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Marriage, Muppets, Chick-fil-A & the Church

It has become the litmus test for loving and considerate people. The question is asked to actors, singers, politicians, community leaders, businesspeople and pastors. If the answer is not the culturally approved one, you fail the test. 

When you fail this test, you are labeled. You are a bigot. You are uncaring. You are closed-minded. You are stupid. You are a hate monger.

The question has been in the news before, but it's taken off this last week at an alarming rate when a successful businessman answered incorrectly (at least by cultural standards.) 

Dan-Cathy-Chick-Fil-A-300x273Dan Cathy, Chief Operating Officer for Chick-fil-A, stated in a July interview with the Biblical Recorder (the news source for North Carolina Baptists) when asked if he and Chick-fil-A as a business support the traditional definition of marriage of being between one man and one woman for life.

"Well guilty as charged," is how Cathy responded to the question after the reporter pointed out some were critical of Chick-fil-A's support of traditional values. "We are very much supportive of the family. . .the biblical definition of the family unit. . .We are a family owned business, a family led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

This answer was wrong according to many and has resulted in many news items for Chick-fil-A and has caused the restaurant to trend highly on Google and Twitter.

  • Boston's and Chicago's mayors have stated they will do all in their power to keep Chick-fil-A restaurants from opening in their respective cities. 
  • The Jim Henson Company (owned by Disney) has stated their displeasure and plans to remove all Muppet toys from future partnerships. 
  • Someone created a fake Facebook page using a stock photo as their profile pic to defend Chick-fil-A's stance. Many are claiming the corporation has done this. I don't believe so, but it could be a restaurant employee or fan. I guess the truth about "Abby Farle" will come out.
  • Mike Huckabee has been promoting "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" on August 1.
  • Southwestern Seminary is purchasing Chick-fil-A sandwiches for all students on August 1 in support of the restaurant.
  • Boycotts of Chick-fil-A have been called for by many in the gay and lesbian community.

There's much debate on the subject and comments are being requested from everyone who has ever eaten a chicken sandwich or waffle fries. 

Yet, is the debate really about Chick-fil-A? Is it really about American rights to free speech? Is it about discrimination on the level of racial bigotry? Is it about the definition of marriage?

Well, yes, but it's also about something much deeper. This deeper question is one that the church must answer.

I know some Christians state that sexual orientation is God-created and therefore those with same sex attractions are just made that way by God. That debate will remain. Whether a "gay gene" is discovered or orientation is developed will continue to be argued about.

What Christians must determine is whether or not the Word of God is true. This hearkens back to the debate over innerancy and the battle some denominations split over in the past and others struggle with today. The moment we begin to pick and choose which portions of Scripture to adhere to is the moment we disavow the Word in its entirety.

As my friend and fellow pastor Mitchell Landress put it. . .

Biblically speaking, humans are responsible for their actions, despite any genetic inclination toward certain feelings or habits. We alone are responsible for what we do. The much larger question must be: Has God set a standard for living, and one which includes all issues? And we as Christians must affirm with the Bible that the answer is yes.

One of the problems is that many in the church do not know how to express the Truth without sounding hateful and attacking. Truth is absolute. That means it is true for all people, at all times, in all circumstances. There is no such thing as "Well, that may be true for you, but it's not true for me." Truth is, period.

The Bible is Truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. While some would debate this, the faith step that a child of God makes when surrenduring to God affirms that Jesus is Truth and the Word is true.

So, what are Christians to do? First, we must know the truth. It's newsworthy when a business (not a local church) and COO (not a pastor) makes a statement that affirms the truth of the Word of God. What's unsettling is that many who sit in church facilities weekly question whether Mr. Cathy was right in what he said. 

Some would say "See, Christians hate gays!" While some who claim to be Christians may hate homosexuals (and I'm thinking of the false church in Kansas that protests everything,) the truth of the matter is that true Christ-followers do not hate and should not hate homosexuals. By the way, not hating does not equate to endorsing or accepting.

We are all born with sinful inclinations. We are all born and natually lean toward sinful actions based on evil desires. This is the story of humanity. However, when a person comes to faith in Christ, the sin is crucified. The old is gone. All is made new. Therefore, we must remember this as Christ-followers, as we speak, listen and minister to those in our community and world. The Apostle Paul spoke of this in his first letter to the church at Corinth.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11(ESV)
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 

Some will read that verse and see only "homosexuality" while ignoring terms like "greedy, adulterers (remember Jesus' definition here), idolators, immoral, drunkards, etc." None is greater than the other or should I say, none is dirtier than the other. So, I'm not throwing a stone at those I believe are worse sinners than me, but am thankful for a loving Savior whose sacrifice covers all such sins. 

The cultural winds are blowing. It's politically incorrect to speak out against what the Bible asserts to be wrong.

However, as Christians we must know the truth, affirm the truth and live by the truth. Guess what? It will not get any easier. 

Just this last week a church plant meeting in a school in Miami came under fire for affirming the biblical definition of marriage. They're being accused of spouting hatred and may lose their meeting space. 

The chasm in our culture will continue to widen between what is acceptable and what is biblically true. How is the church to respond? With love, but never compromising the truth. 

Love God. Love people.

It's a tenous walk and not going to be easy. Then again, when were we ever told living the Christian life would be easy. It's time to do the hard things and do them right and uncompromisingly.

Persecution? Oh yeah, but we haven't seen anything yet. 

2 Timothy 3:12(ESV)
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

So, in the midst of all the news stories and talking heads, the reality is this is not about Chick-fil-A. It's about the conversation that is and has been happening and in most cases the church has ignored. Does the definition of marriage matter? Yes, absolutely. Is it a political hot potato? Yes, but it's not really about politics. It's about people. It's about truth. It's about the Word of God and the church and Christ-followers being salt and light in an unsavory and dark world. 

On a side note, I'm proud of Dan Cathy for stating his beliefs. As a former employee and regular patron, I believe this company is one of the best in our nation. I'm not sure why people are surprised by Cathy's statement. This is the Chick-fil-A that has been up front and open about their Christian and biblical beliefs and basis for business. They're not even open on Sundays.

I feel for the people of Boston and Chicago, not only because this conversation has become a political tool and cultural litmus test, but because they'll not get to enjoy nuggets, waffle fries and peach milkshakes any time soon.

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