The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chick-fil-A and "Biblically-based principals"

Please note that it is not my intention to be controversial, but to educate. I pray that you find no fault in this article, and if you do, I trust that our friendship is stronger than our opinions.

As many of you know, I love Chick-fil-A. My friends T-bone and Heidi used to drive nearly an hour to sit down with me in our Thursday booth and bite into a chicken sandwich. I have even been to the Mecca, the original Chick-fil-A, known as The Dwarf House in Hapeville, Georgia. It was a diner that served Chick-fil-A food on plates, where the manager gave us free fried ice cream because we told him how excited we were to be there.

Yesterday I found myself at the mall, looking for something to eat in the food court. Chick-fil-A called to me, but I did not answer.

I have long been a supporter of Chick-fil-A in part because of their Christian Values. I respect that they are closed on Sundays, and I know many gentle Christians who work at these establishments. I have been trying to read on both sides of this issue in an effort to justify my desire to eat Chick-fil-A. In my reading, I came across this article from which made its defense of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy for his anti-gay-marriage remarks over the past week. As a Republican and a relatively conservative human being (I am after all, a minister), I want to find an argument that will allow me to pardon Mr. Cathy, or to at least figure out where exactly gay marriage is an offense to heterosexual marriage.

The arguments that most people make about Christian-based stances against homosexuality are, so called, on the basis of scripture. And, for their point, there are a few instances where that provide a biblical base for these arguments. Marriage is defined as the joining of a man to a women consistently in the bible. There were no such things as civil unions or gay marriage, so naturally no one reported on that. The name Chick-fil-A does not show up in the Bible either. Does that not mean that God doesn't think chicken sandwiches can make a delicious meal? My experience says otherwise.

I believe we have reached a tipping point  in our society (or perhaps we are already post-tipping point) in which our politics influence our religion, and not the other way around.

In the article the phrase Biblically-based values/principles shows up four times. This is the point at which while reading the article I started taking notes. Biblical misrepresentation is my biggest pet-peeve. Have your opinions all you want, but do not say that you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible when you mean to start with the interpretation, and then pluck up the words on the page, and twist them to fit.

If you are against gay-marriage, own it as opinion. If you are homophobic, talk about it with your counselor. Please, do not further corrupt the best scripture we have, the closest we have to words from God, by treating the Bible like a Rorshach test.

We all ought to confess before God that we frequently see what we want to see, look for what we want to find, and claim for ourselves the words that fit our opinions.

It would also be fruitful to admit that the Bible does not always give good easy answers. Many times in scripture a law is given within the context of a set of laws, as in the case of Leviticus. It is plain to see that these laws were made for a certain people in a certain time. And unless you're devoutly Jewish, you already do not follow any of these laws. You follow the laws of your area and culture. You do not offer sacrifices, you do not celebrate in the tabernacle, follow the year of jubilee, prepare for the day of atonement, swear off shellfish, eat unleavened bread, speak Hebrew, or even  call God 'Yahweh'-- so why would you dream of lifting one of these laws and make it the foundation for your "biblically-based values?" This is not literal biblical interpretation. This is biblical convolution.

Literal Interpretation of Leviticus 18:22    
"You should not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an Tōʻēḇā." Speaking literally, of course, the second person, "you" is clearly speaking to a male. The laws in the Hebrew Bible were predominately written to keep men in line. Literally, then, this text speaks out against male homosexuality, but not lesbianism. Actually, almost nothing in the Bible speaks about lesbianism. The word that we usually translate, "abomination" is a hold-over translation from the King-James. The word more closely used would be "taboo," or something that is not widely accepted. Leviticus 15 is about how unclean a man is after "discharge" and how a man should not lie with a woman around the time of her menstrual period. I'd like to find a married man who does not sleep in the same bed with his wife during her menstrual period. I'd listen to him about how we should follow Leviticus.**    

Did you know?
There are more biblical rules, laws, and commands in the bible against offering interest on a loan than there is against homosexuality. How many business with "Bible based values" offer interest-free mortgages? I would love to do business with them.

For millennia people have been misrepresenting God's interests as their own. Read the Bible for yourself. If you think that its central message is anything other than to love God and one another, you might want to have a conversation with your minister about what parts of the Bible take precedent. Martin Luther called the Bible "the cradle where Christ is laid." For us Lutherans, it is the Gospels that show the full revelation of God, not Leviticus.   

Every once and a while, let's leave the Bible and tradition out of our political opinions, and just admit that we came to them independently before someone showed us where to look in buried scripture. Let us also learn to use reason and experience to admit truthfully how we came to those opinions.  

There have been Christians both for and against gay marriage for decades. And now, there are Christians for and against Chick-fil-A.

**(Romans 1:25 is another commonly used verse against homosexuality. I mention this only for your reference as it is not my goal here to academically argue for or against any biblical text. I would rather that you read your Bible with an open heart.)


  1. I am no longer enjoying their waffle fries. You made excellent points.

  2. This is so well said, Daniel. It's really lovely to hear this message when so much of what we hear is totally polarizing. You must be a great minister!

  3. Two things:

    "And unless you're an Hasidic Jew, you already do not follow any of these laws." It's not simply Hasidic Jews who follow these laws. Orthodox Jews in general follow them.

    "Speaking literally, of course, the second person, "you" is clearly speaking to a male. All of the Hebrew Bible was written for men." The word תשכב is, indeed, grammatically masculine. Grammatically. And also, the Hebrew Bible was not written exclusively for men. That's a silly thing to say.

    1. Heathandstone,

      I have made changes to the article. Thank you for your advice and expertise.

      -Pr. Daniel

  4. I might add the Hebrew is that a male shall not lie with another male with the lyings of a woman.... It is a complex and problematic bit of Hebrew not easily interpreted at all. And that is the second things, our bibles are interpretations by the very fact of being translated. And thirdly, our Jewish kin do not run around saying "the bible says," they know better and have centuries of interpretation that in general lead to drawing fences around the law to expand compassion.

    Unfortunately interpretations of the bible do and have justified stances toward others that do them harm, and it's hard to see that harm when you're not on the receiving end. Just take Romans 1. No one bothers to consider the versification is a late addition, and to *get* the letter you'd better finish through Romans one is righteous, no not one.

    That said, I am troubled by folk who would use city officials to leverage power against Chick-Fil-A. That too is attempting to dominate.

    On the whole, I don't think folks know what to be conservative means anymore, and sadly, that includes the party to which I belonged most of my life.

  5. Also, Daniel, the Conservative Movement too follows these laws. Their interpretations of how to follow them just differs from the Orthodox and other movements.