Chick-fil-a and Wondering “Where Have All the Liberals Gone”?

I had a seminary professor who was what I call a true liberal. By that I mean, she really believed in and lived according to the idea that we all have the liberty to hold our own opinion of things, live by them, and express them. Our differing opinions, when shared and engaged, make us wiser and stronger. To her, disagreement was an opportunity for learning and growth. Being a true liberal she was always open to hearing what others said and even when she disagreed with them it was as a learning experience, characterized by respect in the midst of disagreement. The disagreements could at times be serious and important, from the nature of God, to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, or even if the crucifixion was necessary for the forgiveness of sin. In a seminary those are hot topics and could at times produce a shower of sparks in debates between liberals and conservatives. But not with this professor. She had the respect of the conservatives because she would engage in serious dialogue and treat others as people made in God’s image and worthy of being treated with dignity.

During this latest cultural tempest over Chick-fil-a, their position on homosexual marriage, the protests and counter protests, I have often thought of that professor and wondered to myself, “where have all the liberals gone”. You may think that I am just not paying attention because clearly there are lots of them. Many of them are planning a kiss-in protest at Chick-fil-a stores across the country today. But that is not what I am talking about. I don’t mean people who are morally liberal as opposed to conservatives or evangelicals. I am talking about true, philosophical liberals who really do believe that everyone has the right to their own opinion, expression of it, and their version of truth. Those liberals are few and far between today. What I find in their place are people who are morally liberal but philosophically conservative. What do I mean by that? Simply this, a true liberal would not attack you telling you that your position is wrong and you are a hateful person for holding it. They would simply tell you that they disagree, and then tell you what is true for them and works for them. They would simply acknowledge that it is different from what you think or believe. What I see in the outrage against Chick-fil-a is a philosophical conservatism that says, your position is wrong, it is untrue, incorrect, and in fact dangerous, and hateful. In a rather obvious twist, obvious to me at least, I find many liberals engaging in the exact hate speech that they accuse Dan Cathy of spouting. Just this morning I read the report of on Arizona CFO getting fired after he posted a YouTube video of himself berating a Chick-fil-a drive through attendant over the company’s position on gay marriage.  So my request to liberals everywhere is simply this, be a true liberal. Be consistent. If you really want to live as if there are no, or few moral absolutes, as if people should have the liberty to do as they want, then you must allow the conservative the liberty to hold their positions just as you do. You have no philosophical grounds on which to tell them they are wrong for the positions they hold. Liberalism is about liberty, the liberty to think and believe and express whatever you want. Dan Cathy should have that liberty as should anyone else. It even gives mayors of major cities the liberty to say things that they later regret and realize they need to clarify or retract.

But I also want to say a few things to my conservative and evangelical friends. If you truly think that there is right and wrong, good and evil, and that there are moral laws we should follow, then follow them. Start with what Jesus said was the most important, love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Such love is not confined to feeling all warm and fuzzy about someone. The biblical kind of love, the Jesus kind of love, is the kind that acts lovingly, even when you don’t feel like it. If you are a conservative or evangelical then ask yourself these questions. Is there a LGBT person who considers you a friend? Is there an atheist who knows that they can talk to you about anything and that if they were in trouble at two in the morning they could call you without hesitation? Is there a Muslim or Buddhist who respects you because you first respected them? Is there anyone who is of a radically different lifestyle from you who knows that you love them because you have consistently served, encouraged. prayed for them, and treated them with respect and friendship? If the answer is no or you are not sure, then I suggest you skip waiting in line for your chicken sandwich and go do something that builds a bridge and demonstrates the love of Christ. I am pretty sure that Dan Cathy would gladly give up the profit on the sandwich if he knew you were investing in the life of someone who desperately needs to know that Jesus and you, love them.

You see, as much as it makes us feel triumphant that people needed to wait in long lines for a piece of chicken on Wednesday, such triumphalism will not bring people closer to Jesus. Our love and kindness will. That’s not my idea. That’s what the Bible says. “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. It is the love of the Lord that draws us to him. It must be noted that this word kindness is part of Paul’s’ argument against sin in the early verses of Romans. The particular focus of the end of Romans 1 is on homosexual practice and sin. Many Christians trot out those verses and use them to beat over the heads of proponents of same-sex marriage. Yet Paul, for all his strident words against sin, reminds us that kindness is what God most often uses to call us to him. That kindness is first and foremost to be made evident though followers of Christ as we treat others with kindness. That doesn’t mean we say everything is acceptable. It means that we graciously, humbly, lovingly hold to what we believe, including that we believe Jesus calls us to serve and love even our perceived enemies.

