A few thoughts for the chicken-buyers and the chicken-boycotters.

Dear friends,

I’ve spent the last 48 hours alternately enraged and saddened. And disgusted and angry. And puzzled and introspective.

And when I feel this way, I only have one solution: write.

This is not a topic I particularly want to tackle, but it’s surely on my heart and my heart is heavy. So here are the best words on the topic I could manage to write.

I have 343 “friends” on Facebook. They span all ages (from friends of my teenagers all the way to friends of my parents). They span all religious beliefs (I can think of no less than four faith traditions represented among my group, and likely dozens of denominations.) Both genders, many races, single and married, straight and homosexual. Right wing, left wing, in the middle.

And, over the last two days, a good number of my 343 friends carried the divisions in our political and civic life to the pages of Facebook in a silly skirmish over the beliefs of a man who heads a chicken restaurant. How in the world a culture war (ideological war?) ended up being fought in the parking lots of Chick-Fil-A’s across America — while Facebook pulsated with battle updates — makes no sense to me.

But what I do understand is that my friends are divided, and some of them were downright gleeful in staking out their positions on Chick-Fil-A at the expense of those on the other side. And I’m talking about “the other side” both ways, folks.

I don’t want to rehash the whole story. I have an entirely different point I want to make that has nothing to do with Chick-Fil-A. But first, just so you understand, I fully support the civil rights of homosexuals. And I don’t find homosexuals or their lifestyles worthy of condemnation.

But that’s not my point either. My point is I support the rights of homosexuals, but some of my friends and family don’t. We have honest differences. I have a hard time understanding their point of view (to be frank, it feels like bigotry to me). And I’m sure they have a hard time understanding my point of view. (I can only guess it feels to them like I’m willfully disobeying God, which is a sacrilege.)

But whether they’re bigots or I’m unfaithful to God is not the point. The point is — do we really have to stake out our territory on Facebook with snarky, self-righteous posts that do nothing but inflame and diminish us all?

When a chicken-buyer says he just stood up for families and God’s word (with four exclamation points after the announcement), does that help the other side move toward any increment of respectful dialogue or reconciliation?

When a chicken-boycotter declares the chicken-buyers are bigots (in all caps) and responsible for perpetuating hate in our world, does that help?

Of course not. So why do we do it? It feels like we are afraid, but I can’t figure out what the chicken-buyers and the chicken-boycotters really have to fear from each other. We’re “friends” for Pete’s sake! (Not to mention neighbors in many cases.) If God will stand in judgment of heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, can’t we just let God be the judge? And until that day, can’t we agree to disagree, can’t we remain friends or at least respectful acquaintances, without hurling our blatant fear and/or disgust for alternative viewpoints at each others’ faces on a social networking site?

I’m as susceptible as anyone to the tendency to jump on strident, bandwagon posts about social issues. I made a couple of Facebook comments in support of the chicken-boycotters to friends who share my viewpoint. But when I couldn’t think of a single conciliatory thing to say to the chicken-buyers, I was suddenly, startlingly stopped in my tracks. Facebook is an interesting and powerful forum, but it’s no place to have a serious discussion over deeply held beliefs with my “friends.” Because last time I checked, I’m not snarky with them in person. I don’t bait them, and I don’t gig them just to gig them. I don’t peer down my nose at them, and when we disagree, we respectfully disagree. Somehow, all that gets lost on Facebook, where political and ideological posturing is rampant. And isn’t it sad . . . the posturing among “friends?” We must be doing it, I think, because we feel powerless to be heard elsewhere. I could probably make an assertion here about Washington gridlock and partisan politics as contributing factors to our feelings of powerlessness, but that train of thought clearly won’t get us anywhere. If it would, we wouldn’t be throwing tomatoes at each other on Facebook.

So I’m going to close with one more thought. It is from my heart and I’m trying as hard as I can to express it with love and without enmity for those whose views are different from mine.

A few months ago, I started reading a blog called Raising my Rainbow. It’s the first “Mommy-blog” to chronicle the “daily joys, struggles, and, sometimes, embarrassments” of raising a gender-nonconforming son. What that means is the author has a little boy named CJ who wants to be a little girl. At age 5. Is he gay? CJ’s Mom doesn’t know. And through her candid, heart-wrenching posts, I’ve learned the differences between sex, gender and sexuality. As CJ’s mom says, “Sex is what’s in your pants, it’s your genitalia. Gender is what’s in your brain, it tells you that you are female or male. Sexuality is what’s in your heart, it tells you who you love.”

I try to imagine being CJ’s mother, raising a boy who wants to be a girl and probably doesn’t yet know his sexuality. And at the very moment I imagine being CJ’s mother, I can’t imagine wanting anything for him except all the love and respect in the world. I don’t even know CJ. But after reading about him for a few months, I still want all the love and respect in the world for him, whether he grows up to be gay or not.

Isn’t that what we all want?

It’s what I want. It’s what I believe Matthew Shepard wanted and Tyler Clementi wanted. I bet it’s what Dan Cathy wants.

And instead of talking about ways to grow love and share it all around, we’re bellowing and sniping and posturing and pronouncing our way to a world where CJ and his family has to duck and cover.

