I have avoided writing or saying much on the Chick-fil-A vs. Muppets squabble. I like Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches and their slaw is awesome. And I like the Muppets, a lot. But since I didn’t even realize they were doing business together, it’s no heartache for me that they broke up. I suppose that I have been most afraid that saying something lends validity to the squabble, but it’s grown big enough to captivate a nation without any input from me (said tongue in cheek, since probably twelve people will read this blog), so here goes…
It’s been common knowledge my whole life that the Chick-fil-A tries to mix it’s owner’s values with the way they do business. They’ve always been closed on Sundays. I’m pretty sure they used to have Veggie Tales toys and prizes, and I am quite sure they have had other kids toys of that tied into Bible stories and characters. That’s who and what Chick-Fil-A has always been. I have to wonder what the Henson folks were thinking when they entered into a business relationship with the group if they weren’t aware of this.
Chick-Fil-A has given money to organizations that promote heterosexual marriage and oppose same-sex marriage. However, I’ve not found any articles or accusations that they have discriminated against people in their hiring/firing policies or broken the laws of our country. I’d be curious to know if they have had such accusations or problems.
Then, there’s the actual quote that this whole broo-ha-ha has grown out of… did you read it yet? Before presenting the quote, I’d like you to do something: Stop thinking about gay marriage! Gay marriage doesn’t seem to have been mentioned in the article, and Mr. Cathy wasn’t asked about it. Try for a moment to step back and let the quote be itself: “‘We are very much supportive of the family — 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,’ Cathy is quoted as saying.”
Ok, so this guy is all about the “family.” And he invokes the idea of a “biblical definition” of the family. We can all read different things into that depending on our theology and cultural experience/tradition. We can even safely assume he would include defining family as based on the marriage of a man and a woman. But he didn’t decide to go there. When he expanded on things he said this… “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.” What? What?!
I understand that someone reporting on this story may not be up on all the conservative Christian vocabulary that gets thrown around, but I’ve not heard a single friend or Christian writer respond to “first wives.” Now, if Mr. Cathy were Mormon, then maybe he would mean that those men in his family aren’t polygamists. But he’s Baptist, and “first wives” means that they don’t practice the ultimate evil (at least it was before gay marriage supplanted it) of divorce. That quote is a direct slap at divorced people, not gay people, by it’s own explicit content.
Of course, we can assume he would exclude gay marriage from his “biblical definition,” but he chooses to hang his hat on the absence of any “second wives” in his family. I know a lot of Christian friends who have been like “Whoo Hooo, let’s go support Chick-Fil-A!” who are also divorced, the spouses of second wives and even, dare I say it, “second husbands.” Why aren’t they aggravated at the lack of grace Mr. Cathy showed for divorced people? I think it’s because of the great law of media that once a story has been framed one way, it doesn’t get a second framing. A wise friend who spent years in news broadcast around the DC area let me in on that media law, and it’s so true. The story was framed around gay marriage, and there it has remained.
Plenty of people have written on the absurdity of this public debate over eating at Chick-Fil-A or not. I haven’t seen anyone actually pointing out that Mr. Cathy was blithely devaluing divorced people, not gay people. Why not? Because the story was framed about gay marriage, and that framework holds, it sells, it galvanizes, it’s fires people up on both sides of a silly culture war that no one will win. And that framework has no place to process the “first wives” vocabulary.
So, what do I do with the “first wives” thing? I would say to the divorced people out there, the second wives and second husbands, “You’re welcome in my church family!” I say that because my biblical definition of family is inclusive of biblical things like grace, love and humility. We don’t distribute labels in our church family like “divorced,” “first” or “second.” I personally thank God for my wife, not because she’s my first wife, but because I get to share life with an amazing woman. I’ve known many people who felt the same about their second spouses. I’ve spoken with and read things by gay friends who felt that way about their partners and spouses.
What do I do with the whole “gay” thing? I would say to gay people out there, married or not, divorced or not, “You’re welcome in my church family!” I say that because my biblical definition of family, whether we’re talking about my biological family or my faith family, is based on biblical things like grace, love and humility. We don’t distribute labels in our church family like “straight” or “gay.”
Grace, love and humility. God forbid I ever make a move or say a word to win an argument or achieve dominance in any cultural arena of thought, if I have to trade one single opportunity to show grace, love or humility to claim that win. So where’s the grace, love and humility in this whole Chick-Fil-A vs. Muppets carnival? I’ve not seen much on either side of the argument. So, it’s not my argument. I’ll let Chick-Fil-A and the Muppets handle their own fight, after all they’re the squabbling couple. I’ll just keep trying to find those moments when I get to live the grace, love and humility the Bible has taught me. And I’ll pray I’m better at it today than I was yesterday.