In the last week, Chick-fil-A has taken significant criticism for comments made in a July 16 Baptist Press blog post drawing attention to beliefs of Chick-fil-A President and CEO Dan Cathy, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.” On the syndicated radio show, “The Ken Coleman Show,” Cathy added:
As it relates to society in general, 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 a marriage. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about.
The backlash has been significant. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino publically said he would act to block Chick-fil-A from opening restaurants in the city. The Jim Henson Co. promised to avoid future partnerships, and many have bombarded Twitter, Facebook and blogs in opposition of Cathy’s statements on marriage. Other city leaders like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have also said values of Chick-fil-A’s president don’t mesh with the values of their cities.
In response, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has declared Aug. 1 Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, encouraging those who share their values to show their support. It seems the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich, waffle fry and sweet tea have become the newest symbols of an escalating cultural battle over values.
As Christians, we have the responsibility to think well about these things. We can hold our days of appreciation while others boycott. But when people are offended by our biblical values, our concern should almost exclusively be on having the mind of Christ. God always has an opinion. How would Jesus respond to the current controversy? What would He say? What would He do? Those are questions we must have good answers to before we do or say anything.
As I’ve been thinking about these questions, I’m reminded of St. Augustine’s classic work The City of God. In it, the bishop of Hippo explained how we can understand all history in light of two cities – the City of Man and the City of God. Augustine explained that the earthly city — founded by Cain — is a place that praises human achievement and pride while the City of God represents a heavenly kingdom devoted solely to the glory of God. All people are citizens of one of these two cities. Augustine observed these two cities represent two different loves, two different motives for life. The City of Man is aimed at self-love and earthly pleasure while the City of God is aimed at the glory of God.
One of the most glaring differences between these two cities is their destiny. The City of Man is described as temporary whereas the City of God is described as eternal. Writing even while Rome fell to the Vandals, Augustine provided a biblical way to explain all of history. Great cities will rise and great cities will fall — like Babylon, Nineveh and even Rome — but God continues to build His eternal city.
I believe Chick-fil-A has made a profound statement in the past few days. Their leadership has so identified with the values of the City of God that the City of Man literally cannot help but be repulsed. Chick-fil-A was started and is led by those with an expressed desire to glorify God with their lives and through their businesses. We shouldn’t be surprised when citizens of the earthly city don’t “mesh” with that goal.
Instead, we work to invite more and more people to join us in the City of God. The two cities will continue to disagree and contend against each other until Christ comes. As we discuss our values, we must remember not to expect the City of Man to ever turn into the City of God, but merely work to rescue those captive to its deceptions and, hopefully, save their souls. The controversy over Chick-fil-A reminds us that the values of the City of God will never be welcomed in the City of Man. Even so, we prayerfully ask God to use us to save many out of that earthly city so we might welcome them into His eternal one.