Is the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day Really a “Bold Mistake”?

Chick fil A

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.


Is the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day Really a “Bold Mistake”? — 32 Comments

  1. Pingback: Chick-Fil-A Controversy – The Links | Pushing a Feather

    • This morning at a local coffee shop in Athens Ga. I met with an elder of a church I have been attending for the past month. We discussed our opinions on the Chick-fila controversy. To me it was an encouraging day as a believer. It showed me who the minority was and also how God will bless a business by standing on the word of God. I wonder what was their total profit was yesterday compared to their average daily profit ?

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  3. To me, it was a beautiful show of support for a family business, for conservative Christian values, and for the sanctity of the traditional family! I was thankful for the opportunity to participate in such a positive experience, with everyday folks being polite and considerate of each other in crowded circumstances! I am also thankful for the wonderful ways in which the Chick-fil-A leadership uses it’s wealth to bless others through scholarships, Winshape Foundation, Lifeshape Foundation, Impact 360, etc.

  4. Piper would say the Christians standing up before the lions in the Colosseum was a bold mistake.

    • I don’t know about that. Those Christians were asked to deny the very name of Jesus, which would be a sin; they refused and were torn apart. I’m not sure that eating chicken sandwiches in the name of (whatever the reason) is quite the same as being torn apart by lions in a Roman Colosseum for not denouncing the name of Christ. It’s not a sin to not go to Chick-fil-A on a certain designated day.

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  6. The real issue is that Christians were not the only ones there! Many people who believe in the liberties that were fought for in previous wars were at stake it is arrogant to think that only Christians believe in marriage between one man and one woman. The best comment I heard was by someone who was homosexual who stated that they did not have problem w/ chick-fil-a because they were consistent as Christians our lives need to be consistent and not just for a cause but for Christ. If we believe we need to act because that will be consistent w/ what we believe. That is what an unbelieving world watches and waits for.

    • Being peaceful and many sang hymns pleasantly while waiting for their food. To show support & to hopefully encourage Mr. Cathy.

  7. Whenever we can shed light on the insidious absurdity of the raging folks, I think the Kingdom benefits. This whole ordeal has shed some mega-wattage on that, and all we who side with truth had to do was eat a chicken sandwich.


  8. We just need to be careful where we go from here! While this particular grassroots display seemed genuine I say let’s continually ask God for wisdom and courage in our displays. We can’t let this become an us vs them even if it was not this time around.

  9. Interesting…living in a distant land I have not experienced the detail, conflict & fallout. I suppose we do it every day in small ways, choosing to support a certain brand on principle, but this is taking it to a new level for me.

    I particularly like point 2, the encouraging comments & the amoooosing image.

  10. Its still amusing even if it seems to be a dairy cow…earlier this week I had a Scripture lesson for some kids on Barnabas “the encourager”. The great thing about Barnabas was he wasnt afraid to stand by Paul, when the other disciples were fearful…

  11. With regard to participating in more substantial endeavors (ending abortion, human trafficking, hunger, etc.), perhaps it’s more of a both/and rather than an either/or. To quote a wise man, we “should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Mt. 23:23).

  12. One of the unintended consequences of our family dining at Chick-Fil-A yesterday was bumping into many old friends, some of whom we have not see in over 20 years. The reunion was a joyous occasion! The owner/manager also came to our table and visited with us for about five minutes, and related the story of Dan Cathy attending their grand opening, pointing out the artwork on the wall where he signed his name and included the reference, “Deut. 6:5. These owners are looking forward to Friday when they will have an opportunity to serve, in love, those who are planning protest in their restaurant. The owners asked us to pray, asking the Lord Jesus Christ to show his love towards the lost, hurting and hungry. No condemnation towards Mr. Piper if he did not visit a Chick-Fil-A yesterday, but he may have missed a great opportunity for joyous fellowship and come away even more inspired to pray for those on the front lines who are serving the public in true humility from an eternal perspective.

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  14. Great article Michael (STILL need to get your latest book…..) I think there was alot of the “Oh there go those fundamentalist bumpkins again” attitude among some Christians. Thinking this will make their witness to gays harder. I think it’s harder the longer people stay silent. As Doug Wilson saw, the campuses are the most poisonous battlegrounds and where Christians need to do more. I think CFA will face more hardship, esp. on campuses in the months to come. Great job.

  15. I am a devout Christian and did not participate for many of the reasons that the writer you quoted mentions. I haven’t read his article. But answer one question. How many people do you know of that have been saved or changed their religious views because of a protest? Not a one I am all but sure. I think there is a time and place for these things. Jesus obviously knew it because he spoke but he never went to the big venues of his day to debate religion, but instead taught by example and by preaching to those who would listen, not by forcing people to hear him.

    • Thanks, Drew. Appreciate your comments. However, there are a number of issues here I would disagree with:

      1. It doesn’t matter whether I (or you) know someone personally who was converted last Wednesday. That does not mean it was not impactful or convicting for people. Your sample size is too small. There are very good reasons to think that the massive turnouts at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday could cause someone to wonder about their own morality and whether it is the right course of action. That could lead to the conviction of their sin and (by the help of the Spirit) lead to their repentance.

