Intolerant Chicken: Chick-fil-a Spices Up Campus Debate

When I attended Virginia Tech I loved having a Chick-fil-a on campus. Sometimes you have a craving for a Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich and nothing else will satisfy. Apparently, some college students don’t feel the same way. Taylor Cotter of Northeastern University in Boston spent a year gathering 300 signatures – about 1.5% of the student body – to keep Chick-fil-a off campus. In March, the student senate voted to end negotiations to bring a franchise to Northeastern. The school’s administration supported the senate, saying, “We are proud of the decision that affirms our university’s commitment to be an inclusive, diverse community that is respectful of all.” Chick-fil-a has faced similar opposition at Duke, Bowling Green University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Gainesville State College, Indiana University South Bend, Mississippi State, Texas Tech, the University of North Texas, and New York University.

What has Chick-fil-a done to incur such academic wrath? There are few restaurants as friendly and inviting as Chick-fil-a whose employees hand out waffle fries with a smile and a “my pleasure”. The problem these schools have has nothing to do with Chick-fil-a itself but with its charitable affiliations through the WinShape Foundation. The goal of WinShape is to help shape winners. It accomplishes this through a college program, camps, retreats, projects to strengthen marriage, and homes for children who are victims of broken families. Some of the organizations WinShape supports in its mission are accused of having an anti-gay agenda. These organizations include the National Christian Foundation, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Serving Marriages, Alliance Defense Fund, Christian Camp and Conference Association, Campus Crusade for Christ, Georgia Family Council, and the Family Research Council.

These offending organizations are labeled anti-gay largely because they remain biblically Christian. According to the Equality Matters Blog, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is bad because they say homosexuality is a sin and dare to allow the testimonials of homosexuals who left the lifestyle. The Alliance Defense Fund is bad because they defend Christian groups shut out because of their beliefs on sexuality. The Christian Camp Association is bad because they maintain homosexuality is wrong. Campus Crusade for Christ is bad for holding events promoting only heterosexual marriage. I could go on, but you get the idea. For maintaining Christian convictions on human sexuality held for 2,000 years and for strengthening traditional marriages these organizations and the WinShape foundation are labeled bigoted and anti-gay. Chick-fil-a is also assigned the bigoted and intolerant label; all without refusing service or employment to anyone.

Donald A. Perry, Vice President of Corporate Public Relations at Chick-fil-a, insisted that none of the organizations has an anti-gay agenda but as Christian groups they do uphold and support traditional marriage. He went on to say, “I want to assure you that the historical intent of our foundation and corporate giving have been toward compassion, principally by serving youth and families.”

Chick-fil-a’s problems on campus portray a new reality unfolding in the United States.

First, historic, biblical Christianity is no longer acceptable in many parts of our cultural landscape. For its entire history, the Christian religion has held that marriage is between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24, Matt. 19:4-6, Eph. 5:31) and all sexual activity outside of marriage – including homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9) – is sinful. Much of our culture can no longer agree to disagree on this issue. Those who hold to historic, biblical Christianity will be shunned, banned, and labeled no matter how lovingly they hold their convictions. If they are willing to ban the best chicken sandwich on the planet, there is no limit to who might be next.

Second, the new “tolerance” is surprisingly intolerant. I wonder if the administration of Northeastern realized the irony of their statement approving the student senate’s decision to end negotiations with Chick-fil-a. They said, “We are proud of the decision that affirms our university’s commitment to be an inclusive, diverse community that is respectful of all.” How can a decision to ban an organization from campus because of its views be considered inclusive, diverse, and respectful? The Win Shape foundation reflects the convictions of millions of American Christians yet those convictions are banned because they are not acceptable to a minority of students and the administration.

Third, America is becoming increasingly polarized. The thought behind this witch hunt is “if you’re not totally for us, then you’re completely against us.” Such a mentality toward those we disagree with is destructive. It assumes the worst about our neighbors and undermines the entire American multicultural experiment. This nation cannot survive if people label any individual, group, church, ethnicity or company that disagrees with them a hateful bigot. Those on both sides of an issue must listen to those they disagree with and not seek to condemn, label, and ban.

What should followers of Christ do with these new realities? First, hold unswervingly to the truth no matter where the cultural winds blow. Don’t abandon what God has said in His Word in a vain quest to be liked. Jesus said in John 15:19, “…because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.” Second, love those on the opposite side of issues and model true tolerance. True tolerance isn’t blindly accepting every view, but respecting those you disagree with, allowing them to live as they desire, and supporting their freedom to do so. Some may hate us for opposing them, but we must love and pray for them as Christ said in Matthew 5:44, “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Third, vote your convictions and defend your rights. We live in a democracy where we can influence culture, hearts, and minds. This must be done graciously whether we win or lose the debate. Remember, this is not our home (John 18:36) so we are free to speak our mind and be content with the results.

Finally, go buy a sandwich from Chick-fil-a. They’re delicious! The cows will love it. The chickens will hate it. But you can’t please everybody.


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