Poor Chick-fil-A. With Gawker and Gizmodo, Chicago, Boston, and half the blog-o-sphere tearing them to pieces, I almost feel bad getting on the bandwagon, but the company is digging themselves an unnecessary hole that serves as a lesson to all corporations who purport to stand for values beyond profit.
In case you haven’t heard, a fracas has erupted following statements made by Chick-fil-A’s founder Dan Cathy against the legality of gay marriage (yes, there are still people who can’t deal with the idea of gays getting married). Additionally, the company has donated large sums of money to various groups trying to maintain a legal ban on same-sex marriage, pushing for constitutional changes in state government, among other things.
I’ve never actually eaten at a Chick-fil-A. I’m told it’s quite tasty, for a chain. Like California’s beloved In-n-Out Burger, the company makes no secret of it’s Christian faith, and I don’t have a problem with that at all. As Eddie Izzard so eloquently points out, Jesus was probably a pretty groovy kind of guy with some positive, peaceful ideas until he was murdered by Roman fascists.
For example, on the positive idea side, Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays. Whether you’re religious or not, taking a break from a 24/7 workaholic life is a very good thing, and it’s bold and commendable for a company to voluntarily shut down for a day. One would assume a day of closure would lead to lost revenue, but I’m willing to bet it’s quite the opposite – it might earn the company respect from employees and the community at large who are likely to return another day. More companies could benefit by giving everyone a break. Beyond that, there are plenty of other Christian values that are well worth practicing in life and business – forgiveness, love, humility… the majority of what Jesus preached are good lessons for a civilized society. But Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, and certainly nothing about denying anyone’s right to get married.
Yes, for reasons that are very hard to understand, some people are so terrified of the idea of being gay, that they have twisted their own Christian values (with a sprinkling of bizarre Old Testament rants) to reinforce their own fear of something that is in no way whatsoever an actual threat to them, or Christianity, or marriage.
Chick-fil-A’s management wants to use their fortunate position as a successful company to espouse Christian values. This is all well and good, and in keeping with a sound CSR policy, until the “values” start to become, in fact, un-Christian, unrealistic, and based on paranoid nonsense.
Sorry, but it really is that simple. Dan Cathy, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and others are just plain wrong and frankly un-Christian in their understanding of homosexuality. It’s perplexing and I’d need to invite a psychologist in to explain it, but these folks’ otherwise well-intentioned values are being twisted to manifest precisely the opposite of real Christian love.
Anyway, most likely nothing illegal is happening here. Therefore the moves by Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno and Boston’s Mayor to block Chick-fil-A from opening in their cities are somewhat dubious and probably wouldn’t hold up in court (it may actually be counter-productive). But the outrage being leveled at the company is justified, and will likely take a bite out of their reputation and profits – maybe a lot more than they realize.
As the company and its defenders double-down on their position they only dig themselves deeper into a hole they have no chance of getting out of without doing a real self-examination of what their values really mean – and opening a real dialogue with a community that is more diverse than they seem to understand. Doing so would likely change their minds and save them a lot of money and grief.
It’s almost as if God is punishing the company. Pity they don’t seem to notice.