If you’re trying to convince people that you’re on the right side, you probably don’t want to portray the other side in language generally reserved for Al-Qaeda.
Yet that’s the over-the-top approach in a recent New Yorker essay, which decries the “creepy infiltration” of Chick-fil-A stores in New York as “worse than a load of manure on the F train.”
The essay, by Dan Piepenbring, notes the fast-food chain’s long history with anti-LGBTQ causes, especially anti-marriage issues. CEO Dan Cathy is a conservative Christian who is happy to donate his money to like-minded causes.
The corporation reflects Cathy’s beliefs; for example, all stores have been closed on Sundays since 1946, ostensibly so workers can spend time with their families, although also probably so that they can attend church.
There’s plenty of reasons to decide you don’t want to patronize Chick-fil-A. But the essay casts Chick-fil-A as a nefarious presence because of its Christian coloring.
“The brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism,” Piepenbring writes. “The restaurant’s corporate purpose still begins with the words ‘to glorify God.’”
Piepenbring has been taken to task for the anti-Christian tone of the article. But not all his critics came from the right. Progressive critics note that the essay is a case study in how not to disagree with the opposition. Pollster Nate Silver, who is gay, tweeted “This is why Trump won.”
There’s no question that Chick-fil-A is open to criticism for particular positions it takes. But a blanket condemnation of the corporation because of its ties to Christianity is writing off a huge segment of the population as contemptible – in particular African-Americans.
Stephen L. Carter, a Yale Law professor who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, notes that the secular left often thinks of Christianity solely in terms of white evangelicals. “When you mock Christians, you’re not mocking who you think you are,” he points out.
In fact, African-Americans are more likely to identify as Christians. That’s especially true of women, which means mocking Christians in general means “mocking black women in particular.”
The problem isn’t with Christianity per se, as the New Yorker article implies. It’s with how some people choose to interpret Christianity.
Making Christianity synonymous with LGBTQ bigotry is not just a bad idea politically. It’s flat out wrong. There are plenty of progessive Christians who support LGBTQ rights. They just aren’t as large and loud (or as politically organized) as the opposition.
As a group that has been on the receiving end of sweeping allegations, LGBTQ people should be sensitive to the blanket statements about an entire group. It’s fine to call Chick-fil-A out for its anti-marriage stand. It’s okay to decide you never want to eat there so that your money won’t go to anti-LGBTQ causes.
But that’s because of specific stands the company takes. Saying you despise them because they’re Christian–well, substitute “gay” for “Christian” and it sounds an awful lot like the kind of rhetoric that we regularly condemn the religious right for using against us.