There has been so much written, said, posted, and preached about Chick-fil-A, most of which occurred while I was out of the country, missing the entire phenomenon. As I watched the pictures of people lining up to support Chick-fil-A and as I read the way the media slanted the story, I was struck by two things: the loyalty many Americans have to this very good, well-run, admirable American business and the tendency on the left to demonize those with whom they disagree. The charge of bigotry is too loosely employed.
But, for Christians, I think this is an important moment. I sense that most Americans who went to Chick-fil-A on Appreciation Day did so, not necessarily out of support for traditional marriage values, but to support the right of a businesses owner to express his views and not suffer retribution from the government. Freedom of religion, of speech is a vital aspect of the American experiment. It was not a demonstration of hate against homosexuals. There were even many Christians who decided to use this as an opportunity to make friends with those in the gay community as a way of showing the love of Christ.
But there is an aspect of this that I’m not sure many Christians are thinking through. If Chick-Fil-A is a moment where Christians stand up and say, “boycotts are wrong” and more importantly, “freedom of religion matters,” then we need to ask ourselves if we’re being consistent.
For instance, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, there is a lot of controversy over the building of a mosque. Many Christians in that area oppose it and implore the federal government to disallow it. It looks as if their attempts will be in vain and the mosque will open. There was similar uproar when a mosque was proposed near Ground Zero in New York City.
I’m not sure if the anti-mosque Christians in Tennessee are pro-Chick-fil-A or not, but this is a moment for Christians to pause and consider the consistency of our message and the real cultural battles worth waging.I think the real battle is for religious freedom. Will we have a society that allows us to express our religious views without fear of retribution? It is my view that Christians should actively fight for this. But we must not only fight for the right of Chick-fil-A to open for business in places like Boston, Chicago, and elsewhere, but we should fight for the rights of Muslims or any other religious group to worship freely.
I don’t think we realize that when we push the government to shut down a religion we don’t like, we’re also giving them the power to do the same thing to a religion we do like. I believe, as do most evangelicals, that Christianity is the truth and that all other religions are false paths to God. But I believe that those other religions, however false, should have the right to express themselves freely in our society. I also believe that the gospel is more powerful than a mosque and that God is not threatened by the presence of other religions. We should win the argument, not with the force of government power, but by the strength of our arguments, by the testimony of our changed lives, and ultimately, by the moving of the Spirit in the hearts of those who don’t yet know Jesus.
In other words, if we fight for the rights of the Muslims to build a mosque today, we’re also fighting for the rights of Bible-believing churches to preach the gospel, however culturally unacceptable, tomorrow. We’re fighting for Christians businessmen like Dan Cathy to express his views on marriage.
This is the very freedom that many around the world don’t enjoy. This is the freedom that brought the Pilgrims to our shores hundreds of years ago. This is the freedom that made America unique.
Whether its Chick-Fil-A or a mosque in Murfreesboro, I think religious freedom is a fight worth waging.