Did the entertainment on Facebook yesterday feel worth it to you? It didn’t to me. And that is why I stopped commenting and started thinking.

With gratitude {for love, in whatever small doses it is shared, anywhere it is shared, among friends or strangers},

Joan, who takes friendship seriously, apologizes if she has seemed condescending to any of her friends, and invites respectful comments from all viewpoints toward the goal of greater understanding

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Comments

  1. Thank you 🙂

  2. Thank you for this post. As you well know, I fall on the conservative side of this conversation. I am with you on being completely dismayed over the Facebook sniping. I suppose people feel better after leaving supposedly witty and pointed comments, but really what did they accomplish? More division. I believe Mr. Chick Fil A is entitled to his opinion. I also believe all of his naysayers are equally entitled to theirs. I often disagree with your politics. However, you never make me angry because you employ logic when stating your case, and for that, I thank you. Now if only the rest of the world could act as intelligent and as civil as two cousins on opposite sides of the fence!

    Love from your conservative cousin who is also about to lose a daughter to college and is pretending it’s not really happening in 6 days.

    • Alisa Barnard says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Thank you for stating it so well. Thank God this country is still free so we can still have opinions that may not be popular with others yet we can still express them!

    • Thanks to both my dear friends who love me even when they don’t share my views!

      Beth — let’s compare notes in 6 days! I may be a blubbering idiot by that point. Today, I made Kate promise she would FaceTime me while she’s away. How did you and Kate stay in touch during college? Did she take your calls? Texts? Emails? Are patience and flexibility going to be my biggest friends?

  3. Dear Joan,
    While we likely sit very close side by side on the fence, I often wonder why people feel it so easy to throw the first stone. Didn’t anyone read that particular bible story? Ultimately we are all products of our environments and I believe it takes a lot to rise above what has been ingrained in us. I have not heard about Chic-Fil-A’s as we are too busy watching the Olympics over at the Bungalow. However I do know of a classmate in Middlest’s class who has refused to wear dresses since the day we met her and truly chooses to dress like a boy, hairstyle included, and play with the boys in her class. It is clear gender issues are very real. Every time I see her I pray her parents are able to give her the acceptance and guidance she will need going forward. As always thank you for a thoughtful and kind post.
    Dana

  4. I so experienced the same thing yesterday…I commented on a couple of my friend’s status updates regarding the issue and then laid awake last night sort of regretting it or wondering if it were the proper place. However, what bothers me more about the issue is that, for me this really isn’t a Christian/Non Christian issue or even an issue of Freedom of Speech…I personally don’t want my money to be spent on the organizations they support. But the most important point I tried to make is that everyone can have their own opinion and it’s okay to agree to disagree. I don’t need to carry a sign around a CFA parking lot to know what I believe to be true and having to turn everything into a huge issue that just incenses the whole thing is so unnecessary. It never makes sense to me how people want their opinion to be respected but they can’t respect the opposing party. And on a side note, I am having a very hard time accepting the fact that my baby is going into Middle School. By college I may have to be admitted…

  5. Today I whole heartedly support LGBT rights. Years ago, I was less informed and frankly a bit uncomfortable around the topic. I rarely stopped to consider who I was hurting with my relative indifference. It has been a journey for me. As such I am willing to meet up with any person at any step along their journey, to respectfully share observations, ideas, offer support, but mostly, to listen to their story.

    Central for me:this IS a political issue, not only a matter of personal preference. There are unfortunately federal laws in place that guarantee rights (over 1100 of them) and legal protections to some of us but not others. All based upon who we love.

    Whether or not folks have a religious stance to bolster their personal opinion (and devoutly faithful people do on both sides of the divide), there are political battles being waged to knock down prejudicial statues so that every child, every single CJ, Dick and Harry, can grow up with an equal opportunity to fall in love, marry, create a home and raise a family. Legally protected.

    Unfortunately political battles these days all seem to end up being at least partly waged via FB status updates and comments. (One reason I left FB.) Important matters deserve in depth consideration and respectful exchanges. People have stories to tell, stories like the one CJ’s Mom is sharing, stories that take some space to tell and that deserve to be listened to. What has and is happening on FB is something, but it is certainly not that.

    • Battles are being waged to knock down prejudicial staTUTEs not statues. Sheesh. I am pretty sure those prejudicial statues are just standing around getting covered with pigeon poop and we’ll leave it there. Sorry for the typo.

  6. Thank you for a great post. You should send it to the NY Times op-ed folks.

  7. joan, it is so weird to me to read about this, because one of the beauties/oddities about having facebook friends primarily from the northwest is that the political views tend to be in harmony, and firmly blue. i’m friends with a few of tom’s midwest friends and i always enjoy reading their views, just to hear something different from the usual cacophany of voices, talking loudly over one another but basically all saying the same thing. anyway, brave post. well done

  8. I agree with Maridel–this is seriously good op-ed stuff, and deserves a wider readership.

Trackbacks

  1. […] don’t want to rail today. And I’ve already suggested we ought to think more and talk less, so this post isn’t about that, either. Today, I want to share something more dear to me. You […]

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