Hundreds and hundreds of people, snaking their way through packed parking lots and waiting in long lines at the Drive Thru window just to make a point. Ask some of them and they'd say their point was the protection of "free speech" or "freedom of religion."
The point they really made was: we hate gay people.
I know for some that seems like a harsh judgment. But the president of the Atlanta-based chicken chain was not using code words for his beliefs. He speaks of marriage equality as "shaking our fist at God" and telling God what defines a marriage. When he was asked about Chick-fil-A's Winshape Foundation, which has bankrolled several anti-gay groups, and whether he is active in fighting marriage equality, Cathy said, "Guilty as charged." In other words, he is not trying to hide his bias. In response, the LGBT community and many of our supporters are not hiding our bias either. There was a call for boycott, and even a "Kiss-in" at Chick-fil-A restaurants. To fight back, former Arkansas Governor and one-time GOP Presidential contender Mike Huckabee called for an Appreciation Day on Wednesday.
And they came out in droves. It was a banner day for chicken sandwiches sold between two halves of a hamburger bun. Some said they were eating there because they were standing up for this Christian businessman and his right to free speech. It wasn't about hate. It wasn't about being anti-gay.
Well, until my friend, Terry, showed up to exercise her free speech rights at the Chick-fil-A on Apalachee Parkway. Crying, "Shame!" at the many cars and people in the restaurant, Terry said a group of portly white men shouted back at her, "That's right, faggot!"
No, this wasn't about hate at all.
O god, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom
nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon
us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so
pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal...
I have found that keeping this particular collect in mind has been helpful throughout this whole nonsense. Because these matters are truly temporal and the height of absurdity. Really: must you eat unhealthy, artery-clogging food to prove you don't like gay people?
I mentioned the psalms in the title of this post because they, too, have been helpful this week. For whatever reason, the ones assigned during the daily office have hit the perfect note, capturing the feeling that I and others felt as we saw the cars going bumper-to-bumper into the Chick-fil-As. From Psalm 69:
and let the fierceness of your anger overtake them.
Let them be wiped out of the book of the living *
and not be written among the righteous.
As for me, I am afflicted and in pain; *
your help, O God, will lift me up on high.
It has been quite helpful to have these words running around in my head as I have dealt with insensitivity to why gay people might be just a wee-bit offended by the words and deeds of Dan Cathy and his chicken shack chain. I think about how many other countless struggles have been fought for equality throughout world history, and how many of those folks turned to these same words as a security blanket of "At least God gets it!"
Naturally, I am aware that the people on the "other side" read these same words as the same security blanket against the likes of me. And I figure where God sits is in the middle, waiting for us to spit out all the insults and anger until we exhaust ourselves into a heap of realizing that we've worked ourselves into a froth over matters that are, at the end of the day, temporal bullshit.
We don't have to eat their food. And those who do support bigotry are welcome to go gobble up as many waffle fries as they want. And in another forty years, this is going to look as stupid and hatefully absurd as the pictures of the crazy, angry white people exercising their free speech rights against desegregation.
I think the young son of my friends, Sharon and Ed, said it best when he announced to his parents that he
"likes Jimmers and Ben better than Chick-fil-A." I do, too!