I’m not Christian and biblical teachings have admittedly always struck me as a bit foreign, but the ministry mystery significantly deepened for me over the last decade, as evangelical Christianity became more visibly politically active.
In June, during a radio interview, the Atlanta-based fast food purveyor's chief operating officer, Dan Cathy, son of the founder, Truett Cathy, unapologetically voiced his opposition to same sex marriage and ignited a firestorm. His remarks brought a hailstorm of criticism. Supporters of gay unions called for boycotts and municipalities threatened bans against the company. The denunciation sparked reciprocal support from Christian leaders and well-known Christian political figures.
I get that people with a strong religious influence might be conservative on social issues, and disapproving of sinners like me, but I really don’t see how brotherhood, acceptance and Jesus’s admonition to “love one another” lines up with biblical condemnation of homosexuality.
I realize it’s important to align one’s ideological, practical and spiritual values but it confuses me when, for example, global warming becomes an environmental problem only recognized by people willing to acknowledge that the planet is millions of years old.
Where I totally understand how faith-based beliefs converge in every day values however is when they combine a strong devotion with a good business model. Where I grew up, in St. Paul’s heavily Jewish Highland Park neighborhood, Cecil’s delicatessen was practically a member of everyone’s family. On a much larger scale, Chick-fil-a has grown by participating in its community. Annual sales for the private company are reported to be over $4 billion.
The mall meal specialists have partnered with “church people” to create family events at many of their 1,600+ stores. In particular, they have tied marketing to encouraging couples to strengthen their marriages. Disappointingly, that instinct led the boss to denigrate the desire of others to consecrate theirs.
(In unfortunate timing and no doubt a grave loss for the company, Chick-fil-a’s public relations VP died suddenly within hours of the PR tsunami that Cathy’s remarks kicked off.)
It’s not clear how the controversy will affect the company’s bottom line but there’s no uncertainty that for many potential customers, the no-bones outspokenness of the COO leaves a pretty bad taste for their signature boneless sandwich.
Bonnie Goldstein is on Twitter @KickedByAnAngel.