By Tim Harlow
Dan Cathy is the president of Chick-fil-A and has borne the brunt of a great deal of criticism in the gay marriage debate because of a statement he made affirming biblical marriage values. That is NOT why I think he represents “What Would Jesus Do?” I know Jesus would affirm his Father’s plan for human sexuality, but he would never stop there.
This Chick-fil-A debate was very unfortunate, in my opinion, because of the polarization it caused between the two sides. Cathy became the whipping boy for the gay lobby, representing all things evil about Christianity. I thought it had all gone away until I read a column written by the director of Campus Pride, the gay action group that had called for the boycott in the first place. Shane Windmeyer is a strong gay advocate and a practicing homosexual. Windmeyer’s article was titled “Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A.”
It included this picture of Windmeyer and Cathy at the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Windmeyer said, “It was among the most unexpected moments of my life. . . . Like most LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] people, I was provoked by Dan’s public opposition to marriage equality and his company’s problematic giving history. I had the background and history on him, so I thought, and had my own preconceived notions about who he was. I knew this character. No way did he know me. That was my view. But it was flawed.”
Windmeyer went on to tell how Cathy had reached out to him in the middle of the controversy, wanting nothing more than to understand and to be his friend. This led to meetings, again, not for debate but for understanding. Windmeyer wrote that we’ve all seen the failure to sit and listen to the other side in our own government, and both men decided they would do better.
Cathy never asked Campus Pride to stop protesting; he just listened and tried to grasp the impact on the safety of LGBT students.
Throughout the conversations Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being “a follower of Christ” more than a “Christian.” Cathy expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-A—but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.
Cathy went on to invite Windmeyer to be his guest at the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve and asked him to sit with his family at the event his chicken empire was sponsoring. Thankfully, Windmeyer said yes and they had a fantastic time getting to share in each other’s lives.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you a model of Jesus. This is it. I’m not saying that you should eat chicken or not eat chicken. I don’t know Dan Cathy; I wish he went to my church. I don’t know his theology; we might not agree on everything. But he is the best example of Jesus I’ve seen in a long time!
Jesus Christ was always the approachable, loving, noncombative, relationship builder with those who were living lives outside the boundaries of what God intended (which, of course, is all of us in some way). They always felt comfortable with Jesus, even though they knew where he stood. Jesus didn’t feel needed by the “healthy,” so he came for the “sick.”
This is a just a simple, modern-day example of Jesus purposefully traveling through Samaria and stopping at the well to talk to a woman with a storied past. It’s Jesus calling to a thief and traitor named Zacchaeus who is in a tree, asking him if he could come to his house to eat. This is where you always found Jesus—with those whom the “church” didn’t want to associate. And Jesus usually initiated it. WWJD?
I realize some readers will react the same way as my friend, who disagreed with me and Dan Cathy and believed we should be “OUTRAGED that anyone would dignify the gay debate and give this gay ‘cause’ any kind of legitimacy.”
I’ve been in that camp before. Not just about this issue, but many moral issues that plague our times. Hey, I once picketed an Alice Cooper concert with a merry band of Ozark Christian College students. As I stood with a group protesting this preacher’s son who should have known better than to cross-dress and sing about the devil, the people in line shouted back at us. There was a profound moment when I asked myself, How is this helping anyone?
Paul taught us we could have all the right answers, but they would do no good without love (1 Corinthians 13).
Former lesbian Rosemarie Butterfield wrote about her experience of coming to Christ, through the love of a pastor, his wife, and their church, in spite of the protests of other Christians. She said her conversion was a “train wreck,” but the “voice of God sang a love song in the rubble of my world.” Now she is married to a male pastor and helping spread the love of Jesus.
I don’t know if Shane Windmeyer will ever find Christ, but I know that if it happens, it will never be because someone “picketed” him, but maybe because Dan Cathy was like Jesus to him.
Jesus said, “Everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40).
Dan Cathy = WWJD?
Tim Harlow serves as senior pastor at Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, Illinois.
Shane Windmeyer’s column is available at www.huffingtonpost.com/shane-l-windmeyer/dan-cathy-chick-fil-a_b_2564379.html.