Just a few short weeks ago, my wife and I took our three small children on an 18-hour car trip to Destin, Florida. Amongst many other pit stops (both planned and unplanned), we happened to pull through a Chick-Fil-A in Athens, Georgia, where we were greeted by the most delightful staff. Upon hearing that we were “northerners” who had never visited a Chick-Fil-A, they showered us with all manner of gracious gifts, including: peach shakes, cookie sundaes, little stuffed cows, and even five t-shirts as a way of remembering our time with them. As I said, the most delightful and friendly staff I have ever encountered.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us at the time of our visit, Chick-Fil-A had become embroiled in an enormous controversy that quickly polarized the masses. In the weeks that preceded our vacation, Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy made a series of public statements in which he argued that proponents of same-sex marriage laws were “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.” And so, as the controversy continued to unfold, lines were drawn, “hate speech” was decried, calls to protect religious freedom and speech were issued, and in true American-fashion, public protests on both sides of the issue were organized. All of this, of course, left me with one simple question.
What is one to do with a free Chick-Fil-A t-shirt?
Is the right response to recognize the spirit in which it was given and wear it around with fond memories of southern kindness? Or do you adopt the cynical approach and assume that it was given merely to bolster public relations amidst a brewing controversy? Does wearing the t-shirt necessarily mean that one endorses the company? Or can you wear it without implicitly advertising that you are against same-sex marriage laws?
Before you answer these questions, I would urge you to consider the other things you tend to purchase and wear as well. Does clothing that bears the Nike swoosh automatically mean that one is calloused to the labor of children in sweatshops? Or what about the use of an Apple iPad, an Amazon Kindle, a Sony Blu Ray player, a Microsoft X-box 360, or just about any PC manufactured by Dell or Hewlett Packard? Does the use of these products mean that you don’t stand in solidarity with the abused laborers at Foxxconn? Bear in mind, many of these products that we regularly use do not merely carry the residual “stain” of the private beliefs of a corporate officer. Many of these products are actually manufactured through abusive practices.
Ultimately, this is why I am admittedly confused by the various protests that surround these companies, when issues such as this arise. Scripture is clear when it talks about the principalities and powers of this world. And while many seem to think that Ephesians 6:2 is limited to talking about spiritual warfare, an honest reading of the text leaves no doubt as to the scope of what the Apostle Paul is calling out. This world is comprised of systems, governments and corporations, all of which tend to prey upon the weak and the oppressed. And while it may make us feel momentarily good or morally righteous to know that we are standing up for our beliefs, advocates on either side of the fence are nothing less than naïve if they truly think that they are leaving a morally neutral or even righteous footprint through their purchases and their lifestyles. By the very fact that we have not withdrawn from society as the Amish have done, we knowingly participate in theses systems and structures , and in so doing, we knowingly participate in the oppression of others. And sadly, on most days, when it’s not our issue-of-choice in the spotlight, we could care less about those that suffer for the purchases we make and the lifestyles we lead.
So what do you think? Do I wear the t-shirt or not?