A LONG TRAIL OF RUFFLED FEATHERS: In March, New York University students demonstrated against the Chick-fil-A company and the donations it gives to conservative organizations opposed to gay marriage. (Photo: Richard B. Levine/Newscom)
What in the world? What’s going on when in the home of the free a person can’t be brave enough to express their opinion without someone calling for a chicken boycott?
Personally, I don’t like chicken much anyway. I think it’s because my wife cooks it with just about every meal. But, before I talk myself out of supper, let me quickly add that she cooks chicken very well — much better than Chick-fil-A. Still, many people around the country still give Chick-fil-A a first-place ribbon when it comes to fast fowl.
Chick-fil-A’s owners are known for espousing strong Christian values (you can’t get the stuff on Sundays), but now that the company’s COO, Dan Cathy, has restated his well-known opinion regarding same-sex marriage, folks want to chop the company’s gizzards?
People suddenly have something against good fast food chicken (if there is such a thing). No apparent qualms with greasy spoons KFC, or Church’s Chicken, or Bojangles or even Popeye’s. All because some rigid people (and politicians who are often on the lookout for a situation to pimp for votes) believe that Cathy has offended a certain American minority group — the LGBT community.
The black community, which has a long history with and reverence for the proper use of boycotts, ought to be pecking mad about this.
Black folks know all too well about chicken and stereotyping. Still, black folks haven’t cried boycott over being branded lovers of watermelon and “finger lickin’ good” chicken made by “de good ole” antebellum KFC colonel. Black folks didn’t cry boycott over the blatant marketing ploy of gospel singer Kirk Franklin praisin’ and dancin’ for Church’s Chicken or some of Church’s other questionable ads. And do I even have to mention Bojangles Chicken ‘n’ Biscuits? More recently, we blasted hip-hop soul icon Mary J. Blige but then quickly forgave her for singing on a table about Burger King’s new Crispy Chicken Wrap. No BK boycott. And Lord knows if we haven’t yet called for an all-out boycott over Popeye’s “Annie the Chicken Queen,” (some have dubbed her a modern-day mammy), then no one should be calling for one against Chick-fil-A’s stance in favor of traditional marriage.
Besides, perhaps a sign that you’ve grown up as a minority group in America is when your feathers are no longer ruffled by every perceived slight.
Americans, including some members of the LGBT community, who have not joined in the boycott cackling, are displaying common sense. They understand that freedom of speech is a sacred right. Shutting down one person’s free speech (even when we don’t like what they say or believe) puts ALL of us at risk. It also stifles much needed honest dialogue that could lead to understanding, mutual respect and coexistence. The politicians claiming they will block Chick-fil-A from opening stores in their cities know that they are selling wolf tickets with extra sauce. They have no legal basis to do so and their cities would be sued, costing taxpayers millions. Besides, people need jobs and cities need tax revenue.
A boycott is a serious weapon that should be reserved for challenging Constitutional offenses like employment, healthcare, or voter discrimination. Or hate crimes where people were beaten, gunned down, or hung from trees. Or when a child of God feels so bullied and humiliated that he commits suicide.
Cathy’s comments are far away from this coop.
His public relations team mishandled the news and social media onslaught his comments triggered (a fake Facebook account to cover your tracks against the Muppets? C’mon now, people). The error was compounded by the sad sudden death of Don Perry, Chick-fil-A’s longtime vice president of public relations.
Cathy simply offered his personal Bible-based opinion that marriage should be between a man and woman. As long as Chick-fil-A does not discriminate against gays and lesbians in anyway, there’s nothing legally wrong with a businessman sharing his opinion. (A wise business move? Well, that’s another story).
If Chick-fil-A ever does in fact discriminate, the company should be condemned because it would not only be in violation of federal law but in betrayal of the Christian Beatitudes it espouses. In that case, I would be the first to say “no thanks” if my wife ever suggested we hit the Chick-fil-A drive-thru for dinner.
ACQUITTED SINNER: Former Sen. John Edwards and family last month outside the federal courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he was found not guilty on one of six counts of campaign corruption. The judge ruled a mistrial on the other five. (Photo: Chucky Liddy/Newscom)
The campaign-corruption trial of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards is history now. His former mistress, Rielle Hunter, with whom he had a daughter, is now on tour promoting her memoir, What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, and Me. She announced during a TV interview that she and Edwards are no longer a couple, but will continue raising their daughter together. Soon, both will be out of the news cycle, but their saga possibly offers a lasting lesson for many Christians concerning this question about sin and crime.
