A couple of months ago, we chose Chick-fil-A in Cameron Village as a halfway spot to meet one of my husband’s clients for a quick, casual meeting. Headed elsewhere afterward, we wanted to grab a bite.
She balked, puzzling all of us, daughter included. But at our insistence, she met us there, under two conditions: We’d dine outside and excuse her for not breaking bread with us.
“I haven’t eaten there since 2009,” said Dominique Cannon, 29, co-founder of Journey 4 L.I.F.E., a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse.
She told us then about early revelations – already long-known by the LGBT community – about the company’s support of anti-gay rights groups and those that advocate a sort of exorcising-gay therapy. And she shared stories from her openly gay acquaintances who believe they weren’t hired because of their lifestyle.
“I’m not putting my gay dollars into a place where it’s going to be turned around and used against me,” Cannon said. “And why would I bring my gay family into a place that is trying to destroy our family or make it illegal?”
Now, I’ve always accepted and appreciated Chick-fil-A’s never-on-Sundays policy. The company’s decision to honor the Sabbath as a quietly symbolic statement of its founder’s faith sits real easy with me.
But my sensibilities changed last month right along with company president Dan Cathy’s very public “guilty as charged” comments that gay marriage calls for “God’s judgment on our nation.”
And when Cathy’s statements were publicized, I called Cannon to grant her an “I told you!”
“Using religion as a platform is not always right, especially if you’re not teaching the right message,” said Cannon, who spent four years in the U.S. Army and served in Afghanistan in the Operation Enduring Freedom campaign. “The overall message of God is love and peace.
“This is teaching folks to be intolerant of others’ differences. That’s just another form of discrimination.”
Amid it all, my family’s go-to hot dog spot jumped into this wiry-hot mix of business and politics when Snoopy’s owner Steve Webb posted a message at his Wake Forest Road store devoid of hot dogs, or humor, and full of partisan posturing. In case you missed it, the marquee admonished President Barack Obama that Webb did create his business, taking out of context the POTUS’ philosophy that businesses don’t go it alone, but ultimately rely on others for success.
It’s times like these when show, don’t tell, can go a long way toward freely speaking, while granting dignity and respect to us all – who hold the collective power to keep businesses afloat with our dollars, gay or straight. Ultimately, to build a business, most entrepreneurs know, is to grow that business bigger and better.
We’re all needed to keep the chicken and the franks cooking.
Perhaps, I, too, must accept that to stay away is likely a healthier option – for my body and Christ-anchored soul.
In a recent story about one of my spiritual leaders, the Rev. Kym Lucas, formerly of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church and now pastor of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., she echoed the words of the apostle Paul: “For those in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. Those things can no longer be how we divide ourselves.”
Lucas noted that her own interracial marriage would once have been illegal. “Living into that revelation has made us ask some serious questions about some things that were for so long assumed.”
Certainly, thousands flocked to Chick-fil-A nationwide Wednesday and gay-rights proponents planned a counter-protest, while the company’s Atlanta headquarters vowed to leave policy debate to government and politics. And the beef surrounding the Snoopy’s marquee is expected to lead to a rally among small-business owners who agree withthe owner’s business partner, who conceded the business has benefitted from others’ help, as Obama said in context.
It’s the hindsight – to the tune of elected officials asking Chick-fil-A to stay out of their cities, severed ties with the Jim Henson Company, and promises of national protests – of business doing politics.
“I‘m glad he came out,” Dominique said of Cathy’s comments. “Now, a lot of people who didn’t know, know. Now, there’s a lot of me’s doing the same thing.
“Everybody has freedom of speech, but if you’re using your company to fund certain things that support intolerance, and spread messages of hate, I don’t know what anybody expects.”
She’s right. There’s a thin safety-net between business and politics. And any religion that makes any one of us less than loved as God loves us all, weakens its anchor.
That’s judgment we should fear.