In the News: Update–Chick fil A, Traditional Values, Gay Rights, and Boycotting as Culture War

We’ve been reading with interest the developing story of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A.  Defenders such as Mike Huckabee have called for a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.  Opponents have rallied for a boycott of all Chick-fil-A branches.  Why?  Cathy’s comments and philanthropic donations have supported what he would call “traditional families.”  His opponents call them anti-gay.

The questions in this story have attracted the attention of everyone interested in today’s culture wars:

  • What does it mean to support traditional families?
  • What role do businesses play in promoting cultural values?
  • Is a consumer boycott a viable tactic for culture war victory?

So far we’ve refrained from posting any more news on this developing story.  But yesterday Darren Grem on Religion in American Life posted an analysis that was so insightful, we thought we’d recommend it.  If you’re following this story, or even wondering about it, Grem’s article is a great place to start.  He offers a cash-flow chart of where every dollar spent at Chick-fil-A likely goes.  We are looking forward to reading more when Grem’s book comes out.


Fundamentalist Fast Food? Christian Chicken? Fresh Hot Hate?

Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy

The interweb has been squawking about Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s recent statements.  Earlier this week, Cathy told the Baptist Press that his 1600-strong chain of fast-food restaurants was founded on Biblical principles, and will keep running that way.  Part of this means support for the traditional family.  “We are very much supportive of the family,” Cathy said,

“– the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Chick-fil-A’s committment to Biblical values goes beyond supporting traditional marriage.  Most famously, the restaurants are closed on Sundays.  The corporation also conducts missionary work among its workers, to its customers, and in its advertising.  When asked about his support for such Fundamentalist groups as Exodus International and the Family Research Council, Cathy happily replied, “Guilty as charged.”

Opponents have accused Chick-fil-A of an anti-gay position.  Many took umbrage at Cathy’s assertion that non-traditional marriages “invit[ed] God’s judgment on our nation.”  On Wednesday, Tim Carman asked in the Washington Post if readers would continue to eat there.  Not everyone will.  As Melissa Browning noted in the Huffington Post, “I can’t eat hate.”  But it appears Browning represents a minority, at least among Carman’s readers.  The results of the Washington Post poll (as of 11:00 New York time on Friday, July 20, 2012) showed 62% of almost 19,000 respondents planning to continue their patronage.

Nevertheless, Chick-fil-A offered yesterday a clarification of its position.  It officially noted that it takes no position on gay marriage.  However, it plans to continue its policy of “Biblically-based” management principles.

Does it matter if chicken is processed biblically?  More important, do we need to be sure that every dollar we spend supports only those corporations whose culture-war positions are as palatable as their products?