We conservatives and evangelicals need to take a page out of the playbook of that liberal seminary professor. We need to treat people, no matter how much we disagree with them, with kindness and respect. We need to demonstrate that we love them and will serve them and sacrifice for them in order to show them the love of Christ. I suspect that if more of us lived that way, there would be a true dialogue and not a parade of useless protests, counter protests, showing support by buying sandwiches or showing disdain by boycotting sandwiches.

I bring this all back to the point of this blog site, provoking a response to the sake of Christ. According to 1 Peter 3:15, Christians should be living life so differently, so hopefully, faithfully, and lovingly, that people who are not following Christ become intrigued by our faith, hope, and love and want to know the reason for it. It is then that we can point people to Jesus and say, “He loves me and because of that, I love you, and He wants you to know that He loves you too”.

26 thoughts on “Chick-fil-a and Wondering “Where Have All the Liberals Gone”?

  1. This is very well said Dan, I don’t live in the States, but when I was there for short while I was introduced to Chic-fil-a as a Christian franchise, something that doesn’t exist here in SA.

    I completely agree on the fact that liberals can be intensely hypocritical when Christian’s voice their beliefs, I have seen this way too many times on my facebook newsfeed, especially relating to the topic of same-sex marriage etc. There is so much hate towards us surrounding this topic it’s actually scary sometimes, but mostly I find it intensely sad.

    But, like you also mention Christian’s need to respond to these people with love and not the same venomous way the liberals are. You can never concur hate with hate.

    Really enjoyed your article 🙂

  2. Bruce

    Good topic Dan. I have never labeled myself either liberal or conservative – instead considering myself a fair thinking man. Having read your topic I guess I’m actually a liberal as I live and breathe all those virtues that your seminary professor espoused.
    Myself and one other face book friend posted that all this Chick Fil A fiasco did was draw a line in the sand and further separate people into sides. All this Chick Fil A thing reminds me of is an old story about a cowboy who went into a bar and sat next to a woman. She asked him it he were a real cowboy and he replied he was, that he had done and continues to do all the things a cowboy is required to do. He asked her what she was. She proudly announced she was a lesbian. He ask what that was and she told him she woke up thinking of women, thought of women when she showered, ate, worked, and it was the last thing she thought of at night.
    Another guy came in and asked the cowboy was he a real cowboy. His reply was that he thought he used to be but he just found out he was a lesbian.
    I see a similarity there. The only one who profited from this was Chick Fil A in revenue, and people have a dividing line drawn between them again. I don’t think Jesus would approve of the way this went down.

  3. Cherie Brant

    Love this! But please take the second Have out of the title! Shouldn’t it read, “Where Have All the Liberals Gone?” Excellent article – Thank you! – and let me know when you’ve corrected the title so I may share it with some very critical folks!

  4. I agree with most of what you said but I waited in line for one reason, to support the right of a man to express his opinion. Yes you are right when you say that money could have been used to feed the poor but all I was thinking about was supporting someone’s right to freely express their opinion. The Chick-Fil-A I went to for lunch had a very quiet orderly group standing in line. The people serving were friendly and deferential and I didn’t hear any unkind words nor did I see any signs. Unfortunately there are some who will spoil it for us all by acting childishly but that was not my experience here. I even had a chance to share about it later with the woman who was cutting my hair and it turned into an opportunity to share about my faith. My concern about issues like this is that Christians are being expected to give up more and more and I feel like if we don’t stand up and speak out we may lose even more than we already have.

  5. Lee

    “I don’t mean people who are morally liberal as opposed to conservatives or evangelicals. I am talking about true, philosophical liberals who really do believe that everyone has the right to their own opinion, expression of it, and their version of truth.”


    I consider myself a true liberal. Liberalism is a broad political ideology or worldview founded on the ideas of liberty and equality. That being said my problem with Dan Cathy does not lie in his ideology but in his wealth and what he does with that wealth. Dan Cathy donates to groups that espouse hatred and the belief that not all people are worthy of equality and liberty. It is one thing to differ in ideology, it is another to deny groups of people equality and liberty. A line in the sand must be drawn when this occurs and especially when it occurs to a minority of the population who would not otherwise have a voice.

