I’ve never eaten at Chick-fil-A. I’m not a Southerner, so I don’t have that regional affiliation that makes others love Carl, Jr’s or Waffle House or Taco Mayo or whatever. I’m from Chicago. We do the far more dangerous deep dish pizza and thousands of versions of encased leftover meats. When/if I ever move, that’s what I’ll miss. I haven’t tried Chick-fil-A, so I don’t know what I’m missing. And CfA will not really miss me, either. But that’s not what this is about. This isn’t about making a statement, because, at least individually, I don’t have much to make a statement with.
But, on International Eat Moar Chikin Day, tempers are flaring up. There is real injustice concerning the defense of marriage being solely between a male and a female partner. But maybe the bigger injustice is the inability to empathize and share in the sufferings of others that many, many Christians are having right now. As a result, I often feel victimized myself when some of my Christian friends ask, “What’s the big deal? He’s just expressing an opinion…”
Well, for starters, the opinion itself is hurtful. It’s kind of mean and exclusivist to say that a family is only defined how you define it. And that way is one man, one (usually subservient) woman, and a gaggle of babies. Those of us who do not fit into that stereotype (with extended family, with add-ons, with divorce, with infertility, with differing sexual preferences, different socio-cultural values, with children born out-of-wedlock, etc,) do not need for people to define for us what is and is not a “proper” family – or, for that matter, a “biblical” family.
|All these hens. Where are their husbands?|
Because, as we’re probably aware by now, families in the bible were never, ever exclusively one model or another. And the typical nuclear family wasn’t even an option (until privilege and luxury allowed young families to be independent of others – but even that is misleading).
But that’s not what this is about. The majority of Evangelicals tend to believe that the fracas over CfA is about a belief or an expression of that belief, but it’s about practice. CfA president Cathy and his supporters contend that they give sandwiches to anyone who comes in the door, regardless of their sexual affiliation or “lifestyle choice.”
I guess they want a cookie for this? This kind of stance is utterly dismissive as well. One, it’s supposed to be that way. We live in a country with civil rights laws. It’s the law. They’re supposed to welcome every paying customer into their business. So what? Do we celebrate every time a Waffle House decides to let an African American buy pancakes now? What year is this?
The same people also counter that CfA also doesn’t discriminate on hiring employees. Well, franchises may not discriminate so much locally (let’s thank the CRA and the Equal Employment Opportunity Standards for that), but the company does discriminate in hiring and promotion. And fairly openly.
Cathy… wants married workers, believing they are more industrious and productive. One in three company operators have attended Christian-based relationship-building retreats through WinShape at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga. The programs include classes on conflict resolution and communication. Family members of prospective operators–children, even–are frequently interviewed so Cathy and his family can learn more about job candidates and their relationships at home. “If a man can’t manage his own life, he can’t manage a business,” says Cathy, who says he would probably fire an employee or terminate an operator who “has been sinful or done something harmful to their family members.”
The parent company asks people who apply for an operator license to disclose marital status, number of dependents and involvement in “community, civic, social, church and/or professional organizations.”
But Danielle Alderson, 30, a Baltimore operator, says some fellow franchisees find that Chick-fil-A butts into its workers’ personal lives a bit much. She says she can’t hire a good manager who, say, moonlights at a strip club because it would irk the company. “We are watched very closely by Chick-fil-A.” (Forbes)
WinShape, btw, is CfA’s “pro-family” charitable branch. Which we’ll get into shortly.
But not only does CfA discriminate just by their definitions of family values or what-have-you, but also for more explicitly religious reasons:
Chick-fil-A, the corporate parent, has been sued at least 12 times since 1988 on charges of employment discrimination, according to records in U.S. District Courts. Aziz Latif, a former Chick-fil-A restaurant manager in Houston, sued the company in 2002 after Latif, a Muslim, says he was fired a day after he didn’t participate in a group prayer to Jesus Christ at a company training program in 2000. (Forbes)
This is in addition to the million-plus they give to anti-gay groups (explicit hate group and Kill-the-Gays sponsor Family Research Council, Alliance Defense Fund, and Georgia Family Council, for example) or funds set up specifically to go towards anti-gay groups such as the FRC, American Family Association or Focus on the Family, or the millions they invest in groups that are explicitly limited to straights only and condemning of “homosexual behavior” (Campus Crusade for Christ and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, both of whom try to and have a history of “fixing” and post-gay “recovery”) through WinShape. (Equality Matters)
Each of these, on their own, probably wouldn’t be enough to earn nation-wide scorn. But put them together and we have a pattern deeper than just “expressing a different opinion.” It’s a systemic pattern of discrimination for a certain way of being a “family.” Privileging male-dominated and bread-winning, multiple-children-having, nuclear, straight families far above and over others.
That is an explicit problem. A fundamental problem that I’ve noticed with Evangelical Christians is that we tend to go along with the rest of society – but generally a couple decades after society has. Rather than being on the vanguard of equity, we hold the line until society moves it and past when society moves it. So we are strong for capitalism long past its usefulness to society. We are struggling with “Earth Care”. We mock vegetarians. And we say we love homosexuals, but when we’re not ignoring them or talking down to them, we’re fighting their recognition every step of the way. (Also, we completely ignore – at best? – transgendered people. )
Now, is a boycott the best way to protest or change policy? I really DK. Remember when Disney was being actively boycotted by these same “Family” groups in the eighties and nineties for being pro-gay? For, actually, extending many of the same benefits to the partners of homosexuals that these “Family” groups still don’t want extended to non-straight families? Will it change perspectives? I know a lot of information is being passed through right now, and I hope seeds are being planted. But boycotts and counter-boycotts, are they effective? I guess it depends. Aims? Objectives? Procedures?
I’d be more interested in, say, dialog. Particularly, dialog where Evangelicals are willing to just. shut. up. and listen and try to understand why LGBTQI persons are upset instead of Evangelicals telling LGBTQI persons that they shouldn’t be so upset (Can you tell I’ve been triggered here myself?).
Maybe we can learn a lot from each other. I’d like to know why, for example, visitation rights are denied to same-sex couples. And I’d like to know why that’s okay for some, or if that’s really ok with Evangelical Christians. Are they aware that when they get the state to pass constitutions against homosexual marriages, this is what they’re doing? This and refusing to acknowledge the same rights that heterosexual couples have. According to the Human Rights Watch, “1,138 benefits, rights and protections[are] provided on the basis of marital status in Federal law,” which puts homosexual couples in a precarious position in doing taxes, raising children, sharing benefits, family leave, etc.
Additionally, this isn’t just limited to financial and visitation rights. It’s about who qualifies and doesn’t qualify to have basic dignity and participation in society as a full human being with full rights. Remember, just a few years ago, interracial marriages were outlawed and considered unbiblical by many of those fighting against full marriage equality.
But, let’s expand this a bit more, shall we? For it’s not just same-sex couples that are denied basic human equalities, rights, privileges. It’s also, in some cases, extended family members. And maybe that’s an issue that has to do with other types of privilege. Some instances have to do with ageism. For example, older best friends are closer than recognized family sometimes and sometimes would like to enter into agreements to watch each other, but are denied the privilege by unconcerned family members. The fact that distant, unconnected blood relatives can have more impact than life partners is kind of scary, really.
But, at least we can be comforted that KFC and Oreo love the gays. Call it consumerist appeal, but at least they’re recognized as people, even if just consuming people…
|Here’s your cookie, Cathy.|