The Christian Chicken and Civil Rights
I was perusing Twitter on Wednesday and came across one of my old acquaintances. He posted this link about the Director of a college’s Campus Pride and gay activist befriending Dan Cathy, son of Chick-Fil-A’s founder, Truett Cathy, with the comment, “we need more of this.” During and after reading the article I found myself feeling strange. I don’t usually linger over feelings but this one demanded my attention and even woke me up at night. Let me explain.
The article highlights that this Campus Pride Director, though he once boycotted Chick-Fil-A, is now fast friends with Dan Cathy and even attended the Chick-Fil-A bowl as his special guest. My first thoughts were, “I am so glad that civil conversations between these two men took place and are still taking place. I’m a huge fan of people humbly approaching conversations in an attempt to understand people and discuss salient issues.” Really, I do fully support civility, decency, openness, conversation, and expressions of love and acceptance. I do believe that lasting change can be positively impacted by these types of civil talks. I think that’s where it started to get a little messy for me. I know several Christians who posted this article with the thoughts, “we need more of this.” And, I half agree. I think I get hung up on the notion of “can’t we all just get along?” Or, “let’s just all be friends.” This might make me sound like a bad person and I’m ready to face that, swallow that pill, and live in that reality but I have to say, I don’t feel compelled to share personal friendships with those who would oppose my civil rights at every turn. I promise I’m not trying to be dramatic, it just doesn’t feel right to me. If someone wants to have civil conversation, great, I’m game. If someone wants to reach out in Christian love, I’m a fan of love. If someone wants to be nice and accepting of people different from them, great! Me too! I’m just not going to get cozy and be friends. I don’t consider people who think differently than me to be my enemies, but I do consider them to be roadblocks, roadblocks to civil rights, roadblocks to history moving forward, and roadblocks to me personally.
I get a little bit feisty when the issue of gay marriage comes up sometimes. I know it seems like a hot media topic these days, but it’s also deeply personal to me. My wife whom I am not legally married to is the most lovely, beautiful, and important person in my life. She is not a news story, a political issue, or a line on the voting ballot. She is my wife. We committed our lives to each other before God, my family, and our friends and hold that commitment, that vow to be sacred regardless of recognition by the state. And, we are simultaneously being denied civil rights, not to mention over 1,000 benefits afforded to heterosexual married couples. It is a reality we face that if anything were to happen to one of us, God forbid, the other would have no legal rights regarding the “spouse.” If something were to happen to Steph, if she were to suddenly pass, her family could come, take her away, take all of her things, and burry her in some shit-hole in Texas without giving me a second glance. I’ve seen it happen to too many gay couples to be unaware of the reality of the situation. If you thought this very notion spills tears over my eyes while I write it, you’d be correct. We currently have to save up a chunk of money so we can talk to a lawyer, get counsel, and write a will to protect against this very thing. If you think it is painful to check the “single” box on forms I fill out because there is no “illegally married” box to check, you would be right. If you wondered how it feels to be stared at and to have the validity of our union and our commitment, represented by our wedding rings, questioned, it feels downright shitty. And, every year, thousands upon thousands of Americans vote to keep it this way. As stated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.”
“How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? …Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
“An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.”
I am unsure how to feel, think and act sometimes when difficult topics like this arise. I have a hard time with simple statements like, “we need more of this” as I’m not sure what “this” is. If it’s opening up conversations so that productive, civil communication can occur, I’m game. If it’s becoming ‘besties’ with someone road blocking my civil rights, I’m not inclined to acquiesce. We can get along as human beings, we can talk as adults, we can disagree civilly, and I will still remain profoundly affected by and in opposition of anyone who supports laws that degrade human personality. So, I’m sorry Dan, I won’t have my picture with you until we are celebrating my legal marriage and the granting of my civil rights.