When Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-a, made his now infamous comments opposing marriage equality, I was listening to the audiobook version of The Help, Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel about the lives of African American maids in the early 1960s. The book details what it’s like to be African American, in the South, during the Civil Rights Movement (i.e. not a Fourth of July picnic). Question: Do you know what else is not a Fourth of July picnic? Answer: Being LGBTQ (or, to a lesser extent, their straight supporter), in the South, today.
I grew up in rural South Carolina, in a town not unlike Mayberry of Andy Griffith fame. For the most part, people in the town who were not conservative Christians moved elsewhere, or they learned to be silent. As for me, I went to college for a BA in English; and then an MA; and then a PhD. And, at some point during that time, I (like Skeeter Phelan) “realized that I actually had a choice in what I could believe.” I made the choice to embrace both a progressive Christianity and the LGBTQ community. Then, I was naïve enough to think that I could share articles and that my conservative Christian Facebook friends would read them and choose to embrace both a progressive Christianity and the LGBTQ community too:
- Because, if given the choice, wouldn’t you want to be honest about the fact that, as David Lose writes, “the Bible seems regularly and simultaneously to offer counsel that we deem both awful and excellent,” and, then, set to work choosing your canon within the canon?
- Wouldn’t you want to build your canon around Christ’s teachings and example, rather than a code of holy living for Levitical priests or a couple of sentences written by Paul? Isn’t that the point of the WWJD bracelets? Isn’t it preferable to put Jesus’s injunction to love your neighbor as yourself and to refrain from judgment in your canon within the canon, to prioritize these teachings, as Jesus did?
- Wouldn’t you prefer Jay Michaelson’s interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah? Michaelson writes, “The Sodomites were rapists, not gays. Sodomy is a crime of violence against strangers, not an act of sexuality and certainly not one of love. It is an act born of hardening the heart against people who are vulnerable.” Isn’t it preferable to learn something about ourselves, about the ways we are inhospitable to our neighbors, instead of judging and consequently alienating a minority group?
Isn’t it tiring to hold onto self-righteousness, and to practice condemnation of the LGBTQ community on a day-to-day basis? As Aibileene says to Hilly Holbrook in the film adaptation of The Help: “Ain’t you tired?”
I speak out against Dan Cathy’s comments, because silence is always interpreted as consent. I boycott Chick-fil-a, not because of Cathy’s comments (noxious as they are), but because Cathy has donated five million dollars of his revenue to anti-gay organizations like Exodus International and the Family Research Council. And, yes: I know that I have and will inevitability make purchases that harm rather than help, but this is one purchase I can do without. I posted as much on my Facebook page, and I have been disheartened to see the response.
- To those who continue to insist that being gay is a choice: Ain’t you tired? If the LGBTQ community (and science, incidentally) says that sexual orientation is not a choice, maybe it’s not. You have already accepted that the Bible is not a science textbook if you believe, despite Joshua 10:12-14, that the Earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way around. Maybe, just maybe, the Biblical writers did not have a complete understanding of sexuality and gender. Maybe, just maybe, God does not have their (and our) limited human understanding.
- To those who continue to fight against marriage equality for the LGBTQ community: Ain’t you tired? Don’t be angry that the Christian conservative boycott against JC Penney did not garner the same amount of attention and support as the boycott against Chick-fil-a. And don’t be surprised. By backing marriage equality, JC Penney supports extending rights to a minority community. Chick-fil-a is contributing funds to organizations that are trying to deny rights to a minority community. Traditional heterosexual marriage is in no danger, whether same-sex couples are allowed to marry or not.
- To those who continue to insist that being gay is a sin against God. Ain’t you tired? Jesus had more to say about divorce (and much more to say about greed) than being gay (of which he said nothing). Imagine that Cathy took a public stance against the Biblical “sin” of divorce by not only condemning remarriage, but also by sending money to organizations claiming to “cure” those who want to remarry of “adulterous” impulses (see Mark 10:11-12).
Ain’t you tired?
I have a confession. The LGBTQ community, and the people who support them are tired too, but it’s of the MLK Jr. variety:
And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression. There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair. There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November. There comes a time.
We are here, we are here this evening because we are tired now. And I want to say that we are not here advocating violence. We have never done that. I want it to be known . . . that we are Christian people. We believe in the Christian religion. We believe in the teachings of Jesus. The only weapon that we have in our hands this evening is the weapon of protest. That’s all.
We protest the “strain of Christianity that continues to insist that homosexuality is an evil affront to God” (see John Shore’s “Another Teen Bullied to Death, Another Reason for a New Christianity”). But many of us are still Christian, and I dare say all of us embrace Jesus’s ethics (a la Sermon on the Mount) and example. Because we embrace these ethics, we protest organizations that seek to deny two consenting adults the right to make a loving marriage commitment to each other; and, we protest restaurant CEOs who boast of financially supporting such organizations.
There comes a time. We are here. We protest. Ain’t you tired?