I was 12 years old, watching the news with my grandma in the living room. It was 2012 and Dan Cathy, the president and CEO of Chick-Fil-A had, in an interview with the Biblical Recorder, stated his company's support for the "biblical definition of the family unit." Suddenly, Chick-Fil-A had become a flashpoint in the culture wars, and social conservatives were lining up in droves to show their support for the fast-food chain.
On the TV screen, I saw a woman being interviewed, Chick-Fil-A bag in one hand and a Bible in the other, proclaiming her belief that homosexuality was an abomination. I walked away, locked myself in my room, and cried, feeling confused about how anyone could ever think that. I was a gay kid still in the closet but I remember thinking that if these people could just be gay for a day they would realize that being gay was the most natural thing in the world.
In high school and in college, I have been disappointed to see many straight people who call themselves allies eating at Chick-Fil-A. It seems so incongruent to me- to profess support for the gay community while at the same time boosting the profits of a company so explicitly anti-gay. It seems to me that people are willing to express support on Twitter but aren't willing to take any meaningful actions of solidarity. And actions speak louder than words.
I understand that the food at Chick-Fil-A is amazingly delicious. But if anything, this just makes the case for not eating there even stronger. If you are willing to give up something that brings you joy for the sake of a cause bigger than yourself, that is praiseworthy- it is the definition of altruism.
We must transform our ideas into action. If we don't we are hypocrites. And I recognize that with so many large corporations doing so many bad things- not paying their workers a living wage, polluting the environment, etc.- it is nearly impossible to avoid some level of hypocrisy. But that shouldn't bar us from trying at all. Perhaps being an ethical person means pursuing the horizon, working towards a goal you can never fully achieve but trying anyway.
I understand that consumer boycotts are often ineffective. But to me, effectiveness is not the point. I harbor no illusions that Chick-Fil-A will suddenly change its stance on gay rights anytime soon. Someone might wonder if their own personal choice not to eat at Chick-Fil-A will have any real-world impact, if it's a sacrifice worth making. But I would argue that it absolutely is.
Chick-Fil-A's tax-exempt WinShape Foundation continues to fund anti-LGBTQ organizations. Chick-Fil-A has justified this on the grounds that the money is going towards nonprofit groups that help disadvantaged youth. Yet all of these organizations deliberately exclude queer youth from their philanthropy and consistency preach against homosexuality. Now, I am all for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association. If these Christian-based groups want to spread their belief that being gay is a sin, that is their right. But straight allies have no business subsidizing this message.
Chick-Fil-A has a vision for America, one where gay people are denied equal rights and condemned to live as outcasts. But we have a different vision, one where gay people have equal rights under the law, where they are not merely tolerated but accepted. In the past few decades, we have come a long way towards realizing our progressive vision. Yet old vestiges of prejudice remain. The actions of Chick-Fil-A perpetuate this ancient hatred, breathing new life into its decaying form.
I've always found it strange how the ones who preach homophobia the most are also the ones who proclaim to faithfully follow Christ, who had unconditional love for all. I remember in my freshman year of high school, my Christian friend explained to me the story of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and even though I'm not Christian and hadn't believed in God in years, the story still had profound emotional resonance. God loved humanity so much that he was willing to sacrifice his son for our salvation. What a beautiful idea- to have a love for someone so deep, so powerful, that you are willing to put their interests above your own.