block Chick-Fil-A from opening a restaurant in Boston because he doesn’t want a restaurant in the city “that discriminates against a population” (Never mind the fact that Chick-Fil-A does not discriminate in either its serving or hiring people of different views). Chicago city Alderman, Joe Moreno has now vowed to block the opening of a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in his ward because of his stance. Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, supported him, saying, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”
This controversy is interesting on a number of levels:
1) A generation ago, a company that supported gay marriage would find it difficult to do business in most of America. Today, any company led by someone who opposes gay marriage finds it difficult to do business.
2) A generation ago, homosexuality was considered immoral. Today, the belief that homosexuality is immoral is considered to be immoral.
3) This raises a frightening question: are we becoming a country where the government can ban or punish companies for their religious views? Some politicians in Boston and Chicago think that it is their moral duty to punish those who hold to biblical values. Isn’t this a form of fascism? Shouldn’t both liberals and conservatives be outraged at such actions? It should be noted that there have been both supporters of traditional marriage and supporters of gay-marriage who have said that the response of these politicians violates the Constitution. What is frightening is how many people have expressed their support. If a company can be threatened because of the religious views of its owner, then exactly what does the First Amendment protect?
The controversy raises a larger issue for Christians: What does it mean for us to live out our faith in the world? It seems that our culture has no problem with Christians holding certain religious beliefs, as long as these beliefs do not intrude into the real world. Sadly, we are often far too happy to accommodate. We have privatized our faith.
Some of this has come from a false understanding of tolerance. As Christians, we are in favor of tolerance. Anyone familiar with history knows that Christians have suffered from intolerant political systems. Fox’s Book of Martyrs is just one place where one might read of this, or just read the news of what is happening to Christians in northern Africa. So, we believe that various religious views should be tolerated.
However, tolerance does not mean that all religious views are equally valid. Yet, our culture says that it is wrong to say that anyone’s religious views are wrong. It is immoral to declare another person’s views immoral. The result of this is that our Christian faith has become in the words of one historian, “socially irrelevant, even if privately engaging.” Os Guinness, in his interesting book, The Gravedigger Files, calls this the Private Zoo Factor. He explains it like this: Let’s say that we are aware that a particular species like the Florida Panther is going extinct. We think, "Something must be done to preserve this species." So someone develops a program to breed them in captivity. The problem is this; how wild is a Florida Panther that is born, lives and dies in captivity? Have we truly preserved it? Guinness points out that we have done the same thing to our faith. We have put it in the "religious" sector of our life, but it has no impact on how we live. We have put our faith in a zoo where it cannot confront the "real world."
Increasingly, we find that our culture will tolerate our Christianity as long as we keep it in our private zoo. We are allowed to talk about it on Sundays in the privacy of our own sanctuaries. However, it will not be tolerated to bring it out in public. Holding Christians convictions is tolerable. Practicing them or speaking of them is totally unacceptable.
We have seen this before and, if Jesus tarries, we will see this again. This opposition to Christian living by the culture and by governments is not new but has been true throughout the church age. While we have not faced this sort of government pressure in the United States before, this has been normal throughout history and around the world. Jesus told us that it would be this way.
Matthew 10:24-26 24 "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. 26 "So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
In my next post, I will explain the connection between the Chick-Fil-A Controversy and the Mark of the Beast.