Gay Friends and Waffle Fries: Thoughts on Having Both

Last week, Charlie Rogers, a lesbian woman in Nebraska was attacked in her home by three men. They stripped her, tied her up with zip ties, carved words such as “dyke” and other gay-slurs into her skin, and set her house on fire. Incredibly, this woman bravely stated just a day later, “I’m not going back in the closet. You’re not going to scare me back.”

I am inspired by her bravery to endure such an experience, and within 24 hours, be able to assure the world and her attackers that even such extreme trauma would not keep her from being who she is.

I cannot help but think of Charlie as I read the mass coverage on Chick-fil-A this week. As she begins a long and difficult process of healing, many others are waving flags of support of a restaurant who donates to anti-gay organizations. I am surprised at how many people I know who are proudly passing along digital flyers about the Chik-fil-A Appreciation Day on August 1. As I read through comments on Facebook and comment sections of relevant articles, I came across a few common thoughts that seem to be driving support for the organization by otherwise loving people. I would like to offer a response to much of the reason people feel inclined to support Chick-fil-A.

A lot of the support comes from the notion that Chick-fil-A is being bullied by the LGBT community. There is a feeling that they are being attacked for holding “Christian values” and that the queer response to Chick-fil-A’s “opinion” is limiting free speech. People seem to be confused as to why there is suddenly such an uproar when all along everyone has known Chick-fil-A is a “Christian organization.”

However, most of the people who are upset about Chick-fil-A are not shocked or outraged by the simple idea that the founder of Chick-fil-A holds “traditional Christian values” or even that they are anti-gay. Many of us have assumed this for a long time. Perhaps this knowledge/assumption has kept people from eating there for a while now, but it is not the reason for the mass outrage that is currently taking place. They are not simply holding an opinion or living into their right to free speech. Chick-fil-A is actively supporting groups which are working against the civil rights and emotional well-being of queer people. This is where our problem lies.

In 2010, Chick-fil-A donated over two million dollars to anti-gay groups including Exodus International which is known for their history of trying to “cure” gays. Chick-fil-A doesn’t just have an opinion to which they are entitled. They are funding abuse and hate targeted at a marginalized community – one which suffers from high suicide rates, hidden lives, self-hate and violent attacks.

To those who wonder why LGBT people are so upset, I would ask you consider the connection between anti-gay groups and the hate crime endured by a woman in Nebraska just this week. I am not saying these groups or Chick-fil-A are the direct cause of such crimes, but they certainly feed into and encourage a culture which still reeks of homophobia.

Some Christians continue to make claims that Chick-fil-A is maintaining integrity by standing firm in “biblical values” As a Christian, I have been taught that the Bible speaks of the Kindom of God as a space in which there is no fear, no violence, no hate. Yet, when I read stories about lesbians having gay-slurs etched into their skin, those are the only things I can think of. I get scared – scared because stories like hers are real. Scared because it could be my story, or my best friend’s story, or my congregant’s story. I think of the violence that queers endure everyday – at the hand of others, in the words of the media or religious voices which paint us as degenerates, or at their own hand via self-loathing due to internalized homophobia. I think of hate – for purposeful efforts to make the queer community suffer. So when I hear about Chick-fil-A living into “biblical values” by financially supporting a narrow understanding of family which breeds all of these things, I have a hard time connecting the dots.

Chick-fil-A is not the first or the only company to support anti-gay groups. But it is one. My hope is that the reason the queer community and our allies are responding so harshly is that we are getting sick and tired of fear, of violence, and of hate. There is a wave of courage passing through the queer community and with any luck, together, we can learn from the brave woman in Nebraska and claim for ourselves: “[We are] not going back in the closet. You’re not going to scare me back.”

