Certain people seem to be playing a game of chicken. The question is, how hard are such folks willing to press the pedal to the metal? What does “blinking” from the other players look like to them?
That’s what I wondered on Wednesday as I ate lunch at a Chick-fil-A in Lombard, Ill., a western suburb of Chicago. I had never eaten at a Chick-fil-A before. It just hadn’t popped up on my radar screen. On Wednesday, my radar zeroed in on it.
That’s because several big-city mayors, including those in Chicago, Boston and D.C., have threatened to block Chick-fil-A from expanding into their cities — or at least to make company franchises feel very unwelcome.
“Closest ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away,” that city’s mayor tweeted, and “I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.” Why? Because the restaurant chain’s president, Dan Cathy, personally opposes gay marriage, and his recent comments to Christian media outlets make his stand clear. (Chick-fil-A has a stated policy of respecting all comers, and not discriminating against gay employees or patrons.)
In response to the mayors’ bullying, Cathy supporters flocked to Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country on Wednesday. They had been encouraged to do so by broadcaster Mike Huckabee — the former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential contender — and other backers of traditional marriage.
Lucky me. It turns out the waffle fries are to die for! Anyway, I looked around the busy restaurant. Were the folks who showed up that day really “haters”? If they believe that God alone defines marriage — and that it’s “prideful,” as Cathy argues, to instead think humans get to redefine it as they like — does that make them bigots? Increasingly, that’s the charge elite culture levels.
I talked to several customers. One couple told me, “Look, we are just pro-free speech and pro our understanding of Biblical marriage, we’re not anti-gay.” That sounds pretty tolerant to me.
In contrast, when government officials in major cities dictate that one can’t even think in line with an orthodox understanding of Biblical teaching — or dare not speak it because there will be serious repercussions — that’s repressive.
Some liberals in the chattering class have paid lip service to Cathy’s right to his “insensitive” and “hurtful” views, as The New York Times editorialized. Still, the mayors’ knee-jerk response was instructive. Try instead to imagine a gay business owner speaking to the gay press about disagreeing with a Christian practice, then having the business threatened by a coven of big-city mayors who support it. Such a thing is unimaginable, and it should be.
In any event, it’s no longer enough for millions of folks like me to essentially say about same-sex couples: “I respect your right to call your relationship what you like. But I’d prefer your relationship not be my business at all. So please respect me in turn and don’t make me call it what you like.”
That’s tolerance. Instead, new court rulings and statutes increasingly mandate that people endorse gay marriage by legally requiring us to honor it, even if doing so violates our consciences. Worse, the culture more and more dictates that we must not say (or even think?) we oppose having our consciences violated or we’re considered bigots.
In this particular instance, powerful government officials threatened to step in on the matter.
That’s a long way to come in a very short time for this movement. So back to my original question: What would be enough? I genuinely wonder what folks like me would have to do, or say, or believe, to satisfy those who advocate for a gay political agenda in our culture.
As I ate my chicken sandwich, I thought about this game of “chicken” that many I know never wanted to play in the first place.
I wondered about these things and more. And, I admit, it didn’t feel like fun and games at all.
Betsy Hart is the author of “It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting Is Hurting our Kids — And What to Do About It” (Putnam Books). Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.