Christian Bigotry is still Bigotry
I have not yet weighed in on the Chick-fil-A situation. I had not planned to do so. Two things changed that, a blog I read last night on CNN’s Belief Blogs by R. Albert Mohler Jr. titled “My Take: Chick-fil-A controversy reveals religious liberty under threat” and an article on the Charisma News titled Chick-fil-A Breaks World Sales Record After Hateful Attacks. These two articles together have created a need for me to weigh in.
Mohler is a regular contributor to The Christian Post and I am familiar with his work. He is the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his views often reflect that position. His article is completely off base. He writes: “And yet the controversy over Chick-fil-A is a clear sign that religious liberty is at risk and that this nation has reached the brink of tyrannical intolerance from at least some of our elected leaders”. How does he justify this claim?
Mohler’s justification comes in the form of quoting what Dan Cathy (Chick-fil-A’s president) actually said. He quotes several of Cathy’s religious statements against same-sex marriage. Mohler, who agrees with Cathy’s view, sees no problem with those statements.
In a sense he is correct, Cathy has every right to say and believe what he chooses. To deny Cathy that right would certainly violate the “freedom of speech” clause of the First Amendment. However, if the article ended there, I would have no issue, at least legally, on this story.
Mohler continues to quote the words of Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno, and New York City Councilor Christine Quinn. Each of these three elected officials made statements implying they would try to prevent Chick-fil-A restaurants from opening in their jurisdictions. Some of those officials have since back-pedaled on their words. They perhaps did speak a bit hastily and cannot deny a restaurant from opening simply because they disagree with the owner of the restaurant’s religious and political views.
So far, from a legal standpoint, I agree with Mohler. It is the closing part of his article that I take issue. Mohler argues:
“The threats made against Chick-fil-A betray the principle of religious liberty that is enshrined within the U.S. Constitution. Civic officials in some of the nation’s largest and most powerful cities have openly threatened to oppose Chick-fil-A for the singular reason that its president openly spoke of his Christian convictions concerning marriage”.
He continues later:
“This country is deeply divided over the issue of same-sex marriage, and the controversy over Chick-fil-A is an ominous sign that many of the proponents of same-sex marriage are quite willing to violate religious liberty and to use any and all means to silence and punish any individual or organization that holds the contrary view”.
This, in my opinion, is another example of the misuse of religious liberty. I do not for a second believe that the politicians in question were attacking Christianity. What they were attacking is bigotry. Christian bigotry to be sure, but bigotry is bigotry—its source does not matter. I agree with Mohler that we cannot deny Cathy the right to open a restaurant. I disagree with him when he claims that Cathy’s religious freedom is being attacked. What were attacked were Cathy’s bigoted views.
Many Christian leaders seem to have trouble grasping this concept. Let me state it as plainly as I can. Simply because one’s religion states it is acceptable to hold belief x, does not mean that it is a socially, legally, or politically acceptable belief. Nor does it automatically exclude it from criticism or the label of bigoted. A person with the opposing view can criticize that belief without violating religious freedom. Religious freedom does NOT mean that religious views can never be criticized.
What complicates this matter further is that Cathy has donated tremendous sums of money to anti-gay causes, some of which may have been corporate donations. This cannot be criticized? Explain to me then how it is that Christian groups can criticize, boycott, and protest corporations such as JC Penny, Target, Kraft foods, etc that take the opposite stance?
The second article is much more offensive than Mohler’s. The opening line of the article is: “What the enemy meant for harm, God turned around for good.” The article goes on to explain how Chick-fil-A broke its record for one day sales—in fact many stores ran out of chicken. It continues with the following statement, “But God used fellow Christians—and others who believe in the biblical definition of marriage—to bless the chicken chain above and beyond anything it expected.”
Those two statements are nothing more than pure idiocy. Taken in conjunction with Mohler’s piece, the situation becomes quite offensive.
Let me explain in as simple a way as possible. If you went to Chick-fil-A on Wednesday you are a bigot. Period. End of story. You went and paid money to support a cause that is explicitly aiming to deny a group of people (homosexuals) the same freedoms and right as everyone else. That is bigotry. If you do not like it, do not do it.
It does not matter that the source of the bigotry stems from a religious belief. What is toxic is the belief that this Christian god has “created” this display of bigotry and it is seen as a “good thing”. It is toxic to believe that your (non-existent) god blessed the restaurant with an outpouring of bigotry. If your god actually existed, he would certainly not be worthy of anyone’s worship if that is the type of behavior that he promotes. Further, he would be about as “un-American” as possible. This deity would be “blessing” the idea that all humans should be treated equally under the law. That some of humans–heterosexual humans—are “better” than others and deserve special treatment.
Furthermore, the god that Christians believe in is responsible for all creation. Why would this supposedly benevolent creator/deity create homosexuality then? Just so that his followers would have someone to discriminate against? Pathetic.
Do you see the difference here? I am attacking your religious beliefs because they are foolish. The politicians above were attacking only your bigotry. There is a difference. That stated, I fully believe that each and every one of the people who went to Chick-fil-A on Wednesday and spent their money to support bigotry has the right to do so. I would fight to defend your right to do so. However, I, and others who oppose you, have the right to criticize and call you out on that. If you do not like that…too bad. If you do not want to be called a bigot, then do not act like one. If you do not want your religious views criticized, do not use them as a justification for your bigotry. It really is that simple.
Going back to the first quote by Mohler we see that he accuses the politicians in question of “tyrannical intolerance” towards Christianity. What we have in reality is intolerance of bigotry (and what a great thing to have!). If that bigotry happens to be religious in nature, and it is in this case, that is your problem, not ours.
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