As we live into this courage, we may choose to no longer give money to Chick-fil-A or other organizations which breed, support, or encourage fear, violence, and hate. As a Christian, I do so on the foundation of biblical values. Some of us will take another step and participate in a “Kiss-in,” a nonviolent protest at Chick-fil-A’s across the nation this Friday. However we respond to Chick-fil-A’s funding of anti-gay organizations, it is not an effort to revoke anyone’s free speech. More than words are at stake in this case and no one is claiming they cannot share their opinion. It is not a case of bullying Chick-fil-A because they “bully” us. They have too much structural power – it would be like David trying to bully Goliath. It is not an act of the LGBT community shoving our “agenda” in anyone’s face – it’s a tired and frustrated demand for a society which no longer breeds fear, violence and hate.

Chick-fil-A can keep their values. They can say whatever they like and no one can legally do a thing about it. But as citizens, we can also choose to boycott, to protest, and to criticize their financial support of organizations which are dangerous to us.

As the “Day of Appreciation” approaches, I know this conversation will continue. I hope, however, that those who choose to support Chick-fil-A will remember their loved ones who are queer – their coworkers, their neighbors, their family members. When I think about those I know who have posted or communicated support of Chick-fil-A, I am confused. I wonder how they can hear about violence towards gays, be in relationship with me or others who are gay, and justify their concern for us, all the while cheering on Chick-fil-A.

Even if you do not share the same perspective as queers (not that we all have the same ones), I imagine many people don’t actually wish us harm. However, to see your active efforts to make a statement via patronizing Chick-fil-A feels like you don’t care about the harm we endure on a regular basis or that you are not remotely affected by stories such as the woman in Nebraska or the many like hers. I wonder if this is what you intend.

This photo is re-featured here in accordance with its Creative Commons License. It was taken by Christian Bauer.

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29 thoughts on “Gay Friends and Waffle Fries: Thoughts on Having Both

  1. Mary Ann, the actions taken against Charlie in Nebraska are deplorable and certainly not Christian and should never have been done by anyone claiming to be a human being. That should go without even having to be said. I am thankful that I serve a God that loves all within His creation. I am thankful that I serve a God that gives us free choice. I am thankful that it is not my job to judge people but to teach people about God’s love and desires for us. I will, however, say that I believe strongly in the Christian Values of which you speak. With that said, let’s look from the other side at your argument knowing that we both believe that the violence is deplorable and free speech is something we cherish. If I took your argument and used the same approach I could not support Google,, Chicago, Boston or a host of other organizations that support the anti “Christian Values”. Instead of extending the chasm between us lets find ways to look at things from each others perspectives.
    Just for your consideration!?

    1. Hi Bob,

      I certainly respect your opinion but just want to point out one difference in not supporting Chik-fil-a and not supporting companies such as google, amazon, etc. The primary difference is that, for instance, Apple is not claiming to go out of their way and intentionally donate to things such as slave labor and doing it in the name of biblical values. They unfortunately participate in unjust labor as a means of their production for their own cost benefit (which I think, is contrary to biblical values) but they are not publicly advocating for its perpetuation and doing so in the name of my faith. Chik-fil-a on the other hand, is going out of their way to not only support something harmful but to do so in the name of biblical values. Both are wrong, but Chik-fil-a is different in that sense.

      1. Mary Ann,
        I don’t know where or why we are now talking about slave labor, the discussion was about who is supporting which cause. Google and have made huge donations to further the gay cause. Chick Fil A has made a huge donations to support the traditional Christian interpretation of marriage being between a man and a woman. that is what we are talking about. There has been a plea to boycott Chick Fil A by people you agree with. What I was saying is it would be just as silly for those of us who support the traditional Christian stance on marriage to boycott Google and The war then becomes lets bancrupt businesses that make publicly sensative donations and potentially put millions of people out of a job. Does that really make sense?

        1. Oh goodness – I did completely misunderstand what you meant by reasons you would boycott other companies – I thought you meant for other anti-biblical issues (like slave labor, for example).

