An Infidel Stands Up for Chick-fil-A’s President (But Not to the Point of Eating Chicken) - Here’s Why

I assume you know the story about the current chicken war. If not, here is a very brief overview - there’s more to it than this but basically what happened was that a fervently religious business leader (Dan Cathy), the owner of a fast-food chicken empire, made a statement on Christian radio to the effect that America’s troubles are due to the fact that God is smiting us because of a drift toward gay marriage. He really said that. I’ll give the exact quote later in the essay.

Most gays, Democrats and others not given to the Republican mindset considered this remark a form of hate speech. Calls went out for action against Chick-fil-A. Naturally, Republicans were quick to seize the day. Led by evangelist politicians, particularly such media stars of that ilk like Mike Huckabee, a call went out for all good Christians to come to the aid of the company. This meant patronizing Chick-fil-A, showing support for God, traditional marriage and the Republican Party by eating chicken at Chick-fil-A on an appointed day. This was a big success for the Right and the company made a small fortune in one day. 

My first tendency was to support action against Chick-fil-A. Given the company president’s extreme religiosity, I would probably not eat there anyway, even if the urge to eat fast food chicken struck me. However, I’m a newly anointed vegan, a convert into a veggie-based diet pattern. Therefore, I would not eat fowl food at Chick-fil-A or at any other establishment, even if the company president came out in support of gay marriage, and not even if he wedded a male lover in one of his restaurants open for business on Sundays. 

But, the charges by the two sides against each other were of of interest to me. The Far Right point of view painted the anti-Chick-fil-A campaign in Rapture-like terms. Varied spokesperson on the Right described the horror of what critics has done in taking offense of the chicken king’s remarks. Here are a few of the interpretations:

  • It is an attack on religious freedom more worrisome than the Affordable Care Act mandates for contraception. 
  • It is an attack on religious speech itself.
  • It’s an attempt to intimidate other businesspeople into thinking twice before exercising their freedom of speech by seeming to be critical of gays or being anti-gay in any way.
  • It’s an attack on all who would attempt to run a business on "biblical principles."
  • It’s anti-family. 

In addition, Democratic politicians who spoke critically about the chicken company president (such as Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn) were said to be part of a crusade against Christians. (See Jay Richards and James Robison, “The Chicken Inquisition,” Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2012, p. A11)

I don’t think any of the above statements has any merit, but I still want to offer a modicum of support or at least sympathy for Dan Cathy, the besieged or heroic (depending on your view) Chick-fil-A president. Why? Well, have a close look at exactly what Mr. Cathy said that caused so much controversy: "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is about."

Sorry, but in my opinion that remark suggests the man is not of sound mind. What kind of god would render such weird judgment - and on an entire nation or generation, given this alleged offense? What kind of rules does he/she/it play by? Who has done any “shaking of fists” and why would anyone do that? Where did Cathy get that quote? When did any god say say such a thing? Is there evidence for any of this? How do we know this god is such a marriage freak or what he/she/it really thinks of the institution, if at all? What does it mean to “pray God's mercy” on a generation? Does that work? Who decided anyone was or is “prideful or arrogant?” Why does it take audacity to “redefine” something that some, using critical faculties, believe is culture-bound and fair game to fine-tune as civilization moves along? 

I dunno - do most mental health experts think the commentary by Cathy is sensible? Think of all the innocents that would be caught up in collective punishments if there were a deity so easily sent into a murderous rage. Besides, why punish an entire generation - I suspect there's diversity in the views within any generation on all topics, including gay marriage. What generation could ever escape being "wrathed upon" by one or more indignant gods? 

In other words, how could a sane person believe such lunacy? We should be urging counseling for Mr. Cathy, not calling for retribution against him or his business. The latter also seems to have the unfortunate effect of setting off tens of thousands of other Christian extremists similarly bereft of their senses.

It is untreated madness such exhibited by Mr. Cathy that leads Americans to reject the science of evolution, to believe in something as laughable as scriptural inerrancy, to think there really are angels and demons out there that meddle in human affairs, to fear eternal hell-fires and so on. We need new health care legislation - an Affordable Mental Health Care Act for Christians who believe the kind of things the chicken guy said about gay marriage. Such talk seems proof positive of a serious mental condition. 

It’s vital that the Cathys of America get help, and not just for their sake. The toxic delusions they reinforce among themselves and promote to others have already sent one of our two main political parties off the rails. If they gain even greater control of the government, then watch out. Such concerns we have now about faith-based funding, school prayer, the god-talk Pledge of Allegiance and other violations of church-state separation will be the least of the worries for secular Americans. We will have to give all our attention to devising ways to obtain visas or otherwise escape the pogroms, inquisitions, witch trials, blasphemy courts and the rest that will surely follow the madness of fundamentalist thinking as they go merrily about placating their sky god.