    History repeats itself. The liberals are not gone, the conservatives have made a point of denying rights that are human rights and that is where the discussion ends and action starts.

    “My concern about issues like this is that Christians are being expected to give up more and more and I feel like if we don’t stand up and speak out we may lose even more than we already have.”

    Christians aren’t being asked to give up anything. They are being asked to live side-by-side with others who do not share their beliefs and they are refusing to do so. What more are you being asked to give up? Are we asking you not to attend Church? Are we asking to “turn” gay?

    or Are we just asking you to live side-by-side with people who are different than you and are you having a really really hard time with this request.

  6. Gerri Werl Newcamp

    Dan… I clicked on this this evening when someone here on FB shared it… and read it with great interest. Great article, very thought-provoking! After reading it I was wondering… wow, who wrote this? Then I realized it was YOU, LOL! You are a very wise man Dan. You keep us all thinking. God Bless you ❤

  7. How did this whole issue turn into gay bashing? Was it so we would miss the real issue, being, politicians using their influence to keep Chic Fil A from opening a new restaurant in their jurisdiction because it’s owner expressed an opposing political view and gave money to that cause? That is the issue.

  8. Marty Skindell

    I enjoyed your thoughful article. It was refreshing and thought provoking. May I add, the world will still hate us as Christians just like the world hated Christ because our very lives are a rebuttal of their beliefs.

  9. Tina Trombley Standifer

    Lee, I must say you have missed most of the point. Dan Cathy’s company supports the traditional view of marriage. I can’t say why exactly you say he supports companies that promote hate, however, I know he believes (as do those working with and for him) in what those companies are doing to promote that very same belief.
    The original point was the right for any man to speak freely and not be torn apart by others that have opposing views. Do you know that Barrack Obama publically stated on 2 different occasions (that I know of, there may be more) that he couldn’t condone same sex marriage because of his Christian beliefs. Then he changed his mind (one must wonder if someone enticed him to do so) to say that he supported it. The liberals made no mention of those 1st two statements either time they occurred publically. But now that an openly Christian man and his company who are not even half as powerful state that he “supports traditional marriage as it is biblically defined” to the Christian public there is all of a sudden going to be a backlash? Don’t you think we’re being used as pawns for a larger agenda here? If we don’t work together to find out what is best for everyone here, reasoning out each thought instead of reacting emotionally, then this country may as well just give up its stars and stripes!

  10. Kim Patterson

    I was pondering this issue and wondering why we, as Christians, all don’t see farther down the road.

    God gave me an epiphany while wiping down windows and pondering the command to bless your enemies and not curse them. And the remainder that by doing so we “heap burning coals” on their head. That scripture seems to contradict itself.

    But I think He explained it to me. What if – in a humble and meek manner, as Christ would have done – every Chick-fil-A manager took food out to every gay protestor? What if he looked into their eyes with sincerity and compassion, and told them “God loves you and so do I.” God only knows how many lives would have been changed. On both sides.

    And the burning coals are the rejection of that love.

  11. Brian

    There are things Christians just don’t understand. I am gay. I do not consider myself a Christian, or religious at all for that matter. So Christians do not believe in gay marriage, that is fine. You can believe anything you like. But why do you have to force the rest of the non-Christian community to be bound by your beliefs. Why does that mean other citizens of this country, who happen to be gay, cannot LEGALLY marry someone they love? I’m not asking you to change your religious beliefs. I’m not asking you to allow me and my partner to get married in your church. What we want has NOTHING to do with your religion. It’s all a legal matter and an expression of our love — not a religious ceremony.

    I don’t like speed limits, I’d prefer to drive as fast as I want. But if there was a vote on speed limits, would I vote in favor of them? Yes, because in the end is it better for everyone if we have speed limits. I’m not religious, and I don’t want to practice any type of faith. But if there was a vote on whether or not we should allow people to practice their religion in this country, would I vote in favor of it? Of course. Just because I don’t care for it doesn’t mean it won’t have a negative affect on other people if that right is removed. They should be able to do what makes them happy. You don’t like gay marriage, so you vote to prevent countless individuals from marrying the people that make their lives complete, thus discounting their love and saying it is not equal to yours. How is that a Christian thing to do?