          Now that I see what you are referring to, I think the issue comes down to the fact that you see supporting traditional understandings of marriage and supporting lgbt equality as on equal playing fields. i.e. boycott whoever doesn’t agree with you. I think this is the fundamental difference where only a much longer conversation could suffice in bridging the gap of perspective between us.

          As a marginalized group, reacting to the funding of groups which are trying to rid society of gays or basic (human)gay rights seems incredibly different to me than traditional christians reacting to groups which are not a direct emotional, physical, or psychological threat to their individual lives. Whereas groups which are anti-gay lead to more violence for gay individuals, pro-gay groups do not lead to violence for christians with traditional understandings of marriage. I am unaware of mass violence against Christians because they are Christian. Violence against lgbt is a daily occurrence – even if its not always on the news. There is a fundamental difference in why one group should boycott (creating a less violent society for lgbt people) and why another might boycott (to maintain the current structure of marriage and prevent others from other ways of being that is healthy for them). I really appreciate your willingness to dialogue on this issue though Bob.

          1. Pardon the possibility of misunderstanding because I do not have adequate time to reflect on your answer at the moment but I believe I disagree on several levels. 1) Everyone looks at things through their own lens and experience so claiming “equality” would not be the words I would use however I would offer that in any discussion, especially in emotionally charged discussions, that we have to “attempt” to understand the other side’s position before we can seek resolution or at least relationship that is cooperative and respectful.
            Now to the second part of disagreement. Christians have been and are “persecuted” on a daily basis from our point of view and especially in a society that is more and more in what many call the post-Christian era. From a country built on Christian principles there is no longer prayer allowed in public venues, displays of our religious histroy, or even to the latest – military chaplains not being able to express their own faith. So giving “excuse” to someone for doing something another group is cannot do because they are poor, marginalized, underpriviliged, etc would be tantimount to allowing non-self-defence murder of an abuser (as an example).

      1. Again – well said Bob. If one is not a heterosexual Christian- how can you make a claim whether or not we feel persecuted for our beliefs. I too can daily feel persecuted for my Christian beliefs. Maybe I’m not beat up for it – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people all over the world everyday that are physically abused or killed for their Christian beliefs.

        On another note – Muslims don’t agree with gay marriage and in fact physical beat or kill gay people. Why isn’t the gay community up in arms with Muslim owned companies such at Edible Arrangements or YouTube?

        1. Tina –

          For the first 25 years of my life I presented as a heterosexual Christian. I was too scared to come out – many of those years too scared to even come out to myself. I know EXACTLY what its like to be a faithful heterosexual christian. I used to even be against homosexuality because of my faith convictions.

          I don’t know how to stress the difference of “persecution” as a Christian or as a lesbian. Yes – Christians in other countries can be physically violated, but we are talking about the structures of America. Show me the number of heterosexual teens who commit suicide because they feel like they are unwanted due to their Christianity. I will show you the disgustingly high number of teen suicides that occur because lgbt teens can’t handle the hate they endure. Show many how many violent attacks against Christian’s occured this week. Then let’s talk.

          1. Mary Ann
            My story and my views echo yours. Thank you for saying it so perfect. To others, I say once again – disagreement, however uncomfortable it makes you, is not persecution.

        2. Tina,
          Your comment on Muslims is an attempt to shift blame. (Look, I’m not as bad as those guys over there, go pick on them.) In fact many of us in the gay community have expressed both dismay and outrage at persecution of lbgt people around the world. We have petitioned the UN and our own State Department to speak vigorously against those practices. (BTW, the Family Research Council which Chick-fil-a funds lobbied Congress to NOT oppose a Ugandan “kill the gays” bill. If you’re really worried about us in foreign countries you might… oh, I don’t know… quit supporting Chick-fil-a that supports groups wanting us killed in other countries. But I digress.) That being said, this does not mean we should ignore elements closer to home. As soon as I become aware that the owners of Edible Arrangements are funding hate groups (unless you view all Muslims as a hate group) I will speak up. Got any evidence of that? If not, we’ll come back to the groups that DO fund hate speech. One of those would be Chick-fil-a.

