Surprise! A conservative Christian doesn’t believe in gay marriage, says as much and runs a large national corporation according to these principles. Surprise! Thousands of liberals call for a boycott! The Twitters goes crazy. Cable news loves it. Haven’t we done this before, thousands of times? Haven’t the conservatives done the same thing thousands of times when Liberals do it?
This week it was Chick-fil-A’s President Dan Cathy and his statements regrading same-sex marriage. This was already in addition to the fact that they give money to anti-LGBT groups and organizations. No doubt, this is terrible. One of my friends who supports the boycott goes so far as to call Chick-fil-A, “facist chicken”. Yet, this afternoon while I was reading Jonathan Merritt’s take (from The Atlantic) on the boycott, I couldn’t help but think about what St Paul might think.
In First Corinthians, St. Paul deals with eating food sacrificed to idols. Some Christians were worried about demonic possession that might occur from eating it. Plus, I imagine that some Christians were urging others not to eat it because they’d be supporting an immoral, unchristian system, as eating it was tantamount to idol worship. I’m sure if they had the terminology, these Christians might call it “fascist meat” as they participated in a proto-boycott.
St. Paul’s generous answer is balanced: the food is not inherently sinful and the “fascist meat” is amoral. After all, he writes, eating does not bring us closer to God and we’re no worse off either way. If you’re invited to someone’s home, be a good guest and eat whatever is put in front of you. Of course, if you’re with a Christian who thinks it is immoral, then don’t eat it. Don’t be a stumbling block. Be deferential and attempt to be humble. I think I can boil down St. Paul’s position to: sure you can eat it, but don’t be an ass about it.
What would St. Paul say to those who are boycotting Chick-fil-A? Yes, I realize that a corporation and a first-century marketplace are vastly different things. Yes, I realize that a first-century marketplace would not have Frankenchicken or treat livestock as immorally as these fast food chains do. But is it immoral to eat at Chick-fil-A? St. Paul would seem to say that it isn’t — but don’t be an ass about it.
If we are to continue the metaphor, who, then, is the idol? To whom has this food been offered? To whom is all this cash really given? What’s the larger picture, the larger evil behind a corporation giving money to anti-gay groups?
That’s problem with boycotts today. They are a smokescreen preventing us from seeing an idol, a larger evil. For example, consider how economists see no real difference in the economic policies of either President Obama or Governor Romney. They’re really just both sides of the same option. Their arguments are simply “. . .raw politics — a cynical attempt to score points in a phony rhetorical war . . .” In the same way, is there real difference between the Liberal response to Chick-fil-A and the conservative response to when Liberals do it? No, there is not. These are both just “sides” of a very narrow coin.
We are perpetuating a “phony rhetorical war” by these protests. The real evil is that corporations are able to throw money at any project, whether it is “liberal” or “conservative”. The real evil is that corporations have been choking the American Democracy since Citizens United. The real evil is that we have a system in place that prices profit above any shred of ethics or morality. The real evil is that corporations can fund anything at all in the first place. Chik-fil-A’s funding of anti-LGBT groups is just the tip of a much more frightening iceberg.
This “phony rhetorical war” gives the illusion of an individual having power to change the world. They give the illusion of each citizen having a voice. They give an illusion that our culture hasn’t been bought out and sold out. They give the illusion that democracy is alive and well, in spite of the fact that corporations are slowly choking our courts, banks and hospitals. This “phony rhetorical war” prevents us from seeing that we’re riding on the back of a beast so large that we can neither make head nor tail of it.
Like St. Paul, I couldn’t care less whether you eat at Chick-fil-A or not. My problem is not with their conservative views. My problem is not with the “fascist chicken”. My problem is with the disease and with the greater evil. My problem is with idol to which all this food and cash is sacrificed: the corporations whose greed is slowly sucking the life out of every American.
We should fight against that.