Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick-fil-Ugh

As usual, when something controversial happens, I can't help but speak my mind. Clearly I haven't learned how to keep quiet around controversy yet. And while I have plenty to say, I want to preface everything you're about to read with two facts. First, I am a Christian, by which I mean I am a Christ-follower. Second, I believe that marriage between two men or two women should be legal and fully vested with the privileges granted to heterosexual marriage by the federal government. I also think Chick-fil-A is delicious, for what it's worth.

Like many of you, I've been watching the news and listening to the dialogue concerning Chick-fil-A president and COO Dan Cathy's views on gay marriage. If no one else is going to say it, I will: this is getting out of control. In the end, your religious views or your stance on the legality of gay marriage or your thoughts on chicken are irrelevant to me. Believe what you choose to believe. To each his own, and so on. Nonetheless, I struggle to understand many of the things being shouted across the vast expanse that lies between the two sides of this issue, and it gives me an insatiable desire to rant. I hope you don't mind.

* * * * * * *

It baffles me that a certain subset of our society is convinced that allowing two men or two women in a committed relationship to marry will undermine the importance and beauty of traditional marriage. It just doesn't make sense. If you want to point fingers at someone for undermining the sanctity of marriage, you would be better off blaming the likes of Kim Kardashian and Larry King, or the blissful ignorance of young, unestablished twenty-somethings who dive headfirst into a lifelong commitment and end up drowning under a sea of expectations and immaturity. Marriage has not been treated as sacred or holy for a very, very long time, and it has nothing to do with the homosexual community; it has everything to do with people in general, and the way our culture has devalued fatherhood, family and traditional societal roles. And yes, this change in cultural expectations has led to some wonderful things, especially opportunity and greater equality for women in the workplace. But it has also taken the shine off of marriage and the family unit - something that we are only beginning to realize has significant and lasting consequences.

All that being said, since when did not supporting the legality of gay marriage make you a hateful bigot? I thought we were a free country, where charitable disagreement and rational dialogue were the hallmark of our society. Though I disagree with them, the social conservatives in this country who believe that marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples have every right to think that way. Among the many, many social conservatives I know, very few of them - I could count them on one hand - decry the legality of gay marriage because they hate gay people. Rather, the vast majority of this group is disturbed - even frightened - by the significant movement away from traditional values in the last two decades. These "traditionalists" see a change in the definition of marriage as the proverbial straw breaking the camel's back. If anything, the passion we see among social conservatives and religious fundamentalists on the issue of gay marriage has little to do with how they feel about gay people and is rather a reaction to the societal changes which have already taken place in the last twenty years, an evolution which has discounted the family, challenged moral assumptions and questioned the legitimacy of their beliefs. Again, I disagree with their stance on the issue, but I understand where they are coming from.

The real irony in this whole situation is the way the liberal community has approached this entire situation. You would expect a group that constantly preaches tolerance to be tolerant of opposing viewpoints. And you would be wrong. Instead of responding to Mr. Cathy's views with respectful disagreement and creating positive dialogue, like rational and tolerant people would do, the political left has responded with anger and vitriol. Oh, you want examples? Sure!
"[T]here is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it."
-Thomas Menino, Mayor of Boston

"Anyone who eats S*** Fil-A deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating antibiotic filled tortured chickens 4Christ."
-Roseanne Barr, "Comedian"

"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."
-Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago
Intolerance. Blatant and juicy. It would be funny if it weren't so predictable. And again, I agree with them on the issue at large. It's just that their blatant hypocrisy - preaching tolerance while displaying abusive intolerance - is all sorts of arrogant.

Having said that, my sense is that the vitriol being displayed by the left toward Chick-Fil-A doesn't have much to do with gay marriage at all. Rather, it seems as though the underlying disagreement is simply a political one, left-right at its core. Don't believe me? Let's play a little game. I'm going to give you two quotes, and you get to tell me who said them. Good luck.
“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian — for me — for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”
-Person A

"We are very much supportive of...the biblical definition of the family unit... We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families."
-Person B
If you weren't able to figure it out, Person A is Barack Obama, who said the above quote while running for president in 2008. Person B is Dan Cathy, whose statement this month set the world on fire. What's the difference? One has the undying support of the left, while the other has long been written off as a right-wing fundamentalist crazy person. And while liberals and the media would never admit it, that difference alone is more than enough for them to justify GLTBQ proposed boycotts of Chick-fil-A, mayors of major cities blacklisting the company, and for Hollywood to once again tell us what we are allowed to believe.

The point, I guess, is that there really should be no story here. As is often the case, the problems begin when a story fits squarely within the narrative being handed to us by one side of the political conversation or the other. In this case, there are two narratives being tossed around: on one hand, we're being told that Christians hate gay people and want them to burn in hell, or something like that; on the other, the narrative is that letting gay people get married will destroy the very fabric of our society and drag us into an amoral abyss. And as usual, the narrative is a gross misrepresentation of reality. On both sides.

Our job, as charitable and rational individuals, is to seek and embrace truth. If we can do so at the expense of the narrative, all the better. The sooner and more fully we recognize the motives behind the narrative, the better equipped we will be to see through the exaggeration and spin being shoved down our throats by politicians and the media. Once we reject the narrative in favor of truth, audacious goals as indefinable as hope and change become strangely tangible and achievable. They become the way forward. And in a world so broken and divided, isn't that exactly what we need?

And so on...

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