  2. Here is the tough part of this debate…you have two different sides debating from two different world views. Naturally one is not going to understand the other. As Christians we believe that Satan is the prince of this world right now and naturally there is evil because of him. God did not create evil. God’s heart for us is good. But Satan hates God’s children and wants to destroy each of us. (John 10:10) Either the bible and Jesus is real and the truth or it isn’t. If you believe the bible you believe that Jesus came to save this world and not to condemn it. (John 3:17) Jesus wishes that none would perish but all would have everlasting life. (John 3:16) Jesus desires we live full abundant lives and He truly desires what is best for us. As His children we all struggle with sin: pride, over eating, sexual addictions, homosexuality, etc. Christians hate the sin, but love the sinner and we are all sinners. As Christians, we ask to be forgiven of our sins to honor the Lord. We believe the bible and that’s what it says. We have the freedom to do that. We do not wish ill on anyone – except Satan and Satan’s fallen angels. If you don’t believe the bible, then what is truth to you? What moral compass do you use to live your life? If we toss the bible out of the window (because it’s either true or it isn’t.) – how shall we live? Who then makes the rules? What are the rules? How do you live your life and why do you live that way? Don’t blame Christians for living out their beliefs based on the best selling book ever. This story is bigger than all of us. It isn’t about chicken or gay marriage- it’s about the lies we believe and how we live our lives based on those lies. If your still reading this far and want to read two great books, may I recommend ‘Epic’ and ‘Beautiful Outlaw’ both by an incredible author, John Eldredge. +
    Other verses pertaining to Godly marriage: 1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3:7, Hebrews 13, Genesis 2:18-24, 1 John

  3. For those pleading for understanding of the “Chrisitan” position, perhaps you are unaware of the type of speech Chick-fil-a funds. It is not simply that they wish gay people didn’t exist. The organizations they fund are on record stating lies such as:
    *Gays are likely to be pedophiles
    *Gays want to steal your children
    *God will punish American for tolerating gays
    *The goverment should exectute gays.
    Please understand that this is the very definition of “Hate Speech”. It is not just stating an opinion that you don’t like gay people, it is telling lies and distortions in order to inflame opinions against a whole group of people. As this blog notes, such language is often too successful and forms the justification in the minds of some to carry out violence against gay people. The boycott of Chick-fil-a is not because of their disapproval of gay people; it is because of their funding of lies that create an atmosphere of violence. This is not about free speech, it is about hate speech.
    I would hope that Christians would want to stand for truth whether you approve of gay people or not. Chick-fil-a is funding lies. I would ask that you oppose that and not support them with your business.

    1. Jimcracky – You are about the 5th person I’ve encountered making these claims without proof to back yourself up. Do you honestly think that a Christian company would knowingly give money to an organization who’s mission was to ‘execute gays’? Where is this ‘hate speech’ documented? You can’t make such claims because you are emotional about the topic. Be rational and show proof of your accusations. I apologize if you have obviously encountered a crazy Christian who didn’t share the truth in love, but normal Christians wish NO ill will on anybody – gay or straight. I’m personally not familiar with Exodus International (the group folks are apparently referring too) but have also not been made aware of proof of their “horrible” actions. Educate me, if you will, on what they have done with facts, not opinions.

    2. Jimcracky, emotional furvor seems to be driving some poor decisions, at least in my opinion. You seem to be, if I understand you correctly, blaming Chick Fil A for some other organization making false statements. Really??? Then that would make you the blame of every hateful, wrong, and misleading statement your side of the discussion has made. Right??? No! That does not make you the blame for someone elses wrongs and it doesn’t make Chick Fil A the blame either. Saying things in anger or in accusatory language will never bring resolution. Lets try to talk civilly so we can understand each other.

