Chick-fil-a

Marriage, Family, and the Chicken Sandwich

“Eat More Chicken.” That’s what former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee wants you to do today. Gov. Huckabee has declared August 1 to be “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” in response to the negative firestorm surrounding Dan Cathy’s recent declaration of support for the biblical model of marriage. Cathy is the president and chief operating officer of the Atlanta-based restaurant chain.

Should we support Chick-fil-A today? Should we affirm Mr. Cathy’s statements? Does Mr. Cathy have the right to say such things? The answers to these questions are yes, yes, and yes, but let’s take a look at why.

Biblically, we need to be reminded to stand together with fellow believers as they try to do the right thing. In Hebrews 10:24, we read, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” The Cathy family has worked long and hard to build a business on principles derived from the Bible. They keep their doors closed on Sundays so their employees can spend the day in worship. They train their staff to treat everyone with respect and kindness. They have even created foundations to fund college scholarships and other educational opportunities for employees. They are working diligently to do good—investing in their people and their communities. In an age where business is marked with greed and fraud, Chick-fil-A is running things the right way.

In addition, fellow believers should stand for what Dan Cathy has affirmed—a biblical understanding of marriage. In an interview with Allan Blume of the Biblical Recorder, Cathy said, “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’s statement is much broader than the media has reported. Certainly, his words exclude a vision of marriage beyond heterosexual union. However, he more specifically affirms marriage between one man and one woman for a lifetime. His concern is not simply with same-sex marriage. His statement expresses concern for rampant divorce in our culture, cohabitation before marriage, and the fringe elements of polygamous and polyamorous relationships that are becoming more mainstream.

Marriage as the Bible describes it is a covenantal relationship between a man and a woman that lasts until death. Genesis 2:24 declares, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” This relationship is then a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31–32). I applaud Mr. Cathy for supporting this vision of marriage.

Socially, not only should we affirm Mr. Cathy’s words, but we should support his work that in turn strengthens marriages. The company uses its profits to support a number of causes, one of which is its own WinShape Foundation. One of the focal points of the foundation is helping people prepare for, strengthen, and save their marriages. In our society today, over 60% of marriages are preceded by cohabitation; more than a third of all American adults experience at least one divorce; and 34% of all children under 18 live in households without two married parents. These numbers are staggering. Marriage is on the decline, and we need to do all we can to support it. When a company like Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family have made it possible for us to be a part of preserving marriage in our society, we need to vote with our mouths and our money.

Politically, we need to stand up for Mr. Cathy’s right to speak his opinion boldly and without threat of retaliation by the government. The First Amendment to the Constitution reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech. . . .” Threats of retaliation by the city governments of Boston and Chicago constitute a violation of Mr. Cathy’s first amendment rights. Mr. Cathy has clearly stated that his position is based upon his religious beliefs. Therefore, blocking a company’s ability to operate in a city for the religious beliefs of its president amounts to the prohibition of his free exercise of religion. If that were not enough, Mr. Cathy has a first amendment right to speak his opinion under the protection of freedom of speech. Governments cannot discriminate against him or his company simply because he chose to speak. In fact, Mayor Menino of Boston and Mayor Emanuel of Chicago have both backtracked on their threats to ban the restaurant after facing the reality that such actions would be unconstitutional.

So what should Christians do? When we find businesses that promote biblical values, frequent them. Tell the company that you support the stands they take. Use your words and your money to demonstrate support. What about Chick-fil-A today? I say, go to Chick-fil-A. Buy a meal. Drink some lemonade. Eat more chicken.

*Originally posted at www.theologicalmatters.com.

Good Reading: Robert George on Marriage and Religious Liberty

Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, offers an insightful look at the tension between religious liberty and the redefinition of marriage. Here are a couple of highlights:

It was only yesterday, was it not, that we were being assured that the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex partnerships would have no impact on persons and institutions that hold to the traditional view of marriage as a conjugal union? Such persons and institutions would simply be untouched by the change. It won’t affect your marriage or your life, we were told, if the law recognizes Henry and Herman or Sally and Sheila as “married.”

Those offering these assurances were also claiming that the redefinition of marriage would have no impact on the public understanding of marriage as a monogamous and sexually exclusive partnership. No one, they insisted, wanted to alter those traditional marital norms. On the contrary, the redefinition of marriage would promote and spread those norms more broadly.

George then shows how those “assurances” were false and questions why those supporting traditional marriage ever bought into such assurances. He continues:

I must say, though, that I still can’t fathom why anybody believed any of it—even then. The whole argument was and is that the idea of marriage as the union of husband and wife lacks a rational basis and amounts to nothing more than “bigotry.” Therefore, no reasonable person of goodwill can dissent from the liberal position on sex and marriage, any more than a reasonable person of goodwill could support racial segregation and subordination. And this, because marriage, according to the redefiners, consists principally of the emotional union of people committed to mutual affection and care. Any distinctions beyond this one they condemn as baseless.

Since most liberals and even some conservatives, it seems, apparently have no understanding at all of the conjugal conception of marriage as a one-flesh union—not even enough of a grasp to consciously consider and reject it—they uncritically conceive marriage as sexual-romantic domestic partnership, as if it just couldn’t possibly be anything else. This is despite the fact that the conjugal conception has historically been embodied in our marriage laws, and explains their content (not just the requirement of spousal sexual complementarity, but also rules concerning consummation and annulability, norms of monogamy and sexual exclusivity, and the pledge of permanence of commitment) in ways that the sexual-romantic domestic partnership conception simply cannot. Still, having adopted the sexual-romantic domestic partnership idea, and seeing no alternative possible conception of marriage, they assume—and it is just that, an assumption, and a gratuitous one—that no actual reason exists for regarding sexual reproductive complementarity as integral to marriage. After all, two men or two women can have a romantic interest in each other, live together in a sexual partnership, care for each other, and so forth. So why can’t they be married? Those who think otherwise, having no rational basis, discriminate invidiously. By the same token, if two men or two women can be married, why can’t three or more people, irrespective of sex, in polyamorous “triads,” “quadrads,” etc.? Since no reason supports the idea of marriage as a male-female union or a partnership of two persons and not more, the motive of those insisting on these other “traditional” norms must also be a dark and irrational one.

This article is worth your time, especially in light of the current public discussion of Chick-fil-a’s support of traditional marriage. George lends credence to the Cathy family’s stance but explains why they are taking a beating in the media and social “elite.”

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Robert P. George, “Marriage, Religious Liberty, and the ‘Grand Bargain,'” The Public Discourse, July 19, 2012.