If you read this blog very often, you are familiar with many of the issues in our culture that challenge, sometimes even threaten, the freedom of Christians to live in the US in a manner consistent with their faith principles. You are probably not surprised, even if you haven’t yet heard the news, that Emory University in Atlanta has decided to remove Chick-Fil-A from its food court because of the owner’s position on homosexuality. This university was founded in 1836 and named for a man who “dreamed of an American education that molded character as well as the mind.” If this man could visit the offices of the college administration today, he would surely request that his name be removed from the institution.
If the people who instigated this action had made a reasoned analysis that required the removal of Chick-Fil-A because it is a poisonous influence on the character of young people, the news might be more palatable. However, the news is that an aggressive campaign by LGBT activists on campus led to this decision. Students in Emory’s LGBT alumni group, GALA say that “Chick-Fil-A has already become a symbol of hate that causes active harm.” This allegation, based entirely on the fact that the owner of Chick-Fil-A has exercised his First Amendment right to express his position on a social issue, uses rhetoric that has successfully avoided saying what the real issue is. News outlets allow them to say that the company is guilty of hate instead of demanding to know what Chick-Fil-A has done that is hate in speech or action.
Christians cannot readily agree how to respond to the volume and variety of cultural challenges to traditional moral values. Those who are advocating the changes complain that Christians are asking for privilege when they advocate for traditional values and stand for their right to express those values in word and deed. In fact, the values Christians advocate have been considered the normal, commonly-accepted values for centuries. If the globe were all one country, most of the traditional values Christians stand for would be the dominant values, Western Europe notwithstanding.
However, this observation is irrelevant. This observation could even be interpreted as whining. We live in the USA, and we live in this culture, and in this culture, the voice of Christians is increasingly being suppressed and drowned out by other voices. With regard to the problem arising at Emory University, there are even many Christian voices who do not agree with the traditional Christian view that homosexuality is sin and that gay marriage is a contradiction in terms. That fact further reduces the impact when any Christian speaks up for biblical values. Should we feel tromped on? Abandoned? Upset? Angry?
Jesus warned us that our way of life would not be the popular one. He said, “The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) If he is right, then we must be on the right path, because the crowd is thinning out. If he is right, we must be on the road where we belong, because it is hard.
One of the hardest things about this path is that while we travel it, our enemies continue to bombard us. Not only do they object to our arguments against their intentions; they also object to our having opinions at all. The allegation against Chick-Fil-A is a case in point. Never at any time has the owner of Chick-Fil-A said anything insulting about homosexuality or gay marriage. He has, however, exercised his God-given right, protected in the First Amendment, to express his opposition to gay marriage and he has donated money, also his right, to organizations that advocate for traditional marriage and family values. His religious convictions shape his political speech and action. Every citizen has the right to express his political views, a right Hillary Clinton famously supported during the 2008 presidential campaign. Sadly, because Chick-Fil-A’s owner has done so, LGBT political activists accuse him of hate. If being opposed to somebody’s view constitutes hate, then the LGBT activists around the nation must be complete hate-mongers, because they hold views directly opposite to mine.
If I asserted that view, I would be taking on the attitude of the people on the other side of this political/cultural chasm. If I asserted that view, I would also be rejecting the teaching of Christ. Christ taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who abuse us. This means that even though we are called hate-mongers or accused of venomous speech, Christ expects us to respond with love. We can and must dispute with the people who assault what is right, but we must not engage in name-calling and vicious sound bites. When one United States Senator feels comfortable calling another United States Senator a “wacko bird” it feels as if the underpinnings of civil society are wobbling. Those of us who claim the name of Christ must depend on Christ to give us words for the conversation that express our message without demeaning our opponents.
Jesus never said it would be easy. We must pray for the guidance and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We must trust that God is still sovereign in the affairs of time and space. We must be willing to suffer for our convictions, willing to be insulted and ostracized, maybe even willing to lose friends, horrifying as that sounds. We must never forget that in this battle, we are called to be the sweet scent of Christ in the stinking mayhem of the culture wars.
Dan Cathy has demonstrated how to be the sweet scent of Christ in this conflict. Read the story that models a way to stand respectfully on principle at http://tinyurl.com/ajboucy