As you no doubt know, the last few weeks have seen one of the most egregious examples in recent years of persecution in our country by the religious left. Government officials, who are paid by tax dollars to uphold the rule of law and the constitution, have decided that they will oppose businesses and limit their right to engage in commerce on the basis of their religious beliefs. Mayors of major cities (Boston, Chicago, San Francisco) have threatened Chick-fil-A because its owners have expressed a belief in the biblical view of marriage.
In addition to being incredibly “intolerant” (from groups who claim to oppose such intolerance), such government opposition is a flagrant violation of the first amendment. Indeed, the violation of the first amendment is so clear that even the ACLU has come out publicly to oppose the bullying tactics of these government officials.
As a result, many folks are eating at Chick-fil-A today in order to demonstrate their commitment to biblical marriage and their commitment to defending a Christian group or individual who is suffering unjust treatment for their faith.
I was surprised, however, to discover the article by Barnabas Piper in World Magazine which opposed this Chick-fil-A appreciation day as a “bold mistake.” Now, I would certainly agree that eating at Chick-fil-A today is not going to solve the world’s problems. Nor is it an exhaustive and comprehensive response to the issue of homosexual marriage. Nor are Christians required or obligated to participate. But is it really a “bold mistake”? I think not.
The primary argument made by Piper is that “The 452,000 people supporting Chick-fil-A are delivering more than one message, and the message the homosexual community and its supporters see is ‘us versus you.’” He then goes on to say, “The event also sends a message of separatism and territorialism… a collective action easily seen as a shaking of the fist or a wagging of the finger.” And finally, he argues, “The separation of believers and unbelievers, when it happens, must be a last resort or an unavoidable result. Actions to the contrary, those that clearly promote an ‘us versus them’ mentality, are most often unhelpful.”
However, I confess I find this whole line of argumentation problematic on many levels. Let me mention a few:
1. Such reasoning would require us to avoid all public displays of support for contentious moral issues. Couldn’t we make the same argument about abortion? Should we stop all pro-life rallies (or public events) because it might make pro-choice people think its “us vs. you”?
2. I suppose that some people might see support for Chick-fil-A as “shaking the fist” or “wagging the finger.” But, I am not sure that is a reason not to show it. Any public display of support for biblical marriage would be construed as “shaking the fist” or “wagging the finger.” The media is quick to portray any public event where biblical issues are defended as bigoted, hateful, and intolerant—even if they are done with respect, sensitivity, and courtesy. In fact, I would argue that Piper’s reticence about the Chick-fil-A event is good evidence that such tactics are quite effective. We are all afraid of how we might look. But, I do not see how such a fear is a solid basis for suggesting that a display of public support for a biblical position is a “bold mistake.” Indeed, one might argue the contrary, namely that it would be a “bold mistake” to stop public events on the basis of such fears.
3. Piper argues that a public show of support for Chick-fil-A would create a “separation of believers and unbelievers” which “must be a last resort.” But, I confess I don’t understand what he means be “separation” of believers and unbelievers. Sure, making public declarations about truth certainly can cause division between us and those who disagree. But that is inevitable when you proclaim the truth. The only alternative is that we don’t ever make public declarations! Since Piper surely doesn’t mean this, I can only surmise that his main advice is essentially “don’t go around picking fights.” Fair enough, but I don’t think eating at Chick-fil-A can be construed as picking a fight. Rather it is standing up for biblical truth and against some of the most blatant anti-Christian aggression from government officials that we have seen in quite a while.
Piper asks the rhetorical question at the end, “How is the Kingdom of God served by this?” He never really answers it (presumably because he thinks God’s Kingdom is not served). I think there are a number of ways this serves the Kingdom, but let me mention just one here: such an event can encourage other believers. It can remind us that we are not alone. It can embolden us to stand up for truth in the midst of a hostile world. And it can encourage a Christian business that is suffering unjust treatment.
Does this mean Christians are required to eat at Chick-fil-A today? Of course not. I would not chide Christians for not participating. But, I also think we should not chide Christians for participating.