In my column for the National Post, I ask why some Christians act as if they were members of a persecuted minority:
Welcome to 21st century America, where everybody is a victim. Once upon a time, victim status was the reserved property of a few minority groups. No longer! Americans have opened the doors of self-pity to all. White or black, rich or poor, straight or gay, male or female: all believe themselves uniquely persecuted and oppressed.
This July, a humble fried chicken sandwich became the symbol of two competing persecution narratives: gays vs. Christians.
The sandwich is made by Chick-Fil-A, a 1,600-store restaurant franchise owned by the billionaire Cathy family of Atlanta, Georgia. The Cathy family have generously supported Christian causes: colleges, churches, foster homes, Campus Crusade for Christ, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and many others. They have also supported conservative family groups that espouse a traditional Christian view of marriage.
The Cathy family’s support for groups on the other side of the same-sex marriage fight has enraged many. Over the past couple of years, the Chick-Fil-A chain has been the target of intensifying pressure and protest. Earlier this year, Boston’s Northeastern University rejected a proposed campus Chick-Fil-A franchise expressly because of the social views of the Cathy family.
Under pressure, the usually close-lipped Cathy family began to express their views more publicly. On July 16, Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy gave an interview to Baptist News. Asked about this support for traditional family groups, Cathy said:
“Well, guilty as charged. We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that. We intend to stay the course. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”
Cathy expressed himself even more emphatically in a radio interview the following day: “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,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.”
In response to [ital.]that[endital], Boston mayor Thomas Menino sent a letter to Cathy, urging him to abandon plans to locate restaurants in Boston.
Menino was seconded and thirded by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and San Francisco mayor Edwin Lee. Chick-Fil-A, said Mayor Emanuel, did not represent “Chicago values” — and he invited them to stay away. Lee took to Twitter to express gratitude that the nearest Chick-Fil-A was located 40 miles away.
Now the controversy went white-hot. Mayors warning companies to stay out of town because the CEO had expressed a personal opinion on a public issue? Why that sounds like … “fascism!”, thundered Bill O’Reilly on Fox News.