A jury found Edwards, an admitted sinner, not guilty on one count that he accepted illegal campaign contributions in order to hide his adulteress affair. The jury deadlocked on five other similar counts. The acquittal hasn’t totally exonerated Edwards of campaign finance crimes, but the U.S. State Department dropped the case anyway.
Edward’s sin with Hunter occurred while he was campaigning for the presidency of the United States and while his late wife, Elizabeth, was dying of cancer. Like many men (and women) caught in an immoral self-inflicted bind, Edwards lied and lied until the truth, as it always does, eventually came to light. Many people who paid attention to the case agree that Edwards was put on trial more so as punshment for being unfaithful to his dying wife and for his hubris to believe he could sneak his secret into the White House.
And so Edwards publicly confessed his sins (which the Bible, in 1 John 1:9, states will be forgiven) before God and the world. However, should the government criminalize a sin that basically affects only the imperfect consenting adults involved? Should the church get riled about certain sins, while giving a pass to others?
I’ve been wondering about this most recently since President Obama announced in a TV interview in May that he supports same-sex marriage. The president caused an uproar among many Christians that still simmers, including among many of his supporters in the black church. But should the government, under political pressure from the church, legislate against same-sex marriage, especially when in America two consenting heterosexual adults can marry and divorce without the church being involved? Should most Christians insist that same-sex marriage be illegal, when homosexuality is actually listed in the Bible equally among other sexual sins, including adultery, that are not federal crimes?
A sin is a transgression against divine law for which Christians believe the sinner will be accountable at the judgment seat. The sinner mainly puts him or herself at risk with God. A crime is an action against the people that injures the “public welfare.” Like a drunk driver who runs a stop sign, or an armed robber, committing a crime puts several innocent people potentially at great risk. The government, working on behalf of the people, therefore has a duty to prevent crimes and punish criminals. Does the same duty apply to non-felonious sins?
Obviously many sins are also crimes such as, for example, being a serial killer. But what injury does same-sex marriage between two consenting adults cause to the public welfare? Is it more severe than adultery? Is it more destructive than divorce, a sin that often tears families and wounds innocent children? God allows divorce (which should be a last resort when reconciliation fails) under certain circumstances. Neither adultery nor divorces are federal crimes. Thankfully America is a democracy — a nation of Christians, believers of other faiths, agnostics and atheists, who for the most part believe in preserving the separation of church and state, and not a theocracy, as in living under Sharia law.
A recent CNN/ORC poll indicates that the majority of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legal. Perhaps they’re saying it should be treated like adultery or divorce; it may be wrong, but people deserve the free-will right to choose who they want to (or don’t want to) be in a committed personal relationship with.
During closing remarks, Edwards’ attorney Abbe Lowell reportedly told the jury, “This is a case that should define the difference between a wrong and a crime … between a sin and a felony. John Edwards has confessed his sins. He will serve a life sentence for those.”
Perhaps Christians who are adamantly against two consenting same-sex adults having the legal right to marry should adopt this reasoning, too.
In his new book, How Should Christians Vote?, the Rev. Dr. Tony Evans says the Bible offers the guidance we need to make wise voting decisions, but he also says those decisions should reflect kingdom principles rather than allegiance to any political party. Evans is senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, founder and president of The Urban Alternative, a national urban renewal ministry, and host of The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, which is heard on more than 500 radio stations. UrbanFaith talked to Evans about his new book, his views on same-sex marriage, and political engagement generally. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
UrbanFaith: You were recently interviewed by both NPR and CNN about your disappointment in President Obama’s statement of support for same-sex marriage. What kind of response have you gotten to those interviews?
Tony Evans: Mostly positive. We’ve had some negative, where people feel like it’s narrow minded and bigoted, but it’s been mostly positive from my constituency, which would hold to that view.
The editor of the media criticism site Get Religion has noted that because of this issue, the press is suddenly interested in what African American pastors have to say. Do journalists call you to talk about the work of Urban Alternative, its national Adopt-A-School initiative, for example?
No. That is the correct statement. We tend to be substantive with regard to the political issues of the day, not for what we do in improving people’s lives.
Why do you think the press is so interested in what black pastors have to say about same-sex marriage?
Because of its political implications. Will it affect the black vote or black support of the president? It’s a big cultural issue now in regards to the definition of the family and gay rights. So, because of its political clout, the African American tank becomes very important. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way most of the media is right now.
