What happens when you take a delicious chicken sandwich, top it with strong views on traditional marriage, and serve with a large portion of southern hospitality sprinkled with the phrase “my pleasure”? You end up with an iconic brand that anyone with a Christian worldview can support with confidence.
So what do you think happens when a national day of appreciation is named after said brand by a prominent media figure? You create an enduring legacy within pop culture. But many who have witnessed their meteoric rise in recent years would tell you “be careful what you wish for”. Indeed.
Such is the case with the latest national media buzz to come along for the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A (CFA). Seems that whatever the leaders of this company say undergoes extreme scrutiny. Now, with the recent news, the loudest critics are emanating from the faith-based community that have stood firmly with the company for standing up for their beliefs.
The announcement came in mid-November from CFA headquarters that their longstanding commitment with two high-profile Christian organizations was abruptly ending in 2020. As the news reached the desks of the Mainstream Media (MSM) giants and elites, the spin cycle quickly cascaded downward for the “peasants with pitchforks” to partake of the national media’s narrowly-focused narrative. Many conservatives, fundamentalist Christians (and pitchfork wielders) saw this act as ‘caving’ to the PC of the day, and promptly lashed out against CFA; most with little restraint or reflection on the circumstances.
Life Site blogger Johnathon Van Maren, whom is very much in tune with anti-Christian movements of the day, was one of the first to lash out at CFA for this abrupt change, accusing CFA of “caving in” and giving victory to the “rainbow mafia” (presumably the LGBTQ activist movement). Christian commentator Matt Walsh joined the vanguard of faith-based media saying CFA “inexplicably caved (to the) LGBT Rage Mob”.
On the surface, its hard to defend the decision made by the popular brand, whose founder made it known decades ago where his priorities are placed.
But just as there are movements that stand against biblical principles everywhere you turn, there always will be a strong contingency of Christian activism to counter the opposition in this modern era of culture wars. And where many believers smell smoke, they often assume that there is a four-alarm fire ablaze. But could the fire be simply a flicker that is not intended to ignite?
In the attempt to be another voice in the wilderness of Christian cultural warriors, lets unpack the Chick-fil-A news in it’s entirety to see if there is another possibility before we dive off the deep end on this one. I will attempt to follow the “tenth man principle” and be that guy that opposes the masses. Allow me to delve in…
Some questions as I make my case:
Is it possible that CFA corporate had another reason for changing their charitable giving that was not caving to biblical principles?
When CFA corporate announced their charitable giving priorities in 2020, they presented a three-pronged model to support their philosophy. The opening statement reads as follows:
“Starting in 2020, the Chick-fil-A Foundation is introducing a more focused giving approach to provide additional clarity and impact with the causes it supports. Staying true to it’s mission of nourishing the potential in every child, the Chick-fil-A Foundation will deepen its giving to a smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the area of education, homelessness, and hunger.”
These three pillar principles fall in line with what founder S. Truett Cathy had started. But why remove Salvation Army as a charity at this point in CFA’s history? Conventional wisdom says that this is a sign of capitulation on CFA corporates part because they have expanded their brand into areas that historically are anti-traditional values, and believe that traditional marriage is stifling their way of life.
But no one ever discusses the myriad of reasons why corporations chose to give or not give to charities. In addition to philosophy, a company may choose not to give for any or all of the reasons listed below:
1. Misappropriation or mishandling of funds and/or resources.
2. Lack of accountability as to where and how these funds are distributed.
3. Internal scandals that may demonstrate a larger problem with organizational management within the charity, or an individual with access to resources that is involved in a scandal.
4. Organization has become so large in its scope that they lack focus on keeping the main thing the main thing, but retain the appearance of doing good because of their longstanding reputation.
It is not clear as to whether or not CFA Corporate chose to end their charitable giving to either Salvation Army or Fellowship of Christian Athletes (the two primary charities at the center of the backlash from Christians). But it is not in good form to suggest any of these would be a reason to stop giving without strong evidence to support. But I can tell you that there is at least some legitimate concerns about Salvation Army based on past incidents.
Is it possible the MSM enflamed the story to get a reaction from both supporters and opponents?
On November 18, two of the first news outlets to report on the change in charitable giving through CFA Foundation were CNBC and a digital business journal known as Bisnow. The ramifications of their reporting is not necessarily due to inaccuracies, but mainly in what the narrative is and how those entities frame it. Let’s start with BisNow…
Right from the start, you get a glimpse of how they are choosing to shape the story as they see it, not necessarily how it is. The “whys” behind this are many and varied. BisNow is a Left-leaning & LGBTQ-favoring media group whose audience is tailored for the most progressive elitist that either live or do business in the 30 most affluent markets in America. And it stands to reason (as the son of the founder has quite the following within that community) Bisnow stands diametrically opposed to CFA.
Like Bisnow, CNBC chose to frame headlines that back the broad assumption that CFA sold out to the LGBTQ community.
The Chick-fil-A phenomena that started a blaze in the tinder box of the culture war.
Is it possible that the narrative of the news on this decision was purposely framed in such a way to generate outrage?
Let’s step back in time for a moment to analyze this kernel in relation to the prevailing conventional wisdom…
Though we know that CFA founder Truett Cathy was fearless in sharing his belief in biblical principles, many a business owner has a deep & personal faith. And though they may very well operate that business in accordance with their faith, they don’t necessarily go around shouting it from the mountain tops for show. Most of them just quietly give as they are free to do so.
