An Open Letter to Dan Cathy at Chick-Fil-A

An Open Letter to Dan Cathy

From a Concerned Baptist Pastor

July 19, 2012

Dear Mr. Cathy,

I don’t expect you to remember me.  You and your father spoke at chapel during my freshman year of college in 2000.  You both spoke of how being a Christian business person involves loving your neighbor and serving God and your customers faithfully.  Since I had recently received an award from the college I was invited to attend a small group discussion with you and some of the college trustees.  At that time I was impressed by your compassion, faithfulness, and good humor.  Even though I do not eat at your establishment because I am a vegetarian, I have always spoken highly of you, your father, and your restaurant based on those initial experiences.

Since that day in chapel I have served as a minister in local Baptist churches, attended seminary, became ordained, and earned a Ph.D. in religion.  I am now the pastor of a Baptist church in North Carolina.  I have committed my life and vocation to scholarship and ministry, faithfully translating and interpreting scripture and seeking to live as Jesus taught.

Imagine my disappointment when you recently made a public statement against gay marriage.  You see, in addition to faithfully serving the local church as an ordained Baptist minister for the past twelve years, I am also in a committed relationship with a woman.  My partner is professor of Christian and family ethics at a local university.  We are currently working to expand our little household by adopting a child, something that I know is dear to the heart of your family.  Based on our vocations and callings, it is clear that Christian and family values are very important to us.

So, I simply want to ask why you think it is so important for us not to get married?  Do we not deserve the same rights as you and your family?  Are we not also your neighbors?  You see, I could understand if you simply have a theological problem with gay marriage.  Unfortunately, many Christians feel this way.  I do not interpret scripture or the message of Jesus in this manner, but I respect the freedom of your conscience to do so.  What I don’t understand is why your theological stance should impact citizens in our country from receiving the same rights that you and your wife receive as a married couple.

Did you know that, upon marriage, couples are granted over one thousand rights and privileges by the government?  Examples include the right to file joint taxes, the right to receive a deceased spouse’s social security, employee benefits for federal workers, COBRA, and many more.  Why do my partner and I not deserve these rights?  Our relationship is committed and covenantal.  We both work hard.  We are citizens and Christians just like you and your wife.  But because we cannot legally marry, we do not get to enjoy these 1,000+ rights.  It is also worth noting that extending these rights to same-sex couples would not take your rights in any way.

I am not asking you to change your theological position on marriage.  I disagree with you, and I do not think that your stance is a faithful interpretation of scripture, but I respect your right to your beliefs.  What I ask is that you remember what you preached about when you spoke at chapel twelve years ago.  I ask you to consider what it means to love your neighbors.  Some of your neighbors are LGBT, and you have made it clear that your political position entails withholding over one thousand federal rights from these neighbors.  What do you think Jesus would say about that, Mr. Cathy?

If you’re interested, the church I pastor is Wake Forest Baptist Church at Wake Forest University; you’re welcome to worship with us if you’re ever in town.  We are the only Baptist church in the country with two lesbians as head pastors.  I serve a diverse congregation; many of our members are LGBT families raising children.  And I refuse to look into their eyes and tell them that their families do not deserve the same rights as your family.  For me, that is unethical.  It is un-American.  And it is unchristian.  I ask that you thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the magnitude of the statements you have made and ask yourself and your company: what does it mean for us to love our neighbors?

With Hope and Peace,

A Concerned Baptist Minister

Rev. Dr. Angela M. Yarber

Pastor for Preaching and Worship

Wake Forest Baptist Church at Wake Forest University

P.S. The time has passed that you replace the Styrofoam cups with something more sustainable.  Please do something about this.

 

 

Angela Yarber

Author's Website
About the Author
Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber is Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Wake Forest Baptist Church (http://www.wakeforestbaptist.org/) at Wake Forest University. She has a PhD in Art and Religion and is author of Embodying the Feminine in the Dances of the World’s Religions (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1433115441/ref=rdr_ext_tmb).

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  • RAY DYMUN

    Dear Dr. Yarber,

    I want to commend you on your irenic declaration of your
    position on this issue, and as someone who is theologically opposed to gay ‘marriage’,
    I am encouraged that you evidently realize that oversimplification of the issue
    does nothing to further the discussion. I too, serve in a diverse church where
    most of the members and the senior pastor are gay and I realize that only by
    relating to people as people and not labels, can we as Christians even hope to
    show Christ’s compassion to them. I do support civil unions as a means to
    safeguard and provide for those rights that you have mentioned. This as one who
    recognizes the Church was meant to be distinct from the World while operating
    in it, and we as the church can only influence and not dictate how the world
    does its business.

