Understanding the new tolerance regime
By Ed Vitagliano
A Christian businessman told a Christian newspaper that he believes in traditional marriage, and that when a nation defies God it runs the risk of incurring His judgment. Not exactly a startling revelation, but it shook the culture wars in America for nearly three weeks.
The businessman was Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy, and in a July 16 interview with Baptist Press, Cathy said he made no apologies for the company’s support of traditional marriage.
“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit,” he said.
As Baptist Press noted, Chick-fil-A has been one of the country’s most successful businesses, with more than 1,600 fast food outlets and sales exceeding $4 billion in 2011. The company is certainly doing something right.
Cathy believes the company’s success is due, in part, to the fact that Chick-fil-A operates on biblical principles.
The fast food chicken chain is not the only company that tries to stay close to the biblical line.
Fox News noted that other companies – such as Tyson Foods, Interstate Batteries, In-N-Out Burger and Hobby Lobby – were also founded by Christians and have no problem letting the faith of those founders shine publicly.
You don’t belong here
Such acknowledgements rarely cause a stir, but Cathy went further than simply declaring the company’s dedication to Christian ethics and biblical business practices.
Cathy touched the golden calf of 2012: Same sex marriage. And his refusal to genuflect before the idol is what ignited the firestorm that followed.
Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno told the Chicago Tribune that Cathy’s comments were “bigoted” and “homophobic” and he promised the company a comeuppance.
“Because of this man’s ignorance, I will now be denying Chick-fil-A’s permit to open a restaurant in the 1st Ward,” which is under Moreno’s jurisdiction as alderman.
Moreno’s attitude was echoed by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston mayor Thomas Menino.
“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston,” Menino told the Boston Herald. “You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”
There was more fallout for Chick-fil-A. The Jim Henson Co. – creator of “The Muppets” – decided to drop all future deals with the fast food company.
Customers voted with their wallets, however. After the controversy exploded, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee called for an August 1 “buycott” in support of Chick-fil-A. So many people around the country participated that the company said in a statement: “While we don’t release exact sales numbers, we can confirm reports that it was a record-setting day.”
Some people might be confused about the hullabaloo over Dan Cathy’s comments. What’s the big deal? It’s not as if companies haven’t taken a stance on the issue of same sex marriage before.
While that’s true, the fact of the matter is that those companies have all come out in favor of same sex marriage.
In July, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and current company CEO Steven A. Ballmer each gave $100,000 to the effort to legalize gay marriage in Washington, where voters will pull the lever on a ballot initiative in November.
That seemed like a hefty sum at the time, but later that month, Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Seattle-based Amazon, and his wife MacKenzie gave $2.5 million to the effort.
According to the Seattle Times, other national firms headquartered in the more liberal Northwest – Starbucks, Microsoft and Nike – have also publicly stated their support for gay marriage.
Support is not limited to that area of the country. A November ballot initiative in Minnesota that would ban same sex marriage drew the opposition of General Mills, a Fortune 500 food company based in the state.
Texas-based J.C. Penney hired lesbian comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson, despite her vocal support of homosexual marriage and her opposition to the 2008 California ballot initiative Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriage.
And Oreo, a division of Illinois-based Kraft Foods, caused a small controversy when its Facebook page featured the image of an Oreo cookie with rainbow-layered filling piled high to observe Gay Pride week in June.
End of discussion
The arguments used by companies to validate their support of gay causes all run down the same trails, but they represent a sea change in morality in America that has occurred over the last 50 years or so.
Starbuck’s rationale for supporting gay marriage in Washington state says it all. In a memo to employees from Kalen Holmes, executive vice president of Partner Resources, she outlined the reasons for Starbuck’s stance.
“We are deeply dedicated to embracing diversity and treating one another with respect and dignity, and remain committed to providing an inclusive, supportive and safe work environment for all of our partners,” the memo stated. Holmes also said the company will always advance “policies that promote equality and inclusion.”
The presuppositions in Holmes’ memo are not only widely shared but deeply entrenched in the nation’s moral psyche. Diversity is an over-arching good, and all beliefs are to be held as equally valid. As a result of this accepted truism, to offend someone by discounting his or her beliefs – using absolute morality as a yardstick – is to commit a grave offense.
Even worse, however, is when someone uses a particular moral viewpoint to limit someone else’s personal options. This is how Starbuck’s views the push to protect traditional marriage: It is an attempt to restrict the rights of homosexuals to marry.
Of course, the Starbucks memo doesn’t express why homosexuals have the right to marry – nor would Kalen Holmes ever feel the need to prove such an assumption. Why? Because for the secular left the only argument against same sex marriage is rooted in religion or some faction’s morality, and those no longer count.
For example, when Google came out in 2008 against Proposition 8, Sergey Brin, the company’s co-founder, posted an explanation on the company’s official blog. “While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality,” Brin said.
In other words, the “issue of equality” trumps all other considerations, including religion. End of discussion.
Such an attitude represents the triumph of secularism, which permanently detaches ideas like equality, liberty and fundamental rights from religious foundations. This would be anathema to our Founding Fathers.
Men now determine what these concepts mean and to whom they apply. Liberty, for example, is granted to those who support same sex marriage; but for companies like Chick-fil-A, according to the mayors of Boston and Chicago, not so much.
Christians get busy
There can be no doubt that America will continue to become more polarized over cultural issues in the years to come. After all, there are two irreconcilable worldviews colliding like tectonic plates in our society, and the result is a cultural earthquake.
The homosexual movement doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s connected to the secularist movement and the sexual revolution – both of which view human sexuality, marriage and family in a way that is fundamentally different from the age old Judeo-Christian view. And that’s the clash. That’s the earthquake.
For the foreseeable future, Christians are going to have to deal with the fact that if they remain faithful to biblical truth, they will be marginalized, insulted and, as in the case of Chick-fil-A, even threatened with punishment.
Money talks, of course, and as the controversy over Dan Cathy’s comments also showed, Christians can bring big bucks to bear on social issues.
However, the time has long since passed when Christians could simply let their boycott or buycott dollars do the talking.
On his blog, Virginia pastor Jesse Johnson insisted that Christians had also better arm themselves for the deeper conflict represented by the fast food fight over gay marriage. To be effective and persuasive witnesses to biblical truth, Christians must take the time to study what the Bible actually teaches.
“This requires discipline and biblical literacy, and quite frankly eating chicken is simply easier,” Johnson said. “Don’t be fooled into thinking that what you say is less important than the restaurant in which you say it.”