FORT WORTH, Texas — Three things in life are certain: death, taxes and long lines at Chick-fil-A.
OK, that last one is not an inevitability, but for any parent who is trying to mollify a screaming toddler with chicken strips and waffle fries, it sure feels like it.
The crucial question is whether that will change (the lines, not the screaming toddlers) now that Chick-Fil-A has announced that it intends to cease funding socially conservative charities.
Since 2012, Chick-fil-A has been an easy target for progressive culture warriors.
That’s when chairman and CEO Dan Cathy, an evangelical Christian, made it known that he believes what his faith teaches about traditional marriage and acknowledged his company’s financial support of organizations that share this belief (even when it is unrelated to their charitable work).
Thus began the relentless political campaign against “Hate Chicken,” as its detractors have dubbed it.
Yet most of the “hate” has come, not from the famously friendly restaurant chain, but from its antagonists.
Over the years, activists have exerted political pressure to keep Chick-fil-A franchises from opening in cities across the nation.
The San Antonio City Council voted to deny the restaurant a concession license at the city’s airport — a move that prompted the Legislature to pass legislation to protect businesses that contribute to religious organizations from unfavorable government action.
Across the pond, local activists pressured a landlord into ending its rental agreement with the first Chick-fil-A restaurant to open in the United Kingdom.
In every case, Chick-fil-A’s detractors have accused the restaurant of being “anti-LGTBQ” — a claim based not on reported occasions of hiring discrimination or service refused to LGTBQ patrons.
Such incidents that would indeed be cause for concern and complaint.
Instead, the attacks are based on Chick-fil-A’s corporate donations to charitable organizations like the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, groups that in the minds of social justice warriors are hostile to LGBTQ rights.
Why? Because these organizations, like Cathy, are Christian and hold a traditional view of marriage, although it has almost no bearing on the good work they do for all.
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And for those keeping score, the belief in traditional marriage was the same one held by — gasp — President Barack Obama while he occupied the White House, until his convictions famously and conveniently “evolved.”
For many religious conservatives, the belief is not mutually exclusive of other Christian teachings that compel us to love and respect every human being, regardless of identity or sexual orientation. Those teachings are not just congruent, they are inseparable.
I suspect that is what LGBTQ activist Shayne Windmeyer discovered as he got to know the Chick-fil-A CEO. Windmeyer detailed his unexpected friendship with Cathy in an opinion piece for the Huffington Post in 2013.
Is it possible that this relationship had some affect on Cathy and his company’s decision to discontinue donating to the charitable organizations that have sparked so much ire?
Perhaps. But it’s far more likely that Chick-fil-A’s leaders just got tired of fighting a culture war they didn’t start and could never win.
Last week, the company announced that in addition to ending its financial support of the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, it “will introduce ... more focused giving” and will give to groups that work “exclusively in the areas of hunger, homelessness and education.”
Never mind that there are few organizations more committed to fighting hunger and homelessness than the Salvation Army, except maybe Catholic Charities Fort Worth.
And while Chick-fil-A’s president and COO, Tim Tassopoulos, offered assurances that “no organization will be excluded from future consideration — faith-based or non-faith-based,” it’s difficult to see the fast-food company dipping its toe back into the waters of controversy anytime soon.
This doesn’t appear to be about money. Despite its critics, Chick-fil-A has been remarkably successful.
But if it’s an attempt to appease the left, there are already signs it has failed.
A lot of people patronize Chick-fil-A because of its food and its atmosphere. But plenty of people choose it because of what the company stands for — not traditional marriage per se, but a broader set of Christian values. Hard work. Respect and care for all. The importance of family, rest and worship (stores are closed on Sundays).
Chick-fil-A has been a kind of counter-resistance; a ballast during an anti-religious cultural storm. One we’ve needed more than we realize.
For many people, Chick-fil-A’s grace and dignity in the face of adversity gave it an edge in the fast-food game. Now, I’m guessing that many will take their business elsewhere.
That’s a shame.
Although, it will mean shorter lines for all those new progressive patrons.