I just finished the book It Happened in Michigan, a fun little collection of anecdotes from Michigan's history written by Colleen Burcar. One of these anecdotes, "Assassinating a 'King'", is about James Jesse Stang's attempt to set up a sort of mini Mormon empire on Big Beaver Island in the mid 1800s. Eventually he was killed, and locals drove all the Mormons, whom they didn't really like, off the island. You read a story like that today and it almost sounds cute - we're not like that anymore, we're not going to run you out of town because of your religion. Right?
After the response of Boston's mayor to the comments of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy, perhaps not. I think it's important to repeat exactly what Dan Cathy said. His most recent comments, as originally reported in the Biblical Recorder, then reprinted by the Baptist Press, are:"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. We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that."
And then a bit more controversial, on Ken Coleman's radio show, as reported by the Daily Caller:
“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."
What really struck me about these comments is it sounds to me more like he's expressing a moral opinion, not necessarily trying to draw his company into political action. In fact, the company issued a later statement that makes this clear, as reported by Denny Burk:
"The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect -- regardless of belief, creed and sexual orientation. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."
Mayor Menino says that the business is not welcome in Boston and has even threatened to make it legally difficult for Chick-fil-A to enter the city. This makes me think, many Christian pastors would be willing to affirm all of Cathy's comments, or would say something similar themselves. Are their churches, then, also not welcome in Boston? I can see no distinction that would make Chick-fil-A's presence unacceptable and the presence of those churches acceptable. If anything, because churches tend to teach others what they believe instead of just, you know, serving them chicken sandwiches, their presence should be even more offensive. So, if there was a high-profile opening of the first evangelical church in Boston, would the reaction be exactly the same? Perhaps we are not as far from driving people out of town as we think.