In your interview with NPR, you said race isn’t a choice and implied that homosexuality is a choice. Increasingly we’re hearing that race is to some degree a social construct. Are race and sexuality really so dissimilar?
They’re apples and oranges. For a person to enter into a homosexual relationship, it is their decision to do that. They have autonomy over that decision. How a person is born or the group to which they are a part of when they are born is something that the Creator has authorized. Homosexual marriage is not something the Creator has authorized. In fact, he’s condemned it. Since God has spoken on his created work and on his condemning work, and has been clear on both of those, we should not put those in the same category.
And so, when people compare the history of interracial marriage to same sex marriage, you don’t think those issues are similar?
No, they’re not similar because the way [same-sex marriage] was regarded before was wrong, and the Creator states that it is wrong. God would never have endorsed what the culture is allowing.
In your book, you says Christians should be like NFL referees when it comes to politics in that they should represent a kingdom perspective rather than identifying primarily with a political party. How can we really know what God’s will is on issues like health care or immigration law?
I believe that there are biblical positions on every issue, but no party fully represents all God’s views consistently on all God’s issues. Christians are going to vote differently because they will prioritize issues differently. My concern is that we’ve so aligned ourselves with the parties of this world that we’re missing the kingdom of God. The proof of that is that we’ve let political parties divide the kingdom of God. My illustration regarding referees is simply to say that while they sometimes vote for one team and sometimes vote for another team, they’re obligated ultimately to neither team, because they belong to another kingdom called the NFL. So, we should never let the party divisions interfere with the unity of the church, causing the church to lose its influence in the culture.
And yet, white evangelicals are very much identified with the Republican party and black Christians are often identified with the Democratic party. How do they come to such different perspectives on issues?
It’s more priority of issues. For example, the white evangelical community will emphasize right to life in the womb. The black Christian community will emphasize justice to the tomb. For me, those both are one issue, whole life, not term. Since that is one issue with two different locations, Christians can agree on the whole life issue even though they vote differently, and come out with a whole-life perspective that if we were unified both parties would have to interface with and take seriously. Because they can split us up along party lines, we do not have a single voice on the issues that represent the kingdom of God.
How can Christians become more unified despite their different political perspectives?
There should be a Christian manifesto that gives God’s view on all the prominent issues that is represented by Christians across race, cultural, and class lines. Christians should hold both parties [accountable to] speak to that manifesto.
Are you calling for something like the Manhattan Declaration?
Yes, like that, but specifically to reflect the comprehensive view, and not only to reflect it in a manifesto statement, but in how Christians come together and relate to each other, not going back to our own dug outs and separating after the manifesto is over. There should be an ongoing statement. Ultimately I think we should put forth a Christian-based candidate who is kingdom minded, who reflects a comprehensive Christian worldview.
Because President Obama grounded his advocacy for same-sex marriage in his Christian faith, would your idea of a Christian manifesto include a perspective like his?
No. It would not authorize anything that is unauthorized by God, and the definition of the family is one of those things. You can’t define the family differently than its creator defined it for cultural and political correctness. That would not be acceptable.
You advocate limited government in your book. How does limited government reflect biblical values?
In my view, the Scripture is clear that civil government is limited. Number one, because it’s not the only government. There is family government, church government, and ultimately the best government is self-government, because the more people that govern themselves, the less civil government we need. When God created Adam and Eve, there was total freedom except one narrow regulation, one tree they couldn’t eat from, but there were dire consequences. God says in 1 Samuel 8 that civil government is getting out of hand when it requires in taxes more than God requires in tithes. The mere fact that civil government should submit to God’s government means it’s going to limit itself to what God has given it responsibility for. All of these argue for limited government, freeing the other governments to do their job, not expecting civil government to intrude on the other governments God has established.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between the major parties in terms of the size of government; rather, it seems to be more a matter of where resources are directed, with one party focusing on national security and corporate welfare and the other prioritizing social supports. Does either party represent limited government?
No. First of all, we would be changing welfare on the Republican side for corporate welfare and on the Democratic side for social welfare. All of those would be reduced. All of those would be limited in a biblical worldview. A biblical worldview would never subsidize dependency. It provides help, so I’m for a safety net that, for able bodied people, demands the incurring of responsibility. For example, if your child gets federal money through Head Start, you should have to volunteer in that school. You shouldn’t be able to sit home and get the benefit without incurring responsibility.
Personal responsibility is an important value, but, these days, many people can’t find jobs that offer health insurance and they can’t afford to buy it on their own, for example. How do personal responsibility and communal responsibility interplay from a biblical perspective?