      1. Bob, I’m curious what you found uncivil in my comments. I made them, from my perspective, calmly and politely. I wasn’t ranting, but stating some facts. Disagreement is not being uncivil.
        Second, your characterization of my comments are off the mark. Chick-fil-a is not being held responsible for the comments of other organizations, they are being held responsible for FUNDING organizations making those comments. Agreement is an internal process and a matter of free speech. Funding is a behavior with consequences in the real world.
        To its credit, Exodus International has now reversed itself after this incident was exposed and their board member has stepped down. But all that was after the donations via Chick-fil-a’s foundation.
        They have also contributed to the Family Research Council. The FRC is known for a pattern of hate-filled lies and distortions of research with the intention of inflaming public opinion against the lgbt community. They have been so persistent in this the Southern Poverty Law Center – a respected organization that tracks hate groups like the KKK and White Supremacist organizations – has designated FRC a Hate Group.
        These groups do real damage and supporting them allows that damage to continue. Trust me that we are used to people disagreeing. This is about the funding of lies that seem to grow out of a deep-seated hatred of gay people simply living opening and decently in their communities.
        Finally, I would add that disagreement is not persecution. Christians seem to feel that because they live in a society in which Christianity is less dominant that they are being persecuted. Christians in other countries where there are other hostile religions around them are being persecuted and I would suggest that there is no such activity here in the U.S. Churches and Christians thrive here and no one is trying to shut them down. They are disagreeing, they are asking them not to spread lies. This is not the same thing as persecution.

  4. Tina, put about 5 links to news stories etc. but this page seems to not want to post them for some reason. I submitted them over an hour ago and they haven’t appeared. It makes me wonder who’s managing this site if they won’t allow documenting links. I see some above, so I don’t get it.

    1. Jimcracky- I simply copied and pasted http sites into my comment. Not sure why that won’t work for you.

  5. I think I will have a bite of my Chick-fil- carrot salad, that I waited in a really long line for, and think about all these comments.

  6. This perspective is merely more
    Chick-fil-a’s owner is a believer in the traditional family and that marriage has been ordained by God
    to be between a man and a woman, as written in God’s Holy Word. Being for ‘traditional’ relationships does not make one ‘anti-gay.’ This constant spin very frequently the very vocab that GLBT people often use works against what you’re standing fo….if you are pro-abortion does it automatically mean you are anti-life? Of course not–who’s anti-life in the argument pro / anti abortion? Mr. Cathy has a belief-system rooted in
    Christianity and he believes and values it. He does not value the homosexual agenda because it directly
    goes against what he knows to be true according to
    the Word of God, in this case, what he values most.

    Perhaps those of us who do not value what homosexuals value should boycott any business owned by homosexuals? Do you see the ridiculousness if this…

    You want what you to believe to be honored…so does everyone else…so we should each get in our corners and tear the other one down for being who they are and for valuing what they value?

    And I really do ‘hate’ it when someone tells a horrible story that includes a scenario where people have attacked someone and hurt them in despicable ways and then they draw the conclusion ever so subtly that anyone who does not value what the harmed person believes is as responsible as the perpetrator who caused the harm. I am not responsible for anyone’s actions but my own and neither are you.

    Finally let me say that tearing down Christians or
    traditionalist values will never serve to enhance your point of view. It merely is namecalling, false labeling, and actually shows how very narrow your view is, and how desperate you are to validate your views.
    Middle schoolers namecall, use obscene gestures to express their dislike of whatever isn’t pleasing at a particular moment. Middle schoolers aren’t adults,
    they haven’t learned that their actions hurt others deeply, they are caught in adolescence and can’t help themselves much of the time…but adults can and
    we need to raise the bar on what standard we will
    use to be called adults.
    Adults can treat others as they’d like to be treated even when another adult chooses to act like an
    adolescent. That’s called self-control; rising above the circumstance of the moment. This is called Character.
    Your Character is the only thing that you keep all of your life,
    everything else fades away eventually. Think about that…

    1. Alice,
      Well, thank you for your condescending lecture on manners and character. [That was sarcasm, if you failed to notice.] I invite you to read back over the texts here. I haven’t seen anyone doing any name calling. It has been, at least from my perspective, a civil conversation between adults who disagree sharply. No epithets have been thrown, no derogatory terms used, no personal attacks. Yours has been the closest I’ve seen to being personally insulting; insinuating pretty strongly that anyone who disagrees with you has no character. That pretty well crossed the line.

