This weekend we have headed up to my parents house for my nephews’ second birthday. I am always looking for a reason to head up to the mountains and get away from the city. My wife on the other hand, while she enjoys heading to the lake, is always excited about our ritual stop at Chick-Fil-A. Not being a southerner myself, I don’t have the same affinity, emotional attachment, or obsessive need for this deep friend piece of fowl stuck between two pieces of buttered bread with a slice of pickle. Now don’t get me wrong, I do LOVE what I am eating, but not nearly as much as my wife. (I Love you babe!)
During our quick stop in at the birthplace of the chicken sandwich, I was struck by the variety of the patrons who visited this establishment. As I looked around I saw the church, the church “world”, and church politics. Now, you might marvel at the depth of my observation or the complexity of my eating habits, however, these thoughts have been building in my head for a while. Sometimes I feel as if I am in the beginning stages of insanity. The way my mind works is as much of a curse as it is a blessing.
In looking around Chick-fil-A I was reminded of the complexity of the churches value system and its predisposition for valuing one thing while condemning others. Now I don’t want to be one to jump the “alcohol bandwagon,” but because it is such a hot topic which polarizes the church today it seems to be a great contrast to Chick-fil-A. I am not on one side or the other, I am just making observations here.
When dealing with alcohol, the church is quick to condemn because of many of the affects from its excessive use. Which I completely agree with! However, many of the “sinful” consequences such as abuse, family decay, addiction, obsession, physically detrimental affects upon the body, and loss of personal control can be found in things which are highly valued in the church world. Why is it we condemn this one when we praise the other?
There I was, sitting eating a deep friend chicken sandwich; twelve deep fried chicken nuggets and eighteen ounces of sugar saturated tea, while watching a line of mostly obese over-indulgent people slowly make their way towards the frying vats. Where does the personal control come in? Where does the excess stop? Can anyone say addiction and obsession? Doctors around the world say such food is ALWAYS bad for you, yet a glass of wine in the evening is praised for its health benefits. More people die from the effects of bad eating habits every year than do from the effect of drinking. Yet we sing the praises of this “Christian” business and condemn that of the wine maker.
Now I have nothing against Truett Cathy. From all I hear he is an amazing Christian man who operates his business on Christian principles. They are closed on Sunday for goodness sake! But can he not be seen as a peddler of a substance which can be sinful if used in excess? America is not seen as a “drunken” nation but an “obese” nation. The national pandemic is that of unhealthy eating. So why does the church support this institution?
As a young man of thirty I have known more families destroyed by an absentee father or mother because of chasing careers, than that of alcoholics. We may not pay much attention to it, or at times we may call it a necessity as both parents work to support a predetermined level of expected living, yet the damage it is doing to American family is astounding. We call a man great who is successful, a good businessman who brings more money to the offering plate. Yet the father who works mainly to pay the bills and spend time with his family is not seen as great. The man who climbs his way to the top of the business world is seen as someone to learn from. We pay little attention to him who stepped on other people to get to the top or what his family has suffered for him to achieve such great things.
In the church we preach about the “image” of what we show to others yet we only look at what “we” perceive as bad! A powerful business man who helps build the new church building is good. The restaurant owner who treats his employees fairy, supports their academic pursuits, helps with community development projects and Christian camps, is praised for his great work. Yet the family man who may have a glass of wine with dinner is looked down upon and never considered for appointment as an elder. The business man who has been divorced and has an uncontrollable child is placed as head of the building committee and his financial support is gladly accepted. The restaurant owner finds loop-holes in the tax laws and only hires part time employees to avoid paying benefits is seen as shrewd and asked to teach a Sunday school class on personal finance. The family man who has three kids, one a pastor and two in Christian college, who pays his taxes, volunteers at the soup kitchen on holidays and loves his wife, is sent flyers in the mail about Christian based twelve step programs. What “image” are we showing to the world?
As one who is in seminary, training to be a pastor, I struggle with this apparent disconnect between what we preach and what we do. I am not the smallest man myself and all my life I have struggled with my weight and an unhealthy diet. The image which causes me to stumble is not the preacher who has a glass of wine with dinner or the construction worker who has a beer after work. It is the overweight pastor preaching against such things from the pulpit. It is the man who cannot control his eating and dies early leaving a family without a father. It is the business man who hires a nanny to raise his kids while he works. I am far more tempted to covet the life of the business man who has everything, seeking power and public attention than I am the man who has a beer.
I’m just saying that “we” seem to have our priorities a little off kilter. I deeply desire to live my life in balance, to have Christ at the center, and to see the things He sees with the clarity with which He sees it. I long to see the church praise that which ought to be praised and condemn that which ought to be condemned – according to Scripture, not according to social constructs.
Ok… to end this mad rant, which will probably be seen as an attack upon the very foundation of the American church. I LOVE Chick-fil-A and plan to continue eating there. I support Christian business practices and see nothing wrong with God blessing people with sharp minds and shrewd financial practice. I do not believe money is the root of all evil, only the means for which we use it or obtain it. And again…I LOVE Chick-fil-A!
So I’ll see you all next time I head to the deep fryer…or maybe I should order the grilled chicken sandwich and an unsweetened tea…
Disclaimer: I’m not condemning the wine make or the inventor of the chicken sandwich, I’m not condemning those who eat unhealthy food or the business man who strives to get ahead. My goal here is to provoke thought and to help us reorganize priorities. My observations are based on my life as it is. I’m on a diet because I get winded as I walk up a hill and yet I sit here eating this fabulous fried fowl. Let us put aside all that hinders and press on toward the goal to which I have been called. May we continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.