This privilege was effectively revoked when a former presidential candidate and moderately successful talk show host, Mike Huckabee, got involved. He started the now infamous Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. And his intentions were good. It was in defense of the barrage of media attacks against Dan Cathy, CEO of CFA and son of Truett, after a 2012 interview on a radio talk show made national news. Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day (which I witnessed firsthand) was wildly successful. But many forget that this was not started by the company. Yet, the company stepped up and performed at a level I had never seen in my 30 years in the restaurant business! And this was in the midst of both supporters and protestors present. But not a single guest was turned away, left unfed, or treated with anything other than kindness and courtesy.
What does this have to do with the news? As a result of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, the MSM placed a target on the company’s back as an enemy in the struggle over what our society views as just and right. In short, the event moved CFA to the top of the “Ten Most Wanted” of an ongoing battle known as the War on Culture and how it is defined.
Nearly every news piece on CFA since that day is meant to trigger both the Hatfields & the McCoys (Christian Groups & LGBTQ Community) for the purpose of defining what is acceptable practice, and what must not be tolerated under any circumstances!
Is it possible that Christian activism has a tendency to be reactionary first and reasonable second?
I recently sat down with the owner/operator of my local Chick-fil-A to get his thoughts on the controversial changes in giving. Having expressed shared beliefs with the founder of the company, he offered up some very good and practical words for those that are upset with his companies choices in regards to giving. But he also shares some things that many may not know about how his company operates in regards to giving, both locally and globally.
“I would challenge people to not look at this moment, but look at 50-plus years. Who has Chick-fil-A been for 50-plus years?”, stated an impassioned Mitch Edge, Owner/Operator of Chick-fil-A in Waterloo, Iowa. “Let me look at that and give them a little grace in this situation…just as Chick-fil-A has given much, much grace to many people in the community.”
Mitch went on to share that he has the flexibility within CFA corporate structure to give to groups and individuals as he sees fit. And he has a longstanding record of being generous to every group without exception.
It’s important to note that Mitch has never ceased his support of his local Salvation Army in the Cedar Valley, as they are a major source of relief in providing food, clothing, and shelter for any individual in need. I know. I provided any leftover food to them when I operated a competitor restaurant just down the street from Mitch.
Lastly, our conversation circled back to the bigger picture about who CFA Corporate chooses to give to and not. This is what Mitch had to share about this:
” If CFA is giving money to 400-plus organizations, and we stop with these two…number one, it doesn’t mean we will never go back. No one has said that we don’t support what they stand for so, therefore, we are not going to (have anything to do with them). That’s not what’s being said. That’s not what’s happening.
“And if you look at a lot of the other hundreds of organizations we support, you’ll see that they have very similar values and principles to the two (companies in question that were removed)…If you look at WinShape and LifeShape, you’ll see that Chick-fil-A has not dropped their stance, or morals, or principles.”
Mitch offered another simple challenge to those that are concerned about these changes. “Give your local operator a call.” He’s made himself available to local individuals in the community that have expressed concerns. Mitch did the neighborly thing, despite his rather busy schedule. “We sat down and had a cup of coffee and we talked. And I helped him understand that big picture that (you and I discussed)”.
What is the responsibility of a company to any of us when a statement of faith is expressed?
It’s fair to say that we all have some code for determining why we give a business our support and our dollars. And if you’re a person that lives your faith, its not in your DNA to turn a blind eye to questionable practices.
But when I walk into Chick-fil-A, I think in terms of their mission, their founder’s words & faith, and whether or not there is alignment within the four walls with those beliefs; what I call “where the rubber meets the road”. I can say without exception that there are few service-oriented businesses (especially in hospitality, which is what the restaurant business truly is), that have demonstrated integrity where the rubber meets the road 100% of the time. They have been true to their principles where it counts.
“Honor, dignity, and respect is kind of the secret sauce of who Chick-fil-A is, ” said Mitch, in regards to their values. And despite the media push to lead us to believe that CFA picks and chooses who they want as guests, or employees, or do business with, period, they treat everyone the same. From the time they enter the building, to the time they leave, they always express the heart of a servant regardless of who you are.
In light of the larger cultural war, is this a battle to fight or does CFA deserve our support still?
Though I may wonder aloud why they chose to restructure their giving, at the end of the day, its their choice to give as they see fit. Two or three changes does not express a departure from one’s value base. And as we heard from Mitch, they have not severed ties with those companies on a local level.
Activism is sometimes necessary. And its certainly your right to protest. But in the larger picture, we are not witnessing a tectonic shift in who CFA is as a company. This has become a sensationalized campaign, carefully constructed by it’s enemies to trigger an emotional reaction. Recently, someone decided that they are no longer going back to Chick-fil-A over this because “it’s hard to imagine a company with Christian roots declining to put their dollars in the red kettles every kid walks past at Christmas…”. Emotionalism triggered. And meanwhile you probably walk by ten people who could use your help and looked the other way.
All I will say to this is there is righteousness and self-righteousness. And the two shall never intersect.
There is a greater cultural battle going on every day in America, around the world. In the bigger picture, who is the enemy here? I for one say it’s not the guy selling these chicken sandwiches. But we all have to make choices. And we all must take a stand. I choose to seek God’s wisdom. And in the meantime, put my energy toward a bigger battle. Merry Christmas.