My view is that a just free market would address most of those. The problem with the free market on one side is that it often can be unjust. The problem with government is that it gets too big and therefore too cumbersome and it can’t address things properly. But a just free market—which means there are staggering consequences for breaking the law—would address most of those. If you had insurance across state lines, then competition that’s opening up the free market would reduce costs for insurances. It wouldn’t be prohibitive for businesses then to offer it. So, I believe that a just free market answers most of those concerns.
Doesn’t the combination of limited government and social conservatism just land you in the Republican party?
No, it doesn’t, because I believe that we have conservative, blue-dog Democrats who would hold to non-abortion, who would hold to the definition of a family as a man and a woman, and who would at least hold to a smaller government than now exists. I don’t believe you get locked down that way because then you become owned by that party.
You wrote in the book that you were friends with President George W. Bush. He ran on a platform of “compassionate conservatism” and tested some of these ideas. Do you think that worked out?
He got distracted by a big war in Iraq. He pushed faith-based initiatives and I do believe the more local charity becomes, the more beneficial, impactful, and accountable it becomes. The war distracted that emphasis and I was sorry to see that.
You advocate something you call “interposition,” which is “when righteous agents of God advocate on behalf of those facing imminent judgment or danger,” but critics have charged the Religious Right with not only alienating non-Christians, but also our own children. Are you concerned that the kind of political engagement you advocate will lead to alienation from the gospel?
Not if it’s done properly, if it’s done with love. One of the things I disagree with the Right about is the dishonor shown to the president. You can disagree honorably. I believe that many disagree dishonorably. You can engage in a loving way that demonstrates the heart of God, but that demonstrates the truth of God. Love must always be married to truth and truth must always be married to love. So I believe our methodology is a big part of the problem.
You provide a lot of detailed advice in the book about political engagement, but when people ask you how they should vote, what do you say?
I say, “Vote for the candidate and the party that will most give you the opportunity to advance the kingdom of God. And even though people may vote for that differently, if the kingdom of God and its advance is your primary concern, then you’ll be Democrat lite or Republican lite, so that in either party you’ll be the L-I-G-H-T.”
Many are discussing the moral and social obligations of the Black church in the wake of President Obama’s recent endorsement of same-sex marriage. The details of what should be the appropriate reaction of the media-crafted monolithic “Black-church vote” are being hotly debated, and well they should be; this is good political discourse. However, the limited focus of these debates seems to ignore a much larger picture.
Many wonder about the timing of this announcement. Some have pointed out that it was all too conveniently issued on the eve of Obama’s $40,000 per plate re-election fundraiser among the super rich who might favor such a move.
I believe this timing touches on the fringes of the picture we see, yet to gain better perspective we must first reflect on the 2008 election. In the months following Barack Obama’s announcement of his candidacy, Hillary Clinton – with the anointing of the Democratic establishment – was well on her way to being “in it to win it.”
Then we saw a great reversal at the Iowa caucuses, transforming Obama from a Black candidate driven by politics to a mainstream candidate driven by a movement. This caused a convergence of multitude paradigm-shifting factors, resulting in a tipping point. Even African American Democrats who favored Hillary experienced this paradigm shift — a shift that was completed with the South Carolina primary. The rest is history.
A cultural movement will always trump politics when they go head to head; this is culture vs. politics. The “marriage equality” advocates seem to have learned this lesson, but those who advocate for traditional marriage are, like a needle on a record, stuck in the groove of an ineffectual political approach.
With Obama’s recent endorsement as we approach the 2012 election, it seems that the order of the day will be politics vs. politics. This time, there is no euphoric movement on the horizon. In this light we can understand Obama’s pronouncement as a matter of political calculation.
I am mystified by the shocked reactions emerging from various quarters, since as early as 1996 Barack Obama is documented as stating, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” As the dates add up, his talk of “evolving” now seems a ruse.
Without a movement to ride, perhaps Obama felt the need to assemble a winning coalition. He took for granted the Black vote, in spite of their traditional opposition to same-sex marriage. Given the alternatives, perhaps he reasoned that Black folks would “get over it” and still choose him. After all, why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? Likewise, he counts on the liberal/left vote. It seems to me that this well-timed endorsement of same-sex marriage was aimed at shoring up the enthusiastic support of the LGBT community, with its considerable wealth and clout — a community that was beginning to show signs of antipathy towards him.
