Religion

Chick-fil-A’s Shameful Capitulation

People line up outside a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Manhattan in 2015. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
The chain operated in the only way a religious organization can earnestly operate — as though the religion it professed were true — but no longer.

After what one Chick-fil-A executive called “years of taking it on the chin,” referring presumably to the decades of hectoring leveled at the company by LGBT activists, the press, and scolds at American colleges and universities, the fast-food chain announced its decision to withdraw support from three Christian charities with traditionally Christian views on human sexuality. The groups in question — which include the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes — are organization whose views on sexual morality are, at most, incidental to their broader philanthropic missions. But they’ll no longer receive Chick-fil-A donations, as company president and COO Tim Tassopoulos said: “As we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are.”

If anything, this type of equivocation makes it less clear what, exactly, Chick-fil-A is.

It certainly bears little resemblance to the business founded by Truett Cathy, who famously stated that he “was not so committed to financial success that” he “was willing to abandon” his “principles and priorities.” That’s precisely what Chick-fil-A has done: It has abandoned their principles and betrayed the consumers who buoyed their rise from relative obscurity into the multibillion-dollar colossus that it is today. Those consumers stood by the company as it faced furious opposition at colleges, municipal centers, and shopping malls around the country and helped to make it the third-largest fast-food chain in the country.

The decision makes little sense as a financial matter either. Whom does Chick-fil-A expect to win over by capitulating to the sort of groups that hate the company and its patrons and raised hell every time a new franchise was slated to open in a nearby metro area? The chain’s corporate image is already damaged beyond repair to many left-wing consumers. No public display of contrition will suffice. GLAAD, for instance, expressed predictable dissatisfaction with Chick-fil-A’s gesture. The organization’s director of campaigns and rapid response, Drew Anderson, released a statement noting that while the company has stopped “financially supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations” — whatever those are —  “Chick-Fil-A still lacks policies to ensure safe workplaces for LGBTQ employees and should unequivocally speak out against the anti-LGBTQ reputation that their brand represents.”

It’s not good enough now, and it never will be good enough. Chick-fil-A should have known that before it went and capitulated to the mob.

Chick-fil-A is attempting to indulge the sorts of people who not only want to see the company abandon the explicitly biblical principles upon which it was founded but also demand that it disavow its “anti-LGBT reputation.” Problem is, Chick-fil-A’s once-reliable adherence to a set of religious values is what gave it the “reputation” that made it so successful in the first place.

It’s clear what the company is now forfeiting. Plenty of companies are owned by nominal Christians, but Chick-fil-A was different. It still closes shop on Sunday to honor the Christian Sabbath. Truett Cathy said that his company’s “decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and of directing our attention to things that mattered more than our business,” which, for now, the chain still upholds. The company lent corporate opposition to the redefinition of marriage at a moment when such dissent was equated absurdly with opposition to interracial marriage. And until this week, it supported Christian charities, which have come under assault from all sides for their refusal to bow to norms discovered yesterday by would-be social engineers.

The chain operated in the only way a religious organization can earnestly operate — as though the religion it professed were true. To some Christians, who treat their faith as just another boutique lifestyle accoutrement that functions more or less like a weekly Suze Orman book club, that meant relatively little. To others, Chick-fil-A was among the last corporate voices defending one of the most countercultural messages of the Gospel.

Since the initial wave of conservative outcry, the company has come out and ostensibly softened its stance, noting that while it still plans to divest from the three charities in question, it’s not foreclosing the possibility that it will donate to “faith-based organizations” in the future. Which “faith-based organizations” will help it expand into “new markets” in more-liberal parts of the country? None come to mind. In any case, Chick-fil-A ought to make up its mind. No one can serve both God and Mammon, and heaven help the man — or the fast-food chain — that tries.

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