One thing I’ve learned as the mother of an inquisitive three year old is that if I am going to do something, I should have a real reason why I’m doing it. I need to live intentionally. I need to be able to offer an explanation for anything I choose to do…or rather, I should be able to give an explanation after it is demanded from a little person who is just trying to understand her world. It’s more than just the simple barrage of “why” questions. It’s a full-on interrogation as to why I live the way I do, and even when the question is never asked, justification is required. She’s going to do what I do, so I had better think long and hard about why I do anything.
We ate at Chic-Fil-A for lunch today. Everyone who reads this today (and perhaps for the next week or so) will know the significance of that. In the future, though, the cultural significance of today will have faded. In the interest of clarifying things for future visitors, I’ll offer simply this: today was the day that Americans came out in droves to support the fast food chain after it stood up for its belief and support of the Biblical definition of marriage.
As we drove to the restaurant, Jennifer was full of questions as to why we were headed for Chic-Fil-A…why we weren’t going somewhere else…why she couldn’t have a vote in what we’d eat today. As I explained it to her, I realized how silly it all probably sounded, and even though I believed in what I was saying, I couldn’t help but further question my motives. I questioned myself as we drove to the restaurant. I questioned myself as we sat at a traffic light across the street and I could see the packed parking lot. I continued questioning myself as we pulled into the lot, and the questions continued as I sat waiting in a forever long drive thru line.
What was my purpose in eating there today?
All afternoon I’ve thought about it. All day I’ve been haunted, really, by questions I’ve asked myself over and over, and I haven’t quite been able to silence the inner storm I’ve felt raging in my spirit since lunchtime.
What was I trying to express in taking part in all of that today?
It was a simple act…one that I might easily have done on any other day: while running errands, swoop into a drive thru to grab something for lunch. Chic-Fil-A is a normal place for us to go. It wasn’t as though we went far out of our way or really went against the grain of our routine. On the surface, it could have appeared that we simply stumbled onto a particularly busy day at one of our favorite restaurants. The truth, though, was that I had intentionally gone there to be a part of something…to make a statement. I have had today marked on my calendar for a week or so. It was very much on purpose that I went there today…so why?
This afternoon, as I’ve thought over and over about this, all I’ve been able to think about has been how others who saw me there today might have perceived me. I recently heard a message that said that one of the conceptions that the world has of the church is that we are anti-homosexual. They don’t see us as being PRO-love, or PRO-compassion, or PRO-justice. No, the world looks at me – at those whom I call my brothers and sisters – and sees mainly what we stand against. My fear this afternoon has been that should anyone have seen my car – with its church sticker plastered proudly on the back window – pulling into or out of Chic-Fil-A today, they might have assumed something wrongly about me.
Normally this wouldn’t bother me. Today, though, I can’t shake it. I feel the need tonight to explain something. I can’t leave this unsaid, it seems, and I know better than to ignore this tumult that stirs in my heart when I have something to write.
The truth is, I can’t let go of the possibility that someone tonight might think I hate them.
See, I did not eat there today to express anything negative. Some people did. I know that for a fact, after having read Facebook posts all day about what people have thought about all of this. I know that because I know people, and I know that some people are more concerned with being right than they are about anything else.
I ate there today because I admire those who stand up for what they believe. I respect those who don’t back down when culture and society say they’ve taken the wrong side. I ate there because I wanted to support the company – a company who contributes endlessly to fantastic causes in Jesus’ name…who plays Christian radio in its dining room…who is closed on Sunday. Seven dollars’ worth of chicken and fries probably doesn’t speak very loudly, but I wanted my voice of support and my feeble applause to be heard.
What I want people to know, though, is more than just that. Eating at Chic-Fil-A to prove a point reduces the Christian faith to little more than activism. The Christian faith is not, as my preacher recently pointed out, about making points or arguing issues or taking sides. The Christian faith centers on Jesus, and I have to wonder what He thinks as He sees the commotion over chicken sandwiches today.
To be honest, standing with a trillion other chicken eaters is a pretty cowardly way to express what I believe in. I realize that. There is little to be said for going with the flow, even if the flow is going in a good direction. Choosing a particular place for lunch is a sickeningly easy way to declare my beliefs.
Just as much as Christianity is not about making points, though, Christianity is not about beliefs. Jesus was not about beliefs, and the more I think about it, the more I think Jesus would kind of laugh at the whole brouhaha today.
If we – the church – want to make a statement, let’s step out in droves in radical love. Let’s accept and embrace those who are on the outside…those who are living lifestyles that are controversial enough to cause a commotion like this. Let’s stop for a minute and think about Jesus – the One we proclaim to follow – and dare to follow Him somewhere OTHER than where billions of other churchgoers are flocking for lunch. Eating at Chic-Fil-A today was not wrong. I ate there, after all, and if this were to continue tomorrow and next week, I might eat there again. If I did so, though, it would be as a show of support for a corporation with bold convictions…not as an underhanded way of telling the world what I believe in and what I think about them if they believe differently.
All of this…the initial statement made by corporate Chic-Fil-A and the media storm that followed…has its root in people. People like you and me. People who are probably watching the Olympics tonight and will go to work tomorrow and who are carrying on with their lives the same way we are. These are people who are radically, sacrificially, passionately adored by God, and who will never, ever come to know that if those who are called to represent Him in the world only ever come out in force when they are angry. God came in power and might because He loved THEM – yes, those who are living the very lifestyle that causes this whole uproar. God gave His own Son because He adores THEM – yes, those who may not be giving Him a second thought tonight. God is here with us now because He hasn’t given up on THEM – yes, EVERY PERSON who lives ANY LIFESTYLE and has ANY BELIEFS, be they about marriage or creation or stem cells or whatever. God is love, and really, love is the only thing I can think that would prove a point, anyway.
Please, y’all. Please. Let’s be known for love. Can we agree on that? We can meet for lunch at Chic-Fil-A every day. That is fine, but if we don’t embrace and really love every single person we see inside and outside of that dining room, we’re just eating chicken and fries and, probably, waiting in a long line to do so.
After giving this a lot more thought, I don’t think I would have eaten there today. I think I would have taken my daughter somewhere else, looked for real ways to love somebody while we were there, and written a letter of support to the restaurant’s corporate offices this afternoon. Then we could go to Chic-Fil-A tomorrow…and not have to wait in line for our milkshakes.
Journeying with you,
(Note: Those of you who know my family may be confused by my reference to Jennifer. As my girl gets a little older, I’m giving her a pseudonym anytime I reference her in my online space. When I asked her what name she would want if she could have any name in the world, she said Jennifer. So Jennifer she shall be! Here, anyway….)