I fasted from Chick-fil-A for more than a year.
Ok, "fasted" may be too strong a word. I "gracefully declined" invitations to Chick-fil-A for more than a year. And in West Tennessee, a notch in the buckle of the Bible Belt, that is equivalent to a social felony.
Chick-fil-A is a part of the Southern zeitgeist. The environment is rambunctious and hospitable all at the same time. It represents everything we love in the South: family, fried chicken, splendidly sweet dairy products. When you dine at Chick-fil-A, you leave with a little more faith in the future, a little less money in your pocket, and a stomach full of chicken, potatoes and ice cream. (I'm on Southern overload right now just fantasizing about it.)
You can only imagine how heartbroken I was to learn of Chick-fil-A's charitable donations to anti-LGBT organizations. Not long after hearing about Chick-fil-A's charitable activities, I was able to make the conscious decision to excuse myself from the waffle fry-laden table as I gathered my thoughts and contemplated the next move. My fast from Chick-fil-A was a refrain from the systemic oppression and alienation of LGBT persons. As a gay man, I did not feel comfortable being complicit with organizations that exist (at least in part) to deny LGBT people the same civil rights and privileges that straight people enjoy.
Sitting in church this past Sunday, I heard the most curious Gospel lesson. Jesus' sign-performing and wonder-making had formed a large crowd of followers. Jesus asks his apostles how that large crowd is going to be fed (a logistical nightmare). The apostle Andrew brings Jesus a young boy with five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus takes the bread and the fish, breaks them, gives thanks for them, distributes them and feeds 5,000 people.
Some call this a precursor to the Eucharist. Others call it a miracle. I am content in just saying, "Wow." And the "Wow" does not end with me. This "Wow" extends to the whole crowd. They are so wowed by this generous and miraculous act that they attempt to make him their king, but Jesus -- more at home in shacks than castles, with prostitutes than potentates -- refuses their coup. He overthrows Israel's understanding of kingship by feeding instead of conquering and nourishing instead of dominating. Jesus calls us to do the same: to nourish those who have been left malnourished by discrimination, bullying and prejudice.
This nourishment takes place at all sorts of tables. The church has to remember that she's not the host of the table. We do not get to decide who gets to meet Jesus at dinner. At dinner, Jesus does not inquire about your sexual orientation, gender, political affiliation, national allegiance or religious background. He does not require a donation. He does not check your ID at the door.
Instead, he requires one thing: that the people who join him at his table be hungry. Hunger is the only requirement for a meal with Jesus. "Come hungry," says the homeless Nazarene. And this is good news for LGBT people. So many of us have been left famished by the world. Schoolmates, family members, communities of faith and employers reject us. Corporations alienate us by funneling money to organizations that exist to deplete our rights. But Jesus becomes the sustaining bread we need when navigating the wilderness of social and emotional estrangement.
I broke my fast from Chick-fil-A for one reason: to reclaim my place at the table. I am not yet welcomed there, but I know the Host, and it is my pleasure to join him.