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Dan Cathy Of Chick-fil-A: How About Lunch?

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Just as the dust had begun to settle in the Chick-fil-A controversy, we heard news that a man tried to enter the headquarters of the conservative group Family Research Council with a gun. I praise God that a brave security guard stopped the man from taking any lives. And I pray for the speedy recovery of that security guard, who was shot in arm as he tackled the gunman.

For me, both of these situations shine a light on the dark place we find ourselves as a nation when it comes to big things we don't agree on. It's something that weighs heavy on my mind and my heart.

I see only one possibility for our society to move past and heal from our increasingly dangerous impasse: to have real conversations with one another. I don't mean scripted, talking-point-filled debates that turn into a wrestling match, but rather conversations where we get to know more about each other and the paths that brought us to our respective views.

That's why I want to extend an invitation to Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A's Chief Operating Officer, whose comments around same-sex marriage began this present controversy: Dan, let's have lunch. Not only would I love to break bread with you and have a good conversation about our deep faith in Jesus Christ -- with all that means to both join and divide us -- but also, more importantly, Christians like us talking together is the only way out of this impasse. Let's lead the way.

During our time together, I expect we would find that many of my favorite Bible passages, collected over the 30-plus years as a Presbyterian minister, are ones that warm Dan's Southern Baptist heart as well. As Christians together, I trust that Dan and I would find we share many of the same core values -- that we both love and serve God in Christ. We both appreciate all we get from being part of the Christian community of faith. We both want to strengthen the institution of marriage and family.

Of course, this raises a couple of key questions: How is it that we can value the same things and yet find ourselves so at odds over those very things? How is it that after studying and interpreting the same sacred texts, I have arrived at a place where I see God's love and Word as inclusive, blessing families of many kinds, while Dan has come to a place where he sees it as exclusive, having a single vision of marriage and family?

Maybe it's simply because we're human. We may start in similar places, but as we walk the path God has set before us, people can often end up on different roads. Sometimes it's a friendly disagreement that pulls us slightly apart. Sometimes it's a disagreement so intense it feels like we're yelling at each other from across a great divide, hearing only the words that upset us and missing what the other is saying. Please understand me: Conversations are crucial, not because I think we'll walk away in agreement, but because we'll walk away with a better appreciation of the journeys that have taken us down our different paths and to different interpretations of the Bible we share.

For instance, Dan recently said that he and Chick-fil-A "are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit." Dan also said that he believed, "[a]s it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'" We both affirm the biblical definition of family, yet the roads we've taken have led us to different views on what that biblical definition is. The family unit in the Bible is one of the many things we should be discussing -- together.

As I understand the Bible, Jesus brought people together. He welcomed everyone to His table, including people who were outcasts in His time. He chose unlikely vessels to share His message. When it came to family, Jesus said to His disciples: "Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother"(Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21).

Jesus created family with His friends. In my experience, Jesus' words here are extremely healing. So many people around us have been shunned by their community of faith or kicked out of their own families because of things ranging from an unplanned pregnancy to the desire to marry someone of a different faith to deciding to live openly and honestly instead of living in the closet. Jesus knows the excruciating pain for anyone shunned and invites all to join His family, offering healing and hope. That's powerful.

Jesus forged His family unit from friends -- and for some, this is life saving. This is the beginning of my wide sense of the biblical family unit. I would love to hear from Dan what his take on this is.

I think it would also be valuable to discuss with Dan something happening within my church, the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recently, our biennial General Assembly discussed and voted on same-sex marriage. While no formal action was taken (by the slimmest of margins), 80 percent of our youth delegation voted in favor of same-sex marriage, reaching well across some longstanding divisions among us.

I'd love to know how Dan reads this overwhelming support from our youth. Would he see this as the future of our church "shaking their fist" at God? Maybe God is doing something new here -- perhaps God's Word is being revealed to our children and grandchildren. They see God's will in a way that many people our age do not. It's at least worth exploring, isn't it?

Perhaps the most valuable thing to come from our lunch would be the chance for Dan to know me a bit more -- and for me to know him. And I think it would be wonderful if Dan could learn more about the same-sex couples I know who are creating such beautiful families and bring such great gifts to the church.

My hope is that during our time together Dan would come to see how I serve God by honoring the greatest commandments -- loving God and my neighbor -- and how I see God's table as having a seat for us all. My hope is that, together, we might have the eyes to see and the ears to hear -- not for us to have to agree.

To live as one in the church, to prosper as neighbors, to strengthen families, we must talk and be open to seeing what the other sees.

So how about it, Dan? Shall we meet for lunch?