I’ve long believed that fried chicken was proof of God’s enduring mercy and grace.
When I was growing up, every summer Friday around noon, I’d cozy up to my Auntie Doris Jean in hopes of getting first dibs on a crispy chicken sandwich. “Killer,” as we so fondly called her, used to sell two-buck plates of chicken or fish, mustard potato salad and spaghetti on the side. Auntie Killer’s chicken sandwiches were something special—hot, cast-iron skillet fried breast between two pieces of Wonder Bread, with pickles, onions, mustard and a splash of Texas Pete hot sauce.
Suffice it to say: I am a fanatic. I love fried chicken.
There is just something divine about a perfectly seasoned and battered yard bird dipped in hot Crisco. And, if you’ve spent any time at all in Atlanta, then you know that Coca-Cola is a manifestation of Jehovah’s eternal love. To my Mama’s displeasure, I am a dyed in the wool agnostic, but still I proclaim the glorious infallibility of fried chicken.
It stands to reason then that I have been a Chick-fil-A devotee for nearly 30 years. Still, when anti-gay statements by its CEO surfaced a few years ago, I refused to pull into the parking lot. While I have long understood Chick-fil-A to be a Christian-led company, what made them most appealing was the way they appeared to care about their employees and their customers. Where fast-food restaurants go, Chick-fil-A tops the field for customer service and food quality and it gets strong marks for diverse hiring and franchise recruitment practices.
To my knowledge, it is the only fast-food restaurant in the nation that is not open on Sundays—never have been, never will be, and I’m (mostly) okay with that. So then, I was not stunned to know that its CEO did not agree with same-sex marriage. However, learning three years ago that the company’s foundation had financial ties to a controversial right-wing political group aligned with homophobic (and reportedly deadly) forces in Africa was heartbreaking.
In the midst of a nationwide boycott, company leadership made significant changes to the kinds of outside groups it chooses to sponsor, as well as how they are vetted. In doing so, they have more fully embraced the LGBT community. As Atlanta-based pastor Andy Stanley often says: Jesus would bake the cake.
It’s ironic that a Nashville-area Chick-fil-A franchisee and the company are now catching flak for doing exactly that—by sponsoring a pro-gay film festival. The response was swift. A Change.org petition entitled “CFA Goes Gay, Corporate Needs To Know” has garnered several hundred signatures.
According to Baptist News, “Three years after evangelical Christians designated a day to eat more chicken in support of Chick-fil-A’s defense of traditional marriage, the Southern Baptist-owned fast food chain is taking heat online for sponsoring what is billed as the world’s first faith-based LGBT film festival.”
“On Level Ground” purports to be a “movement” that “creates space for dialogue about faith, gender, and sexuality through the arts.” Sponsorship dollars will go to support, among others: The Christian Closet, a gay-affirming Christian counseling service; The Center For Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry; Therapists 4 Equality; Believe Outloud; and The Reformation Project—all of which the petition says advance the “gay agenda” in the church.
“Well, it’s about time,” I said out loud this morning as I read the news. Chick-fil-A has gotten itself into some “good trouble.”
I, for one, hope they keep it up.
“When can we eat Chick-fil-A again?” a dear friend asked me a few weeks back.
The whole point of collective action is to effect change, I explained. That is happening and we should support it in accordance with our own conscious. Yes, I love fried chicken. But this is so much bigger than that.
Auntie Killer, rest her soul, would say that we must be as quick to stand with them when they are doing right as we are when they are doing wrong.