A couple of weeks ago Chick Fil A’s President, Dan Cathy, went on the record with his support of ‘traditional marriage’, noting his frustration with the ‘prideful and arrogant attitude’ of those who ‘want to change what marriage is all about’, basically affirming his opposition to gay marriage and more significantly his support of organizations that use government action to oppose it. LGBT organizations called for boycotts, while several city politicians announced “plans” to ‘block’ or ‘do everything in their power to stop’ the opening of Chick Fil A’s: “plans” they later ‘clarified'(i.e. reversed). Chick Fil A supporters have also come forward ranging from Governor Mike Huckabee to internet phenom Antoine Dodson (the bedroom intruder song guy) defending Mr. Cathy’s right to free speech and the ‘goodness of [Chick Fil A’s] meals’. The chicken sandwich has taken on symbolic meaning that is only surprising to those unfamiliar with the absurdity and vagaries of theocratic law. Once the church has subsumed the state, the private sphere vanishes and the reach of the government is no longer constrained by logic or even precedence, but only power. We find a perfect example of this problem – ironically enough also involving chicken – in Iran.
In the past two months, the price of chicken in Iran has tripled, primarily due to sanctions making this former staple of the Iranian diet inaccessible to many of the poor. The solution in Iran has been to attack the chicken crisis with the same wisdom and insight with which they have combated the scourges of ‘decadent Western haircuts’, the ‘Western cultural imposition’ of internet cafes, and the indecent music of Kenny G. They banned it. Or more specifically they have prohibited televisions from showing images of chickens. This brand of stupidity combined with hard line politics and nuclear brinkmanship are what led to sanctions in the first place. However, in a theocracy, policy errors are no more the cause of rising food prices than tectonic shifts the cause of earthquakes. According to a senior Iranian cleric, scantily clad women caused the 2010 earthquake in Iran, just as in Mr.Cathy’s view, gay marriage invites God’s ‘judgment’, unless of course we give religious organizations greater power over the state.
This of course is not the way Mr. Cathy and other activists among the Religious Right want to be perceived. Mr. Cathy’s supporters instead paint a portrait of a kindly and devout chicken-prenuer who is being unfairly punished for expressing his religious views openly, while in reality he has donated millions to Religious Right organizations, some of whom are expressly devoted to removing the barrier between the church and the state. Among them The Marriage and Family Foundation, which helped add a ban on gay marriage to the VA state constitution as well as excluding gays from employment discrimination and hate crime law; the Family Research Council which has tirelessly worked to add gay marriage bans to state constitutions – North Carolina most recently; and Focus on the Family which explicitly rejects the ‘separation of church and state’ as an ‘unconstitutional doctrine’ and supports the ‘reformation’ of America’s courts.
Some of course will argue that we are a “Christian nation”, or something to that effect, which – historical inaccuracy aside – brings to mind the old saying ‘methinks thou doth protest too much’. Think of the many nations who felt it necessary to label themselves ‘Democratic’: The German Democratic Republic (i.e. East Germany); Democratic Kampuchea (i.e. Cambodia under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge); and let’s not forget the People’s Democratic Republic of North Korea (i.e. North Korea). The most effective wars against democracy are waged in the name of democracy. The same holds true for Christianity. Exhortations that we are a Christian nation are power grabs akin to claims a century ago that we were a ‘white nation’. Of course we are majority ‘white’, but to use that fact to constrain minorities is obviously wrong. The same applies for non-Christians or Christians with a minority point of view.
While I personally disagree with Mr. Cathy’s political objectives, he is free to select and interpret scripture as he chooses. I oppose any government action to block him if his company is not breaking the law. I would much rather vote with my dollars. Opponents of gay marriage need to make a similar concession. Whether you believe in gay marriage or not, using the state to block or constrain it is not merely an invasion of privacy, but an erosion of it and one thing is for certain – you and your freedoms will be next, because no matter how much the theocrats get, they always want more.