Although the focus on Chick-Fil-A appears to be waning somewhat today, it is not so much this particular controversy that is significant, but what it has to say about not only a significant rift in our society, but a rift within our hearts.
Whether we characterize what surrounds the Chick-Fil-A controvery as a freedom to speak, freedom to act and/or freedom to marry issue, we can choose to view it as an opportunity for battle or as an opportunity for understanding.
I grew up and spent parts of my adulthood immersed in the evangelical mindset, though my anguished doubts prevented that mindset from fully taking hold, even as a child (I believe many people have such doubts, yet are afraid to express them).
To better understand why so many people refuse to tolerate that which they have been emphatically told is forbidden, one must look within their hearts. Are the majority of these people truly hateful? No, I would say they are not. But they are indeed fearful, fearful most of all not of what resides in the hearts and inclinations of strangers, but what resides within their own hearts and those of their loved ones.
I could choose to focus on why Fundamentalists feel they must follow the rules in the ways they have been told they must be followed, based on many years of my own experience and reflections on such things. The rules they choose to emphasize shift with the times, the teacher and often selective amnesia unfortunately, as there are countless rules to choose from in the Book they have literally elevated so high that this Book has been thrust above even their Creator. And though they feel they are saved from the rules by Grace, that doesn't mean they can elude them, as their lives must reflect the rules, lest they appear they were never saved at all.
It is a subtle irony that the rule against idolatry is the very rule being broken to deify the Book - idolatry elevates an object over the direct Guidance of God, the direct Guidance to be found in every heart, the very hearts they are told not to trust, instead placing blind trust in a Book (because the Book tells them so), with penalties for getting it wrong severe beyond imagining. I say this not to judge, but because I love them enough to speak.
And that's when compassion and understanding must come into play, as we disarm our inclinations to fight and discover a way to understand, a way to truly heal that which ails so many in our society, their denial, doubts and hidden anguish masked from view.
The real reason many cannot tolerate that which is seemingly different from themselves is that it's actually not all that different after all, the secrets hidden in their hearts rebelling not against God, but against a Book, not against what is unnatural, but against what is natural, including just about ALL forms of sexuality. It is a rebellion against their very selves, which they are told are evil to the core, when in truth at the core is God omnipresent.
And next, all they must do is look to a loved one - a child, a sister, a brother, a dear friend, a neighbor breaking "the rules", yet exhibiting selflessness, compassion and love for their fellow mankind - and the agonizing discrepancies they perceive are almost more than they can bear, because Love is in their hearts resisting fear, resisting judgment, resisting words on a page that do not resonate.
So when they can't resolve this inner conflict within, they externalize it to "the other", to that stranger they are told to disavow, even when it's really none of their business what vows or choices others choose to make. When they infringe upon the choices of others in a free society, the choices others make regarding their own lives, their own marriages, their own bodies, they enslave society itself to their hidden anguish and dysfunction.
This Tuesday I will be talking to inspiring author Mark David Gerson on my radio program The Frontier Beyond Fear. Mark David writes poignantly about his own coming out as a gay man in his newly released memoir Acts of Surrender. Mark David has also written from the heart in his blog regarding what he sees in the Chick-Fil-A controversy. I know it is going to be quite a conversation.
[Note: Waffle Fries and Holding Hands photos originated from Wikipedia Commons and are used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.]