In my perspective, same-sex marriage is not the ultimate issue. What disturbs me more is that today’s politicians and judicial activists presume that they can redefine stabilizing institutions that have survived for millennia merely for the sake of short-term gain. Their hubris is rooted in the notion that they are wiser than all the generations that have preceded us. It is this calculated approach that will “fundamentally transform” this nation from a government of laws into a government of men. In such a society, power is applied according to the impulses of flawed leadership. The winds may blow in your favor today, but tomorrow they may tragically reverse, with no recourse.
If our institutions can be redefined at whim for political gain, it makes us all — Black, White, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, or what have you — into pawns in a game in which there are no rules.
You wanted equality, same-sex advocates? Congratulations. You are now a vulnerable piece on the chessboard — just like the rest of us.
The weekend has passed and it seems like every major news outlet has published an article (or three) about how Black clergy are responding to President Obama’s announcement that he supports same-sex marriage. I’m tempted to refer them to Terry Mattingly’s GetReligion question from last Tuesday: “Do … editors realize how offended many African-American pastors are when told that they are important simply because of their political clout, and not their roles as pastors and community leaders?” Instead I’ll refer you to our own contributors’ reflections on the issue, before directing you to the onslaught.
America’s Black churches were “conflicted” about the president’s position at Sunday services, USA Today reported. “Some churches were silent on the issue. At others, pastors spoke against the president’s decision Wednesday — but kindly of the man himself. A few blasted the president and his decision. A minority spoke in favor of the decision and expressed understanding of the president’s change of heart,” the article said. How USA Today knows what all the nation’s Black churches said and did yesterday, I have no idea, but that’s what its reporters wrote.
Evolving or Not With the President
At CNN, the Reverend Kenneth L. Samuel said he “evolved” on the issue just as the president did, and cited a gay friend’s suicide as a factor. Conversely, the Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant told the network that the Black church sees same-sex marriage as a “human rights” issue and cannot embrace “gay bashing” or “homophobia,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean endorsing same-sex unions.
In another article, Black liberation theologian James Cone said it is “unfortunate” that Black Christians oppose same-sex marriage. The Rev. Fred Robinson disagreed.
In a third CNN article, the Rev. Emmett Burns, “a politically well-connected black minister,” is quoted as saying he supported President Obama in 2008, but held a public event at his Baltimore church last week to withdrew that support. Likewise, the Rev. Beverly Brown told the Orlando Sentinel that she’s “trying to separate his personal view from his political view.” However, she said she’ll continue to support the president as long as his views stay personal and he doesn’t push for same-sex marriage to become legal everywhere.
Doing Damage Control
Perhaps anticipating this type of reaction, the president “gathered eight or so African-American ministers on a conference call to explain himself” about two hours after making his May 9 announcement, The New York Times reported.
Fighting Amongst Ourselves
Stating the obvious, The Times also reported that the fight over same-sex marriage is not simply sacred vs. secular. “Religion is on both sides in this conflict. The battle is actually church versus church, minister versus minister, and Scripture versus Scripture.”
Michael Coogan, a lecturer in Old Testament and Hebrew Bible at Harvard Divinity School compared the conflict to that which existed when slavery was debated. “The proslavery contingent quoted the Bible repeatedly, saying that God has all these commandments about slavery and nowhere in the Bible, including the New Testament, is it stated that there’s anything wrong with slavery,” Coogan said. “The abolitionists also quoted the Bible, but used the same sort of more general texts that supporters of same-sex relationships are using: love your neighbor, treat others as you would have them treat you, the golden rule.”
Homosexuality Historical ‘Non-Issue’ for Black Christians
Some might be surprised to read that homosexuality was a “non-issue” in Black churches until the 2004 presidential election, according to the Rev. Madison T. Shockley II. Writing in The Los Angeles Times, Shockley said that’s when “anti-civil union and marriage equality laws were put on ballots in key states to draw ‘values voters’ to the polls” and “part of the Republican strategy was to have white evangelical leaders actively recruit black clergy to the anti-gay movement.”
Playing Politics With the ‘First Gay President’
Speaking of political maneuvering, with a provocative cover photo of the president sporting a rainbow halo, Newsweek dubbed him the “first gay president” and said, “For once Democrats aren’t worried about the image that projects” because “demographics are on his side” and “the campaign has seen another week elapse where the Obama economy was not front and center.” That, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat asserts, is the whole point of Obama’s “historic” announcement.
What do you think?
Are clergy and journalists playing the politicians’ game?