  12. Michael difford–my thought exactly. I do believe this confused the terms liberal and libertarian. I also challenge the statement that liberals live as though there are few moral absolutes. I believe that the difference in what conservatives and liberals believe is moral is the difference between individual lifestyle choices (conservatives judge these moral or not) and how well a society takes care of all that live in it (liberals judge this moral or not).

  13. Dan Lacich

    Cathy and Michael,
    Thank you for your thoughts. In current usage you are correct that what I described as liberal sounds more like a libertarian. Yet classic liberalism was much more about the validity of all ideas and expressions and exploring them all as equally valid. It is where we get the notion of a liberal arts education. It is an education that explores a wide variety of subjects and perspectives and is open to all of them for the sake of personal enrichment and growth. The person I mentioned in the article was a classic liberal. She listened to and respected people of different, even extremely conservative positions without judging them as hateful, narrow-minded, or any other derogatory term. I wonder where those liberals have gone. The reason I say that liberals have become “conservatives” is that by and large todays liberals view conservative moral positions not as valid options but as hate mongering, and evil. The very tolerance so often preached is not practiced. In theory they are “liberal” but they often act just like that which they decry, the conservative, and narrow-minded. Somewhere along the way it has been decided that if I disagree with someones position on say, homosexuality, then I am a hater and homophobe, and people seem to have no reservation about saying so. They then express their position with as much force and anger as do the conservatives they castigate. Don’t get me wrong. Many conservatives do the same thing. It pains me when fellow evangelicals are unable or unwilling to express their postions and differences in a loving and respectful way.

    Part of the struggle of even talking about liberals and conservatives is that there are many facets. There are economic liberals and conservatives. Moral liberals and conservatives. Social, political, or theological liberals and conservatives. A person may be liberal in one area and conservative in another. I am very conservative theologically and morally, but fairly liberal socially. I think caring for widows, orphans, the poor, the sick and homeless is at the core of what it means to be a Christian. But I also think the Bible clearly defines the marriage ideal as between one man and one woman, for life. So where does that put me? According to Cathy’s distinction I am both liberal and conservative. It just depends on what arena of lide we are talking about.
    I suppose what is really behind the original post is that for all the discussion on the liberal side that calls for tolerance, many seem to have a hard time being tolerant of conservatives who hold radically different postions. I suspect there may be another blog coming soon on that topic.
    Anyway, I look forward to hearing from you both in the future and continuing to sharpen one another’s thinking.

  14. I enjoyed this and it is very thoughtful analysis of the Chick-fil-A situation. I think, perhaps, that the “classic liberals” have been gone a long time. I attended law school at Harvard in the 1980’s, a Reagan conservative from the south. I knew I would be in the minority politically but thought it would be fine, as I expected the tolerant liberals to be very open to respectful discussion. But no…I had rarely encountered so many knee-jerk, slogan spouting, difficult to converse with folk. It’s like the fact that I was a conservative, Christian pro-life woman at Harvard Law School just set them off some way- I guess it just was too unexpected. I think we have a shortage of people across the spectrum able to engage in respectful dialogue.

  15. Lhyzz

    If the only issue were the owner of Chick-Fil-A having a bigoted opinion toward gays, there would not be much fuss. The problem is that he uses profits from his business to fund groups that seek to not only make sure gay marriage is not legalized, but also make homosexuality itself illegal. In some countries, these organizations are funding legislation that make homosexuality punishable by death. These are true hate groups. The boycott was about making sure people knew where their money was going, and what it was helping to fund. The fact that a couple of boisterous mayors raised their voices and said stupid things in some misguided attempt to either help their campaigns or perhaps even because they truly disliked CFA’s behavior, does not change what the core issue was: a boycott of an organization who uses its profits to oppress gays. Discussion is all well and good, but when people are actively working to hurt others, you must act.

  16. mike

    So, let’s imagine Jesus is 30 years old and living among us. Do you expect he’d be in the Chick Fil A croud eating a sandwich and slamming gays or would he be compassionate and understanding and believing everyone should be treated equally? Would he fall for the hate-filled rants of our right-wingers that recognize that seek to build membership/dollars by defining a “boogie-man” to unite their flocks? I think not.

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