Editor’s Note:The following article was delivered to me on a flash-drive yesterday by a completely hairless man dressed all in silver. He claimed to be a “Traveler” from an alternate parody dimension, where my blog is mostly about raising organic turtles. His breath smelled like pickles (sweet, not dill). I have chosen to publish it here purely for historical purposes.
Chick-fil-A restaurants across the county experienced long lines yesterday, as thousands of supporters took part in “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” organized by former presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee to counter the widespread boycott of the franchise currently under way.
The controversy over actually Chick-fil-A goes back several years, with the slow-food chain being accused of financially supporting several organizations who are active in trying to pressure Congress to pass “gluttony legislation,” and fight what they see as an encroaching national acceptance of food enjoyment as an acceptable “alternative lifestyle.”
But new outrage, and a call for a boycott, was sparked when Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy made what were seen as inflammatory statements during a radio interview where the subject of giving legal protection to those who actually enjoy their food:
“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes proper eating’. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, gluttonous attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what eating is about.”
Cathy is, of course, not alone in his views on traditional “Biblical food consumption.” The Christian church has long maintained that scripture is clear about the sinfulness of gluttony, which includes the over-indulgence, over-consumption, or excessive desire for food. This has led to the widespread belief that to be a faithful Christian one must abstain from any foodstuff that is deemed conducive to tempting one to consume even more foodstuff.
Verses cited to show the seriousness and inherent sinfulness of gluttony often include: Deuteronomy 21:20-21, which calls for the death of gluttons by stoning; Ezekiel 16:49 which gives gluttony (“fullness of bread”) as one of the sins of Sodom; and Proverbs 23:2 which suggests that it is better to take your own life than to have a large appetite.
For centuries, the overweight and the food-lover have been persecuted to one degree or another, whether they were actively gluttonous or not. Many were overweight due to hormonal or thyroid conditions, while others were not overweight at all and were simply accused of enjoying a meal with too much “eagerness.”
Many Christians struggle with the sin of gluttony in secret, hiding their waistline through tight undergarments or billowy choir robes, for fear that being exposed will result in judgement and possible excommunication.
In recent years several prominent conservative Christian clergy and politicians have had their reputations destroyed through food scandals, such as former Senator Larry Craig (R – Idaho), who was arrested for disorderly conduct when caught eating a messy meatball sandwich in an airport bathroom stall. Craig was caught when his foot hit that of a police officer in an adjoining stall, as he tried to avoid spilling on his pants. Initially, Craig claimed that this was merely a misunderstanding, and that he simply has a naturally “wide stance.”
Although some denominations have recently started to ordain overweight clergy, some of whom are openly call themselves “foodies,” the practice is controversial and has resulted in rifts among the congregations.
On the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day Facebook page, Huckabee wrote:
“I have been incensed at the vitriolic assaults on the Chick-Fil-A company because the CEO, Dan Cathy, made comments recently in which he affirmed his view that the Biblical view of healthy eating should be upheld.“
Many Christians have lauded Chick-fil-A’s strongly-held position that they wanted to reflect their founder’s traditional Christian values by only serving low-calorie, small-portion, completely flavorless food. Their Chik’n™ Sandwich, consisting of an unseasoned soft tofu-based patty (made of the titular lab-created “Chik’n™”) between two leaves of slightly bitter lettuce, is a favorite for Christians who uphold the traditional view that if food has too much appealing flavor or texture one takes the risk of enjoying it too much and being a “glutton.”
Chick-fil-A employees and franchise owners are expected to sign a “lifestyle pledge” that states that they will maintain a healthy BMI, drink only water, and refrain from red meat, fried foods, dairy, sugar, most oils and fats, and all forms of dessert. Failure to live up to this pledge results in termination.
Recent polls show that a majority of Americans still hold generally negative views about those who enjoy eating, however a growing percentage now agree that “fatties” should still be given the right to eat what they want and not face discrimination. Many are learning that the “Mr. Creosote” stereotype so often applied to food lovers is completely inaccurate, when friends, family and co-workers “come out of the kitchen” as enjoying the addition of special seasonings and quality ingredients to make process of consumption and ingestion more pleasurable.
Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, felt so incensed by Cathy’s words that he vowed to block the fast food chain from opening a franchise in his city, and wrote a strongly-worded open letter to the company:
“You called those who enjoy good food ‘prideful.’ Here in Chicago, to borrow your own words, we are ‘guilty as charged.’ We are indeed full of pride for our support of delicious, rich, over-sized food, and our work to expand the palates of all people. We are proud that our state and our city have led the way for the country on food truck laws and hot dog toppings. There is no place for tofu sandwiches in Chicago’s deep dish restaurant culture, and no place for your company alongside it.“
Defenders of Chick-fil-A point out that the chain isn’t discriminating against anyone, but rather simply expressing their opinion, as protected by the 1st Amendment.
“We treat all customers with dignity and respect, and welcome those of all shapes and sizes to purchase our ‘food’ products,” said a spokesman. “Thousands of overweight Americans have made frequents trips to Chick-fil-A over the years, to satisfy a craving to have no cravings at all while consuming a Chick’n™ Sandwich. We have never turned someone away because we believe them to be a glutton.”
“I say good for them for standing up for what they believe,” said Merle Dartmouth, an IT professional from Asheville, NC. “People are calling me ‘hateful’ and a ‘weightist’ and that’s not the case at all. I don’t ‘hate’ fatties. My cousin is a fattie, and I don’t ‘hate’ him. I just don’t want his sinful behavior on display for my children, or celebrated in the media. Go ahead and eat a whole pizza in the privacy of your own home, I guess, but don’t expect me to tell my kids that it’s just one more ‘lifestyle choice.’”
Some see this as simply the latest volley in a “culture war” over the soul of the nation, and an increasing number of Christians are saying that they want nothing to do with it at all.
In an impassioned post to her popular blog, Rachael Held Evans recently wrote about her concern that Christianity runs the risk of losing an entire generation by how it has handled the issue of the overweight:
When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “anti-obesity.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers.
She’s not wrong. Facebook users have been “de-Friending” one another in record numbers after posting status updates or links to articles that take a position on the issue that does not line up with their own. Some are suggesting an August 3rd “Kiss-in” for supporters of the boycott, where participants are encouraged to go to Chick-fil-A, order something from the menu, and then smother it with melted Hershey Kisses before consuming the messy concoction loudly.
Most, it seems, are simply tired of the fighting, judgement, hyperbole, finger-pointing, and hypocrisy by the extremes on both sides.
Chick-fil-A has released a statement that reads in part:
“Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over food-enjoyment to the government and political arena, as well as the debates of other issues close to our hearts as Christians, like the legality of working on the Sabbath and proposed decriminalization of tattoos.”