The modern gospel depiction of The Last Supper may soon be rewritten with disciples gorging on chicken sandwiches while Jesus Christ holds up a waffle fry and instructs his followers to do so in remembrance of him.
Some will do so today in Crystal Lake as the area’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant opens. Normally, the opening of a fast-food restaurant is celebrated with a grip-and-grin chamber of commerce photo. But social media has turned this otherwise mundane launch of industrial heat lamps into a profound event in the annals of cultural warfare.
The squawking has been deafening. Plenty are to blame for this tempest in a deep fryer, other than innocent chickens who did nothing to deserve their mayonnaise-slathered fate.
It started when Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy answered a few media questions about his beliefs regarding family and traditional marriage, and although he didn’t say it directly, a reasonable inference from his reference to biblical principles is that he doesn’t believe same-sex marriages are appropriate.
Those are Cathy’s beliefs and he’s certainly not alone. Depending on which poll you believe, slightly more than half of Americans support gay marriage, while nearly half don’t. To dismiss all opponents of same-sex marriage as hateful and narrow-minded, is, well ... hateful and narrow-minded.
The pro gay-marriage movement, which has made significant polling strides over the past decade, got a boost from President Barack Obama. In May, he finally publicly announced his support for gay marriage – an announcement that had historical context but should have surprised few.
Some have changed their minds. Others haven’t. Some never will, particularly many evangelical Christians, Catholics and others who believe that a biblical concept of marriage – between a woman and a man – is the only form of marriage there should be.
Is that a bigoted point of view? While I don’t happen to agree with it, it doesn’t seem bigoted. If it is, then a long-existing tenet of several major religions is a bigoted point of view that the rest of the world is going to have to learn to live with, just as religious people have to live with those who don’t share their views.
It also doesn’t mean that people who share that religious belief are necessarily hateful people. They believe what they believe just as Dan Cathy believes what he believes and supporters of gay marriage believe what they believe.
So circumstances have oddly made a fast-food chicken chain the focal point of the debate, and it started with the backlash against Cathy. Some of which is fair play in the marketplace of ideas where people are free, eloquently or ineloquently, to call other people’s beliefs stupid.
Other backlash was worse – that of public officials threatening not to approve restaurants because they don’t agree with Cathy’s point of view, which is a terrible precedent for any local government official who has even a seventh-grader’s understanding of the Constitution.
The end result has been shrill moral screeds from each side, and people on both sides flocking to a chicken restaurant to show support for their beliefs. Both sides are obnoxious. Both extreme positions lack perspective and look silly. Jesus doesn’t care about chicken sandwiches, and neither should the proudest gay people.
Eat there. Don’t eat there. That’s your business and your right. It’s a big enough world that those who maintain religious beliefs that same-sex marriage is wrong can co-exist with, respect, like, even love those who don’t.
It’s certainly a big enough fast-food market, even if you don’t supersize it.
• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.