      Want to see some real name calling? Check out this link that collected Tweets about Chick-fil-a yesterday:

      And in case you don’t want to check the link, here are a few samples:
      “I want some Chick-Fil-A, I also want some faggots to die”
      “If I was Chick Fil A’s owner, I’d be happy that gay ppl protesting nshit. I wouldn’t want them filthy HIV+ fags eating my good chicken”
      “If any body sees fags kissing in front of Chick-fil-a please feel free to hit them with you car.”

      Maybe we’re not the ones you should be lecturing about self-control, manners or character. I would tend to your side of the fence for a while.

  7. I initially thought this whole thing was simply a freedom of speech issue. I didn’t know what organizations Chick Fil A donated to or what any of them did. . I did look up Exodus International and found this statement from the current president, Alan Chambers, last Jan. ’12 :
    –Chambers, stated that conversion therapy is potentially harmful to those participating and it does not work:[11]
    “I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included, for someone to put out a shingle and say, ‘I can cure homosexuality’ — that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth.”[12]–

    It sounds like they used to try conversion but realized it does not work. Wikipedia also describes the organization as “ex-gays”.

    I am not gay but my brother was gay (killed by a drunk driver 2003) and I have gay friends. I had no desire to join the Appreciation Day….
    I’m a beef person and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a Chick Fil A anyway. While I agree with the importance of freedom of speech, I do not care to be part of either group if they cannot express themselves in a civil manner and discuss differences of opinions without name calling.
    The article and comments here are a great example of a polite discussion with different opinions expressed. People will just have to agree to disagree.
    Good Grief, if my MIL and I can agree to disagree…almost any others can do it !.. I cannot stand self-righteous Christians. I want to say to them “If that’s how you feel then YOU shouldn’t do it !….othwerwise, it is Not your place to pass judgement !”
    I just wanted to throw my 2 cents worth in.

  8. Did you not want to write a blog about how charlie Rogers made this entire thing up and is being charged with making a false police report?

  9. I will leave the comment again since the first one was deleted. Are you going to write a blog informing people about how Charlie Rogers has been arrested for making a false police report and made this story up and did it to herself? What is scary is you are willing to write all this but when it’s simply not a true story you will delete comments.

    1. Josh – I have read some of the most recent reports which do suggest she may have made it all up. This is unfortunate as it hurts the lgbt movement more than helps it. HOWEVER, it changes absolutely nothing about the point of the article. I could replace Charlie Rogers with a thousand different names as violence against lgbt people happens all the time – its just rarely made into news.

      Further, if this woman did fake her attack, people are saying it was with the hopes of “making things better.” Shouldn’t we be equally concerned with the fact that things are so difficult for some lgbt people that this woman would feel compelled to cut slurs into her own skin in order to make a difference?

      Hmm – perhaps I will write a follow-up piece. Thanks for the suggestion.

      1. Mary Ann,

        I think you made some good points but I also think you are dismissing the fact that she not only broke the law but made this entire thing up and that its ok because its for a cause. I am willing to bet the lgbt community would be going absolutely crazy if someone that opposed gay rights made up a story that someone from the lgbt community attacked them and it was all fake. There is a proper way to approach debate and raise awareness for causes and this is the wrong way. Do you think it was right for the guy that went into the office in D.C. a few weeks ago and shot somebody that was pro-life because he was so extreme for pro-choice and against the organization and believed in it so much? I would hope and believe your answer would be no. Where do you draw the line? I believe this definitely crossed it and distorted the issue.

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