NOTE: this was written a day prior Chick-Fil-A made the public statement that their tradition "is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect - regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender." What a wonderful statement! However, I still believe this letter is appropriate and the invitation given at the end remains open...
Dear Mr. Cathy,
I love Chick-fil-A. I truly do. And I have great respect for your values and your decision to be closed on Sundays and Christian holidays.
I also love my gay friends. I really do. And I am convinced that loving Chick-fil-A and loving my gay friends do NOT have to be mutually exclusive.
I read recently that you have acknowledged your company's financial support of "traditional family" organizations which actively oppose the protection of rights of our gay neighbors. Understandably, the LGBT community is very upset.
However, I will not be forced to choose between my favorite fast-food and my beloved life-long friends who happen to be gay.
I was raised, and am still, a Baptist. You too, I understand, were raised Baptist. Several of my gay Christian friends (yes, Christian AND gay) were also raised as Baptists (two of whom attended a prominent Baptist college; and one of them served as student president of the Baptist Student Union). So, as a Baptist minister, I'm going to reach out to both sides in this squabble and appeal to yours and my friends' Baptist commonalities and, more importantly, to the honest desire you share to follow Jesus.
First, Mr. Cathy, let's get this out of the way: We all know that Chick-fil-A frequently serves and even employs (though perhaps unknowingly) LGBT individuals. So, even while with one hand the company publicly supports anti-gay organizations, at the same time it enjoys profits from the patronage of gay customers (and quietly from the labor of some gay employees). Hopefully, Chick-fil-A will never start asking, "Are you gay?" before serving a customer. Because once you refuse to serve gay patrons, will you then begin to ask questions about sexual habits of your straight customers? Of course you won't. Not only is that bad business, it's also not Christian. Therefore, if Chick-fil-A is willing to accept money from customers who may or may not be gay (because you don't ask), why not also allow these same folks to be your friends even if you disagree with their decisions?
Second, to my many friends calling for protests and boycotts of Chick-fil-A: We all know that the employees we encounter are good, local people who are working hard to make ends meet. Most of them couldn't care less if they are handing a chicken sandwich to a straight or gay customer. While wanting to get the attention of the folks up in corporate headquarters, let's not take our attention away from our neighbors preparing the food and taking our cash and providing for their families.
Many of my gay friends and allies have been burned severely by the Christian community and have no interest in the Christian faith. My plea from faith carries no weight for them. I understand that.
But to my Christian gay friends and allies, instead of boycotting and fighting Chick-fil-A, let's practice the Golden Rule: We will do unto others as we would have others do unto us if the tables were reversed. Let's overwhelm Chick-fil-A with increased business and support.
For my Chick-fil-A corporate neighbors who believe our LGBT neighbors are the enemies of Christianity, I'd like to remind you of the first part of Romans 12:20: "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink." And I share the second part of the same verse with my LGBT neighbors that by increasing our business with Chick-fil-A, we'll be heaping "burning coals of shame on their heads." In seeking to out-love and out-serve each other, we'll all share in the shame and we can begin learning to trust each other.
Mr. Cathy, I'd love nothing more that to sit with you and a few of your colleagues at a Chick-fil-A table in Atlanta and introduce you to three or four of my Christian friends and ministers -- who just also happen to be gay. Together we can go around the table and profess our Christian faith and begin to break down the walls that separate us as societal enemies and strangers; together we can be challenged and blessed by each other in a way that surpasses our understanding -- as brothers and sisters in Christ. Together we can break bread (er.... chicken) together, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, be united as one in the bond of love.
And, by the grace of God, may our actions bear witness to the world of the reconciling work of Jesus our Lord.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm feeling the need for some waffle fries. I think I'll invite a gay friend to join me...
A brother in Christ,
Rev. Bert Montgomery