Why eating at Chick-fil-A isn’t the same as taking communion

Branson Parler

Tamara Hill Murphy
July 31, 2012

Well said, Branson. Thank you for sharing this perspective.

July 31, 2012

I agree with you. You can't see the world in black and white and demonize the other side because they don't agree with you, and blindly supporting the "conservative agenda" is idolatry. Thank you for naming it what it is.

James Gilmore
July 31, 2012

I take issue with your suggestion that some acts are inherently apolitical.

The choices we make about what we eat, what media we watch, what we buy, are inherently and always political choices, using a more expansive definition of the "political" in terms of the "polis"—anything implicating questions of how we organize and maintain society—rather than the narrow "partisan" usage.

When one buys a sandwich at Chik-Fil-A, one provides material support to a number of political (in the expansive definition) viewpoints—not just Dan Cathy's opposition to LGBT equality, but also to American currency as valuable, to meat-eating, to CFA's payment and treatment of their workers—in short, to the systems in which Chik-Fil-A exists. Buying a farmer's market tomato, a McDonald's burger, or a $100 bottle of wine is a similarly political act.

It seems to me that separating justice concerns from consumption is making one place in our lives off-limits to Christ—which, given the role of consumption practices in perpetuating injustice toward our fellow children of God, is rather troubling.

But again, that's not limited to CFA—we should examine whether everything we consume is in line with our justice commitment through Christ.

Separate out partisan Culture Wars? Sure. Separate out politics entirely to pull consumption outside of morality? Never. We've already allowed for-profit "business" to present itself as amoral, to our shame; let's not do that with our own personal "business" as well.

July 31, 2012

"Have believers allowed political allegiances/ideologies to take precedence over a Christian worldview?"

I think we have, and we've done this for a very long time. Remember the boycott movements of yesteryear where churches would produce lists of companies to boycott because somewhere in their supply chain was something "un-Christian"?

But then, the other side has the same behavior. I've seen plenty of comments in pop media that notes if you're for gay marriage, you're not going to eat at Chik-Fil-A.

Guilty by association is all this really is about. People assume that if you associate with a certain crowd, you're one of them... even if you only partially agree (or don't agree at all!).

"What would an attitude of shalom look like in the midst of the American culture wars?"

Simple: we integrate into culture as much as we can, we intentionally build relationships with God's creation that don't submit to His Holy Ways, and work to show them the true God.

July 31, 2012

What James said. Also said here: http://www.patrolmag.com/2012/07/25/david-sessions/bad-reasons-to-eat-more-chick-fil-a/

James Gilmore
August 1, 2012

"Guilty by association is all this really is about. People assume that if you associate with a certain crowd, you're one of them... even if you only partially agree (or don't agree at all!)."

While there is a lot of "guilt by association" in our national political rhetoric, I really don't think this is an example of that... because this situation is one in which those who buy a chicken sandwich from Chik-fil-A aren't just "associating" with the opponents of LGBT civil rights, they're materially supporting that opposition.

Part of every dollar spent at Chik-fil-A ends up in Dan Cathy's wallet, as he's the president and COO and owns a third of the company—and he's indicated that he not only opposes LGBT civil rights, he also donates funds to organizations that spearhead political opposition to LGBT civil rights.

That takes it beyond "guilt by association," in my opinion, to a place where if I ate at Chik-fil-A, I would be giving money to organizations who push the view that my gay and lesbian friends aren't full human beings entitled to equal rights.

August 1, 2012

It wasn't Christians who were making a big issue about this. Those who were somehow surprised that a restaurant that is closed on Sundays might embody other Christian ideologies were the ones who got upset. I see nothing wrong with defending a Christian point of view. I agree that we don't need to seek out services based on their beliefs, or seek to know the beliefs of those who provide a service to us. However, if we are to learn those beliefs and they are in direct opposition to our Christian beliefs, I think it's ok to make a PERSONAL decision as to whether or not to continue to receive those services.

Branson Parler
August 1, 2012

Thanks for the responses, especially James. To clarify, I don't think I suggested that any acts are inherently apolitical (in fact, I would argue quite the opposite). Rather, there are more to certain acts than what you would see if you looked through the framework provided by the culture wars. So, James, I would certainly agree that all our acts are political in the expansive term. What I'm arguing is that weaponizing a chicken sandwich in the culture wars actually distracts us from the real political, ethical, and economic issues going on in (for example) eating fast food, and that those choices should not be politicized, as though a just wage or treatment of animals is somehow a partisan issue. That is, it distracts us from recognizing that there is such a thing as the common good. I would, however, argue that issues such as food ethics, just wage, etc., are more intrinsically connected to eating a chicken sandwich than are the owner's views on topics that may not be directly related to his or her actual business. So, to be clear, I don't want to separate justice concerns from our consumption. I want to separate our use of goods from a cultural warrior mentality that identifies the enemy not as injustice but as my fellow humans who happen to belong to a different political party.

Eric, in response to the David Sessions article, which I think is quite helpful overall, I would question the logic that produces the equation: money = power = selfhood. Perhaps that is the way that a capitalist economy does in fact run, but Sessions' equation accepts the logic of capitalism, which I am trying to get beyond, by highlighting the fact that there are real human goods, regardless of how anyone spends their money. The logic of "vote with your money" accepts rather than questions the very system that Sessions seems to dislike, where those with the most money win all the votes, electoral or otherwise. Like Sessions, I want to keep human values in the forefront of politics and economics, but I think the way to do that is by refusing the 'culture wars' narrative, which operates primarily as a form of the will to power and ends up reducing other humans (and any legitimate goods and services they might provide) to enemies to be overcome.

