Dixie Chick-Fil-Ayed

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37)

All I could do today, when I saw pictures of the crowds surrounding Chick-Fil-As, is weep.

I went on a long walk, and still couldn’t shake the pounding headache and tears. I mean, it was a huge headache that would not leave me. And real tears, as I walked along the creek last night, by moonlight.

I weep for my nation…
…that so many people are so driven by fear
…that so many of them don’t even see it
…that they have cloaked their fear in the Bible and Constitution.

Junk food is junk food, whether it’s a chicken sandwich or homophobic theology based on a misreading of God’s word. It may make you feel good today. It may make you feel like you’ve “defended”…something…I’m still not clear what. But it’s still junk food. Eat it today; be hungry tomorrow.

I weep for this.

I weep for LGBT friend too. Friends like a gay member of Northaven, who saw his own niece post a Facebook picture of her two-year-old daughter, strapped into her carseat, big Chick Fil A cup in hand, and a picture captioned “Showing Our Support.”

Support for what? Support for who? Does she even realize how this sounds?

Or, I think of Daryn, who wrote this aching, and painful, status update:

“Seeing all the cars lined up at Chick-Fil-A…
My neighbors? People I attend church with? The other parents on our sons’ sports teams? Have they just been polite to our faces all these years? But when they feel empowered to band together to say, “Hell yeah! Me, too!” they jump at the chance?

What’s next? Will they feel empowered to openly snub us? Free speech, you know. Will they bully our sons or look the other way when it happens? Will they try to oust us from our home? It’s legal, you know. Try to get us fired from our jobs? That’s legal, too. Is this what fear feels like?

Oh, right. I shouldn’t take this personally. Think about how you would feel if thousands of people were celebrating the effort to break apart your family, to separate you from your children. Yes, I take it very, very personally. And I feel sick.

It makes me sick too. It gives me a headache, just re-reading this again. Because I know she’s right. I know this is real. This is exactly what fear feels like. Only, it’s very clear so many don’t see it. Which makes me weep.

But, as with all junk food and junk theology, the next day you’re left with the question: “Now what?”

The day after you stand defiantly in the Chick-Fil-A line, you’ve got to go back to work with your LGBT coworkers, face your LGBT friends and family, and explain to your children (who increasingly disagree with you) just what you think you accomplished by eating waffle fries, given the clear evidence that the corporation in question gives $$$ to causes that harm LGBT persons.

Good luck with that.
I pray for you all, really I do.

And I weep –like Jesus wept for Jerusalem– for our nation. Not just for LGBT people. Our nation.

Whether it is clear to you or not, God is converting the hearts and minds of many, many people on the issue of homosexuality. This is true conversion of the heart, like any “Road to Damascus” experience you can name.

The Holy Spirit of God has already shown –and is showing more people every day– that the Bible does not condemn loving same gender relationships in general; or homosexual persons in their personhood.

More and more Christians, many clergy, whole denominations in fact, are coming to understand this. God is working on the hearts of minds of the American people, much like God worked on our hearts regarding slavery in the 1800s, or “mixed marriage” in the 1950s. Thanks be to God for that!

I have every faith that one day, this nation will rise above its Bible and Constitution-clouded bigotry. The truth of the Holy Scriptures is that the Bible says nothing negative at all about loving same-gender relationships. (The best short summary of this I have ever found was written by theologian, Dr. John Holbert, here).

I have said, in other places, that it is far beyond time for the Church of Jesus Christ to explicitly separate itself from  hateful theology, rhetoric, and actions toward LGBT persons. I said this most stridently several years ago now, during the period of the bullying of several LGBT youth.

I suggested that to NOT separate from such theologies and spiritual practices, means that Christ’s Church gives tacit permission to bullies and violent homophobes.

If you’d like, you can read it here.

But, Chick-Fil-A has, in fact, been known to fund groups that are explicitly anti-gay. Groups that have been classified as “hate groups.” So, when you prop up your baby with a Chick-Fil-A cup on her car seat, just how do you expect your gay relative to react to that?

Yes, you have the right to do that. You have the right to eat their waffle fries. But, dear God, why? Why do you feel compelled to do so, when you know it causes pain? How is that loving your neighbor, your relative, your friend?

A friend of mine(1) suggested a metaphor I am sure will anger many. But, to me, it rings deeply true. In a way, Chick-Fil-A has become something of a “Confederate Flag.” {UPDATE: See note #3 below}

Bear with me…

Sure, it’s just a flag. You say you see it as a symbol of “states rights” or your own history. But most Americans have come to understand that this flag also has painful and hurtful association. And while some still fly it with some kind of strange “pride,” many others choose not to, out of respect for the human beings that are harmed by it’s message.

But I am also drawn to another painful time, when fear was thick in the air, and people felt the need to take misguided action in defense of…something….

As I think of Chick-Fil-A, I also remember The Dixie Chicks. Remember that mess? Recall the vitriol spilled out at them? The death threats? Radio stations and large multinational media companies sponsored parties where people brought their Dixie Chick CDs, piled them high, and ran over them with a tractor.