      2. You assume the only positive benefit of such an event is the conversion of people who disagree. But another positive benefit of such events is that they encourage and strengthen believers. It brings about solidarity amongst Christians–which is sorely needed and a real blessing.

      3. Your basic claim is that no one’s views are changed by protests. But, what if someone had said that to Martin Luther King? Would you have said that to Martin Luther King? The protests he organized changed a nation and changed the world.

      4. You say that Jesus “never went to the big venues of his day to debate religion.” That is simply not true. He went right into the center of the temple courts on the busiest religious day of the year (Passover) and offered direct rebukes to the Jewish authorities. In fact, Jesus was seen as a threat to the establishment precisely because he was willing to engage in public debates where all could see. So, Jesus is actually an example of the opposite of your position.

    • Drew,
      I am not sure this is strictly a “Christian” issue. As Americans, we should be concerned about our rights as citizens. Here we have blatant example of politicians using their positions and power to trample the rights of a citizen because he dared to express his religious views. So as Christians, should we not be concerned about that? Or simply as citizens, should we not be concerned that people in government are willing to throw our most basic civil rights under the bus because Cathy dared to say he supported biblical marriage? Granted, CFA is a large, successful corporation. But if the powers that be are allowed to stomp on them, what will they do to little people like you if you run afoul of the status quo?
      Personally, I’m getting a little tired of being told what I can and can’t say, teach to my children, believe and even think by less than 3 percent of the population. A three percent who cares not a whit for God’s glory, honor, or His people, and has shown repeatedly that they would gladly silence any opposition to their position through any means possible. The CFA incident is only one of a multitude of examples You aren’t dealing with people who want a dialogue. They want the right not just to be accepted, but to demand everyone else modify their beliefs to accept them.
      I participated not just because I wanted to show my support for the business, but also because as an American and a veteran, I am concerned that the right of freedom of religion and freedom of speech be upheld. It is time that people stand up and say “no”. If we refuse to do so, kiss your freedoms goodbye. I believe any thinking citizen, Christian or not, should be concerned with what is going on here.

  16. Here’s another way to look at it–Chick Fil-A stays closed on Sunday–the Lord blesses the business and it thrives. Mr. Cathy defends that which is right in the sight of God–and the Lord blesses his business. A nation calls that which is evil “good” and that which is good “evil”–droughts come, violent crime escalates. Some libs might say–oh that’s too black and white”–or that is an “an absurdly reductionist view of things”–Is it really? Think long and hard about it. What does scripture say? …I’m no theologian but the Lord likes it when HIS holy law is upheld. A nation that obeys Christ is blessed. A nation that doesn’t…well the proof is in the puddin’ !

  17. I do not understand how Christians could call this a bad idea. Is this not the very definition of non-violent and peaceable protests against ideologies contrary to Scripture? I guess the argument would be the same as those made by the emergent church as being inoffensive and loving everyone equally without telling them their true condition, all in the name of tolerance and the obligatory I’m ok you’re ok theology. Christians need to stop being concerned with the opinions of men/the lost rather than what God thinks of them. After all we are not going to be judged by what others think of us but of the standing we have before God. Therefore, opposing moral support for fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord is really akin to being a traitor. Laodicea was condemned for being luke warm, neither hot nor cold; and to apply Joshua’s comment would be semi-applicable here: Choose you this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. It is necessary to take sides in the Christian life, other wise why do we have such a problem with the carnal christian ideology. If I’m ok and you’re ok, what did Jesus die for? Finally, too many Christians seem to be too willing to let the truth go undefended for the sake of comfortability in this world. We must support Christians, when those Christians are taking a biblical stand concerning morals and ethics, we have no choice in the matter.

  18. I think the solidarity aspect is very important. The Christian group must stand behind its values. Much of the NT was written to counter the shame that culture was trying to place on the group. It is clear that this was one concern in the mind of most NT writers. The enouragement to stand up for what is right is sorely needed. I had a colleague at work tell me that he thinks it is wrong for opponents of gay marriage to accuse Christians of bigotry. I doubt he would have had the courage to share these thoughts with me had it not been for the overwhelming solidarity witnessed on 8/1.

  19. Pingback: Further Thoughts On Chick-Fil-A Flap | Southern Gospel Yankee

  20. This was an incredible testimony to what believers need to be doing on a daily basis with what is taking place in our government. God uses His people on a daily basis, moment by moment and we should be a part of all that He has ordained. We are grateful for all CFA does and what they represent!

  21. Dear Mike,

    Excellent article.

    I find that Piper’s remarks are not all that common among certain groups of Christians. I would say this though.

    1) Acts 3-4 has Peter and John stood up for that right to speak as God commanded; and flogged for it.

    2) Acts 7 has Stephen standing up for the right to speak; and died for it.

    3) Acts 16 has Paul and Silas exercising their rights as citizens of the Roman Empire for being flogged.

    4) Acts 26 has Paul, again!, exercising his rights as a citizen of the Roman Empire when appealing to Caesar.

    5) The fight for our independence was led by preachers in the pulpit.

    6) Bonhoeffer, Luther, et al, would definitely disagree with Piper.

    7) The right of freedom of expression and freedom of religion are both at peril and demand that we stand up against those who would be against them.

    These are only some of the instances of Christians standing up for what is right. You could probably name other instances, e.g. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

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