Am I ever gonna taste one of those golden fried chicken fillet sandwiches again? And milkshakes. Chick Fil A makes the best milkshakes. (Not that I need milkshakes, which I don't, or speak from personal experience. I just read this somewhere. Ahem.)
So Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick Fil A, thinks that gay marriage is "inviting God's judgment" on our nation, etc., which is no big surprise; anybody who knows anything at all about this company knows that it is a socially conservative outfit which, among other things, never opens on Sundays so that its employees can go to church (which maybe some of them actually do). But now that Cathy has made such a huge statement about gay marriage, there are all these calls for a boycott.
That was my first impulse, too. I have gay friends who (come to think of it) have been in committed relationships for years if not decades, married in every sense but the legal, and I see no reason why they should be denied the legal protections and social status of being married couples--and in all 50 states by tomorrow, if possible. So: a boycott. That's what everybody on this side of the issue should do, right? Besides, it feels good, doesn't it? Admit it: liberals have many attractive qualities, I think (being one of them), but one of our less attractive qualities is our air of moral superiority. I am boycotting Chick Fil A because they are bigots and I am so not a bigot. That's what my personal boycott would say.
And then I read this piece in The Atlantic arguing against a boycott--not because of any waffling on the gay marriage issue, but simply because boycotts are a) ineffective and b) because they put us one step down a slippery slope. Are we going to do business only with people we agree with on certain issues? I remember years ago running across something called The Christian Yellow Pages, and thinking, What a crock! How narrow-minded! --and here I am, getting ready to do the exact same thing, only in reverse. I don't know about you, but I do not have the time to investigate the politics and moral convictions of my plumber or the person I order pizza from or the folks who fix my car--and I don't have to; it is not germane to our transaction. I am not buying moral principles from my mechanic; I am buying his car repair expertise.
So I would add a third reason to the Atlantic piece, and it is that boycotts are a cheap thrill. They are a substitute for more meaningful action, and a way of alienating people who hold different views from us before we ever actually talk to them. I am a Southerner, which means I know lots of people who do not share my views on gay marriage; the South is a socially conservative place just chock full of evangelicals who read the Bible way differently from the way I read it--but if I were to cut off my contact with them, or start beating them over the head with arguments about how wrong I think they are, I would be doing exactly what I am supposedly condemning.
Every person who grew up in the South knows this concept; we've had plenty of practice when it comes to race. It's a rare Southerner who doesn't have some aging bigot of a relative somewhere in the family tree, and we've tolerated them for decades. Why? Not because we approve of bigotry, but because they are our kin, and sometimes you cannot stop loving people in spite of their moral failings. And sometimes, over time, those people change, and sometimes it is because repeated exposure to a better way of being in the world has a way of rubbing off.
Also, I am making a distinction here between thought and action. I would not tolerate a relative who was an active Klan member, say, and if Chick Fil A refused service to gay people or in other ways made them unwelcome, I would stop going there.
But because their CEO holds some profoundly mistaken views on gay marriage? I was going to, but now that I've had to time it through, I'm going to say no. Why? Because I am not buying Dan Cathy's religious views. I'm just buying his chicken.