And for what?

Because, apparently, in that case “free speech” was not a right for The Dixie Chicks. But it is now?
Huh…

Please note: in both cases…Chick-Fil-A and The Dixie Chicks…it is a lethal combination of conservative religion and politics driving the events as they unfolded. Let’s be clear, “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” did not happen without the driving power of conservative politics and religion.

Mike Huckabee is to Chick-Fil-A what Clear Channel was to the Dixie Chicks. Those with ears, let them hear.

I mean, just look around you. Look at what both sides are actually doing. Do you see gay people piling up Chick-Fil-A bags and setting them on fire? Running over them with a backhoe?

Of course you don’t.

In fact, quite the opposite. All you hear folks saying “Show your support for LGBT persons: Don’t eat there.” That’s it.

All we are saying –LGBT folks, and their allies like me– is this: know that this company’s policies, the statements of their leader, speak of real harm done to real human beings. This is far beyond the free speech of one man, or one company. The Chick-Fil-A founder has every right to his opinion. And, I suppose you can go eat there, if you like.

But, why? Why do it?

If Chick-Fil-A = The Confederate Flag, then why do it?

Waving that flag, scarfing that sandwich, are about more than just free speech. They are about how we choose to love (or not love) our neighbors as ourselves. They are about seeing all Americans as your neighbors. The true Christian way would be to avoid harmful, hurtful actions…even if you don’t agree with homosexuality.(2)

Not shoving your rejection of them in their face, by shoving a sandwich in yours.
————————————

Jesus wept for Jerusalem, mostly because the city would not listen to prophets, because far too often it shunned the outsider, and refused to live out the command to love God, self and neighbor.

To the best of our knowledge, Jesus didn’t eat chicken sandwiches. But in the midst of his tears, he once dreamed of gathering up the people like a mother hen gathers in her chicks.
But, apparently, the people would not listen, or did not see.

I think the tears I have also come from stepping back, and looking at the long-view. A Facebook friend(3) has re-edited this picture, currently making the rounds. I find it to be right on:

“Imagine how you are going to look in forty years.”

That’s something worth praying and meditating over.

I believe this: One day, the children, or maybe the grandchildren, of those who stood in line today, will go to a church and ask God’s forgiveness for what their parents and grandparents have done.

To all who ate a sandwich today…
Hope you enjoyed it.
I guess it made you proud, somehow.
I guess it made you feel like you did something important.

All it made me do was weep.
———————————–

CODA: This blog is now, officially, the most-read single blog ever on my site. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about it. I’ve also gotten some push-back from folks I admire, who believe that, both here and on Facebook, I went too far. (See the note #3 below for a specific, important, example…)

I intend to back of the whole Chick-Fil-A discussion for a while, and possibly forever. I continue to pray for everybody on all sides of the issue.

(1) Thanks to Eric Schwartz for the metaphor.
(2) For us Methodists, you could make a strong argument that supporting Chick-Fil-A violates our “General Rule” to “Do No Harm.”
(3) Several people whose opinions I deeply respect (Interestingly, one white, one black, and one latino) have pushed back hard on this analogy concerning the Confederate Flag. Especially an African-American colleague who suggested that the history of hate, fear, beatings, and murders associated with that flag cannot come close to a chicken store.
Point taken. And understood. I think it’s quite valid. My intention here (and I knew it would be provocative) was to speak to those flocking to Chick-Fil-A. Because, whether their reasons are entirely conscious or not, it’s clear to me that they also saw this as more than just about sandwiches.
I am thinking specifically, of uses of the Confederate flag during my own childhood in the 1970s. Many white southerners clung to that flag for any number of very varied reason. Not all were hardened racists, by any means. But they chose to embrace a symbol that others found deeply offensive.
This is the same feeling I have about Chick-Fil-A now….it feels like an intentional clinging to something *known* to be hurtful to others, for perhaps just as mixed a number of reason. Only in this limited metaphorical sense, does even talking about the Confederate flag make “sense”here. Metaphorically, people are having a similar metaphorical reaction to Chick-Fil-A.
I want everybody to know that I almost edited out this whole section. However, in this limited, metaphorical sense, and by no means disregarding the real pain the Confederate flag causes, I have left it in.
(4) Thanks to Cathy Gould for editing out the “stupid.” I feel much better about using it now.

(As always, if you like this post, then “share it” or “like” it on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too…)

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

3 thoughts on “Dixie Chick-Fil-Ayed

  1. CFA has given over $5 million to groups the Southern Poverty Law Center disignates as hate groups. Among Chick-Fil-A’s benefactors is Exodus International, infamous advocates for discredited and harmful "ex-gay" reparative therapy. The American Family Association and the Family Research Council also receive Chick-Fil-A dollars and are both Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate groups with close ties to those calling for the execution of gay people in Africa. Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/gaysouthflorida/2012/08/equality-florida-chick-fil-a-has-donated-more-than-5-million-to-groups-that-dehumanize-lgbt-people.html#storylink=cpy

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