Adrienne Jones
August 1, 2012

The personal is political. Every day, we vote monetarily, for the world we further.

While I understand the media attention on Chick-Fil-A, I'm baffled that BIGGER FOOD ECONOMY ISSUES are willingly dismissed by Americans.

Most chocolate produced in the world benefits from the labor of CHILD SLAVES. http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/19/child-slavery-and-chocolate-all-too-easy-to-find/

This has been clear since 2001, but Americans don't want to part with (or pay more) for this luxury good EVEN TO PREVENT CHILD SLAVERY.

While I don't agree with Dan Cathy's views on marriage, I support his First Amendment right to hold it. Does that mean I want to support him economically (and offer him more financial power to further his views)? Probably not.

I KNOW I won't be buying anything chocolate until child slaves are no longer used in its production. Because that is clearly wrong and should offend all people.

Chris Smith
August 1, 2012

Thanks, Branson...

Although I agree with your theological interpretation here, I have to wonder about the implicit economic vision: are we bound to the self-narrated economics of consumerism? (i.e., if I want to do this, I will do it, regardless). Yes, there is freedom in opting out of the culture wars, but I would argue that we should use that freedom to begin imagining and implementing local economies of care, where we know the people who produce our food and goods, and where each transaction is one of mutual care: the seller expresses care by offering quality goods at a fair price, and we return the care by paying that fair price (or even more). Neither side is out to gouge the other. As we abide over time in these local economies of care, we will build friendships in which we can eventually, and hopefully more peaceably, discuss deeply held political values. This is a slow, local and conversational approach, it focuses on making friends and not enemies.

More here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slowchurch/2012/08/01/chick-fil-a-are-boycotts-faithful-politics/

Branson Parler
August 2, 2012

Chris, thanks for the feedback. I think the kind of thing you talk about is right on track: it sees all things as gifts from God and recognizes that our use of economic resources should attempt to honor good things and good work as gifts. This is where I think it is important to differentiate between what might be a proper reason not to eat at a restaurant (it doesn't treat God's good gifts as such via problematic food ethics or unjust business practices) and an improper reason (to make a partisan point to my conservative/liberal enemies). Thus, to recognize goods as gifts rather than weapons will hopefully undermine the self-narrated economics of consumerism that you rightly raise questions about.

August 2, 2012

"because this situation is one in which those who buy a chicken sandwich from Chik-fil-A aren't just "associating" with the opponents of LGBT civil rights, they're materially supporting that opposition."

But this in and of itself is "guilty by association." You can buy a chicken sandwich from there and support homosexuality as there are gay employees that work for the company.

At the same time you can buy a book from a small mom and mom LGBT book store and support anti homosexual agendas too as somewhere along the line, somebody is making money off that purchase that is against the LGBT lifestyle.

Just because somebody buys something doesn't mean that they agree with the beliefs of the people selling the thing they're buying.

Rick Garner
August 3, 2012

Ultimately and at the end of the day, what's most important with the topic of homosexuality and gay marriage is for there to be a dialogue. A conversation. Listening on both sides. Seeing a living person and not an issue or agenda: http://www.richardtgarner.com/2012/08/embracing-sin-with-hearts-wide-shut.html

August 5, 2012

This is a great article, and reminds us of our true focus.

I put forward a similar position on my blog at christianwalktalk.com. I think Christians have become too political, and view political activity as part of their Christian service. Christ commanded us to make disciples, not win political battles. The New Testament is silent on the issue of political activity for the furtherance of our Christian society.

I think there are two issues at play here. The first is a desire by all to adhere to some type of law. They think they can change hearts by enforcing laws. God already tried this and demonstrated the failure of humans to live up to the law. The law didn't change hearts. The gospel changes hearts.

The second is a belief that the U.S.A. is some type of pre-golden age society that will usher in Christ's kingdom. These are the same people who seem to operate under the assumption that the U.S.A. is a "Christian nation." There is no such thing. There is the Church that is led by Christ, and made up of true believers.

Christ commanded the disciples to go into all nations and make disciples. If it were possible to make a "Christian nation," it would be an act of God. It would entail the making of one disciple at a time until all believed by faith, and not by coercion.

Taryn Fox
August 28, 2012

The culture war isn't some kind of football game. It's an actual war being waged by evangelical Christians against everyone they deem unworthy. And Chick-Fil-A's CEO chose to make his company a participant in the culture war, when he used its proceeds to fund their hate groups and publicly announced that he did so.

Buying from Chick-Fil-A is no longer a morally neutral act. It never was, for the other reasons you describe, but that just makes your article even more questionable. It basically says "no one should get mad at me for helping these guys who hurt LGBT persons, and for using the symbols that they have set up to represent oppression". I'm calling BS on that right now.

March 28, 2015

Loved this. This may be inappropriate but, I am including a link to a blog that I did on Chick-fil-a about the same time frame. I enjoyed your blog and think that we were saying about the same thing. I would love to get your feedback.

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