Waffle Fries and Gospel Witness: What Just Happened?

            The recent Chick-Fil-A kerfuffle was fascinating on many levels. On the one hand, it served as a snapshot that captured many of our current cultural realities. On the other, it was a glance into the future challenges of gospel witness to that same culture.

The snapshot?

                        + Gay rights (in all its multiple expressions) remains the flashpoint values issue in our society, and is not going away any time soon.

                        + Tolerance is the primary and defining value of public discourse, but only as long as a viewpoint expressed matches the prevailing opinion of culture guardians in the  media, government and entertainment.

                        + There is tremendous confusion on the nature of the Bill of Rights’protections of free speech and religious expression – which extends far deeper into society than mere “freedom of worship”.  (Maybe somebody should mandate that we all repeat 7th grade social studies!)

                        + Because of the above, the very essence of freedom as we have known it is in peril.  It was astonishing –no, frightening — to hear elected officials calling for government action to block the very presence of a private         business in a community or on a college campus because of the moral views (not the verifiable discriminatory actions) of its owner.

                        + If we ever needed proof that a broad understanding of the moral teaching of the Bible is extinct, this is it. For most people, it appears that the           “traditional view” or “the Bible’s teaching” on marriage and sexuality is as foreign as Mandarin Chinese.

                        + Dialogue about moral values in our culture is nearly dead, buried under shouting that no longer listens, pomposity that no longer cares, and repetition of talking points that values winning arguments more than nurturing community.

                        + Christian disagreement with others’ moral values and choices is consistently interpreted as personal dislike, and even hatred.  This is mostly because we have so few genuine, loving relationships with people outside our faith bubble.

                        + Christians (especially evangelicals continue to be more passionately mobilized to action by a present threat to themselves than by the eternal threat to the spiritually far-from-God.  Let’s not fool ourselves.        Participating in a chicken-sandwich- and-waffle-fry-eating flash mob, while sending a strong signal of support for a Christian brother and perhaps for free speech, is not exactly the equivalent  of Luther nailing his 95 theses to the cathedral door or walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama at the height of the civil rights unrest in the South. 

The glimpse?

                        + Christians in the U.S. are beginning to have just a foretaste of what our persecuted brothers and sisters in less religiously free societies have been experiencing for years.  It’s not going to get better. It’s going to get even more socially acceptable for Christians to be the target of ridicule and discrimination, to be marginalized and ostracized. The world many of us grew up in, in which Christians function with “home field advantage”, is gone.

                        + The dismissive backlash against Biblically-based morality will become more blatant and belligerant.  Social media is feeding this brushfire, which arrogantly asserts that we humans have somehow morally evolved past those standards. This was starkly stated last week by WHAS Radio (Louisville, KY) afternoon drive-time personality Terry Meiners, who posted on Twitter his enthusiastic approval of his son’s take on the Chick-Fil-A issue:

                                    A lot of discriminatory customs are relics of a time when the lawmakers and the majority didn’t have or seek emotional familiarity with the largely silent suffering of neglected minorities. Discrimination, then, has become entrenched in our culture. This explains why 46% ofMississippi Republicans think interracial marriage should be illegal.                                    

                When well-read, well-traveled, or emotionally curious people like myself see what’s up, they often want to stop it. Especially in a democracy, us morally adaptive types have to drag our less cultured, more provincial peers  kicking and screaming into these new directions of expanded sympathy – not by force, but by luring them to identify with the victims that they unreflectively hurt and humiliate.

                  Part of this process is marginalizing voices like the Chick-fil-A CEO’s. No serious person is challenging his right to say those things. But all of us who speak out against him do so hoping to marginalize his voice,a voice which furthers what is obviously to us an archaic prejudice clung to by folks who naively regard their own beliefs and practices as a reflection of God’s permanent will rather than a hodgepodge of inherited historical accidents.                                    

                  We don’t want to silence Chick-fil-A. We want to purge their medieval attitudes from the spectrum of civil discourse. That’s not an attack on free speech. White separatists and segregationists don’t get invited on political debate programs because years ago, our society and our media concluded that their ideas were too radically insensitive to be given a mainstream podium.    (emphasis added)

             Apart from his philosophical viewpoint that truth is merely a generationally relative construct or “inherited historical accident”, don’t for a second think that this intent to “marginalize” and “purge” the Biblical viewpoint from public discourse is limited to this circumstance or to issues of gay marriage alone. 

                        + None of this should surprise us.  Jesus was very clear that this would happen:

                        “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word I said to you: a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”  (John 15:18-21)

                        +Faithfulness of Jesus’ disciples demands faithfulness to Jesus, the gospel and its implications in the culture and moment in which we live.  I fear that for too long we have trained for battles with straw men that have no   heart and answered questions in an isolated chamber that echoes insiders’ “Amens” and generally responded to the world we wish we had rather than the one we actually do.  It’s time to get real about the time the Lord has you and me alive on the planet..

                        + Gospel witness in this environment will require much…

                        …thought as we labor to understand unchanging Biblical truth, AND constantly shifting cultural winds / opinions/philosophies AND the place where the two intersect in the reconciling purposes of thegospel. (Col. 1:19-20) This is going to require a radical rethinking of the way we have done Biblical training; ie cramming more content into more church-goers through more Bible studies that fill more notebooks is simply not sufficient.

                …courage as we refuse to hide, evade, bunker down, create alternative cultures that shadow the real one, or simply yell loudly in groups from behind church walls, conference platforms or  Facebook “likes”.  We’re going to have to step out and deal with real people –individuals, face-to-face and one at a time.

              The redemptive mission of Jesus is costly and will require  faith to trust the Spirit’s work in moments of terrifying challenge (Matt. 10:18-20) and the Savior’s promise more than our present fears;

               “Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father….fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  (10:28-31)

              …love, as we dare to build genuine, let’s-eat-chicken-and-then-go-to-the-movies-together friendships with people with whom we vigorously disagree and who may be actively involved with moral choices of which we disapprove – especially if we are acquainted with people who identify as gay or lesbian. This is called being “a friend of sinners”—just like Jesus.   

                 It is love that will absorb ridicule, curses, sarcasm, belittling, mischaracterization (and that may just be from fellow believers!), and keep coming with arms open—just like Jesus.

                It is love that will listen deeply, refuse to label others or soft-pedal one’s own continuing need for grace, care about  the whole person (not just their “issue”), serve needs, and do whatever it takes to make a connection—just like Jesus.

               It is love that will be weep, pray, risk gospel-centered conversations (even when speaking truth is uncomfortable), and bleed, if necessary, so he or she can see and know that the love of God is real and the gospel’s promise is for them—just like Jesus.

              In other words, this was never about the waffle fries or even gay marriage.  It was always about the gospel we believe, live– and spread to those who love it least and need it most.

Have you had a conversation about the Chick-Fil-A issue with someone on the other side of it?  Do you think there’s room for continuing dialogue? Why or why not? 


2 responses

  1. I learn from your posts. I admire when you take a very complex issue and make it understandable for the average person. Amen.

  2. So glad the hiatus is over and to hear your take on the chxn debacle. Take a stand but a loving one is difficult.

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