August 10, 2012

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

Chick-fil-A controversy shows the challenge of living the faith consistently

Sean GallagherA few years ago, I tried to make my way through a mobbed food court in the Circle Centre Mall in Indianapolis prior to an Indianapolis Colts football game.

It was a late Sunday morning, and the place was filled with fans standing in long lines at various restaurants there trying to get a bite of lunch before the big game. When I saw how long the wait would be, I decided to forgo lunch and head over to the stadium.

But what I saw in the crowded food court as an inconvenience, the restaurant owners surely saw as a tremendous opportunity to increase their revenue.

All of them seemed to perceive it that way except for the operators of one restaurant. Right in the middle of the food court was a Chick-fil-A that was closed. I knew that the chicken restaurant chain was owned by a Christian family that took their faith seriously enough that they chose to keep their stores closed on the Lord’s Day, even though Sunday is one of the most lucrative days of the week for retailers.

But seeing that shuttered store in the midst of such a throng of customers ready and willing to give them their money made that choice all the more powerful.

Unlike many business owners, the Cathy family that founded and still owns Chick-fil-A put their faith before profits. A choice like this should be praised in the middle of a society that too often sees wealth as the criterion of success and unfettered capitalism as its guiding star.

Now, however, the Cathy family is finding itself vehemently criticized by many people across the country. It’s not because of their refusal to open their restaurants on Sundays.

Instead, it’s in reaction to the family’s support for the definition of marriage, based on Scripture and natural law, as between a man and a woman. Prominent mayors and aldermen who favor the redefinition of marriage to include

same-sex couples have gone so far as to say that Chick-fil-A should not be allowed to open new restaurants in their cities.

Now, mind you, Chick-fil-A is not refusing to serve such couples in their restaurants. They aren’t acting like owners of lunch counters in the south in the time of the Civil Rights Movement that refused to serve black customers.

Much of the current furor directed at the Cathy family came about as the result of comments by Dan Cathy in a Baptist Press article. In the article, Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A, only spoke in support of the biblical understanding of marriage. He never said anything disparaging of those who promote the redefinition of marriage.

What he and his family support—the traditional definition of marriage and allowing their employees to worship and spend time with their families on Sundays—all flow consistently from their life of faith. They are concrete expressions of their faith.

And that was enough for them to be threatened with seemingly unconstitutional limits being placed on their ability to expand their business and, in the process, give jobs to more people.

But this sad situation should remind all Christians that living out our faith with consistency will inevitably lead to being shunned and even persecuted. After all, Jesus said, “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (Jn 15:20).

For most of us, this will not happen in such a public way as it is happening to the Cathy family, but it may mean strained relationships with our family, friends or co-workers.

When this happens, though, Jesus would have us show love to those who disagree with us. “Love your enemies,” he said, “and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44).

Pray also for yourself and other Christians that, when facing situations in which being consistent with your faith can be challenging and make us feel uncomfortable, we will remain faithful in a loving and positive way, giving those around us a convincing witness to Christ.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter and columnist for The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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