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I’m eating at a Chick-Fil-A ASAP.

by Nicholas Barnard on July 26th, 2012

I’ve avoided the annoying brouhaha over an interview of Dan Cathy, president and CEO of Chick-fil-A. I generally try not to get too deep into these types of issues. I find that they become issues not because they’re really a problem, but because someone wants to drive a wedge between us, and remind us of how we’re different instead of celebrating what we share.

The first article I read on around this brouhaha was Jonathan Merritt’s essay in The Atlantic. In it, he mentions the “…failed calls for liberal consumers to boycott Urban Outfitters, because its owner is a conservative and Rick Santorum donor.” If this boycott culture is taken to its logical extreme, there will be a daily rating of each company on the public stock exchange on how closely the views of the current day’s owners of the company align with yours. (Putting aside the fact, that this really would need to be updated several thousand times a second to be completely accurate.) It would be nearly impossible for us to operate in the modern world this way. The only way you could ensure that the goods you obtain are provided by someone who agrees with you is to live individually off the land. But, I digress.

Two things struck me in Merritt’s essay. First was the statement released by Chick-fil-A that “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.” I believe they’re honest, and I appreciate that they’re treating people as individuals. What is quite interesting about that statement? It completely lines up with the first two principles of my faith, Unitarian Universalism:
“The inherent worth and dignity of every person;” and “Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;” The second thing that struck me was Chick-fil-A’s service and commitment to their employees and community. Chick-fil-A “…gives millions of dollars each year to charitable causes — and not just to ‘pro-family’ groups. It funds a large foster care program, several schools of a higher learning, and a children’s camp. It has provided thousands of scholarships for Chick-fil-A employees to attend college and grow past the service sector where they got their workplace start.”

The interview that Cathy gave doesn’t focus on marriage, quite the contrary, it is the interview of how a businessman incorporates his beliefs, including his religious beliefs, into how he runs his business. For Cathy, religion isn’t something that he stops and does on Sunday, its part of how he lives his life, and you know what? That is as it should be. None of the great teachers from the world’s religions have said “Just worry about this religion stuff on one day a week, and go do whatever you want on the other days.” No, they encouraged us to live our lives with the beliefs that we have developed as part of our faith. A minister from my own tradition, Peter Raible, often said, “In all our days, may we turn more to act than to word to declare our religion.”

I also read the Corporate Purpose of Chick-Fil-A which is on Dan Cathy’s bio: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” So, in reading this we can get bogged up in the opening “To glorify God…” — I used to be there. I would’ve read those three words then said “Oh forget that.” But, I’ve had the wonderful gift from the Reverend Dr. Alicia Grace of putting my own meanings into the language of reverence of others. Alicia used to, and often still does, play what I call the “synonym game” where she will work into her sermon or meditations a number of words describing the same thing, encouraging people to not get stuck on the literal meaning of the word, but to focus on the deeper meanings that we share. (e.g. Soul, Inner Light, Quiet Place…)

I know, I don’t agree with everything Cathy has said, we definitely don’t agree on gay marriage. But, I know I’ll be welcomed in his restaurants, not from a desire for my money, but from a deeply held belief of love and service.

Now, I just need to find my way to Boise, ID ASAP for a Chick-Fil-A sandwich…

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