    Mr. Cathy acting as a citizen is representing his own concern. He merely expressed his opinion and used the influence that has been given to him
    to make a statement. (I write this not so much for you, as for others who may
    be still be outraged) He is not a policy maker for any governmental authority,
    so he is not bound by the same constraints; he is merely using the same kind of
    influence that has advanced this cause, against it. If he is to be denied that
    opportunity, the charge of hypocrisy must be made. Likewise, if those who are
    pro-gay marriage wish to boycott his establishment, that is their right and
    I fully support their liberty to do so. Again, thank you for your calm, yet
    impassioned position; I will pray for God’s blessing on your family and your
    fellowship.

    • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.miller.1650 Aaron Miller

      Mr. Dymun,
      Mr. Cathy has used the profits from his company to give money to lobbying organizations like Focus on the Family which only reason for being is to further laws that discriminate against homosexuals and trying to push for a anti-gay marriage amendment. That is more than just “merely expressing his opinion.” Please educate yourself on the facts before you respond to such a sensitive issue. It makes you look ignorant and your argument cannot be taken seriously.
      This is the reason so many are boycotting. They don’t want their hard earned dollars to be funneled into such hate groups as Focus on the Family.

      • W. Patrick Jones

        Aaron, you come across as rather harsh. That often turns people off to your thoughts. While Focus on the Family does work to prevent laws allowing gay marriage, that is hardly their only reason for being. Marriage is part of a strong family, but their reason for being has much more to do with equipping families to be successful than it does to stop gay marriage. Focus on the Family supports a biblical view of family. Dan Cathy agrees with their view and thus, uses profits from Chick-Fil-A to support the WinShape Foundation which does donate to Focus on the Family. It is a stretch to say that Dan Cathy or Chick-Fil-A are actively fighting gay marriage.

        What I really appreciate about Dr. Yarber is that she is willing to allow others to have differing beliefs. While I don’t appreciate all of Focus on the Family’s tactics, I do appreciate their desire to see strong family units. That is admirable. They should never be referred to as a hate group. We need to move beyond demonizing those who have differing opinions and work to find common ground. It’s the only way we will ever resolve this issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wesley.a.hedrick Wesley Hedrick

    1. If one follows the teaching of Scripture, he cannot affirm and love homosexuals simultaneously. To affirm them in their aberrant way of life is to do the opposite of loving them.

    2. The only way to love homosexuals is to patiently instruct, earnestly pray for, and consistently befriend them. This is the way with all sinners. Many homosexuals want off the path. To them Scripture holds out bright hope as it does for all of us sinners if we lay down our arms of rebellion against God, submit to his standard, and begin to walk in the light with his help. I often want to say to homosexuals, “Would you please stand up and begin struggling against your nature as do the rest of us?”

    3. For homosexuals who are so deep in the darkness that homosexuality seems to be light, I feel, far from hatred, abject sorrow. This sorrow leads me back to square one where I reaffirm what it means to love homosexuals rightly: to continue to hold out God’s standard and to patiently beckon them towards it.

    I am reminded of a line from The Lord of the Rings. Frodo says of Gollum, “I have to believe he can come back.” Yes, the ring has taken hold of all of us to an extent. Let’s resist it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=55102431 Jacqui Shooter Causey

      Then you must do so for all. Publicly shame and humiliate ALL sinners. No. These are not the gestures or the efforts of Church rich in Christ. I would look at the temples, the Pharisees, the scribes. There this new Christianity will see itself. The “ring” of which you speak is a loathsome arrogance… not homosexuality.

  • Scott Shaver

    Perhaps the reason for Rev Yarber putting her brother-in-Christ Mr. Cathy and his company,Chik-Fil-A, in her crosshairs is more simple than her vitriolic explanation. Theologically and biblically she’s obviously been “out to lunch” quite often.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=55102431 Jacqui Shooter Causey

      You hate in Jesus’s name. You miss the point.

  • patriotpaulb

    Angela, my comments are not essentially for you, because it is doubtful that I could ever persuade you that your chosen path is inconsistent with Christianity, both historically and biblically. I would urge others trying to wrap their heads around the absurdity of a Baptist leader who endorses homosexuality to cinsider this: Why not tell your parishoners the Truth as contained in the Bible? Tell them that their same sex attractions are a temptation, which like every other temptation must be overcome by the Word of God and prayer? Look into their eyes and tell them, “no, you should not get married, because God designed our bodies, and our personalities to be united with someone of the opposite sex. Tell them that their homosexual behavior violates God’s commands and that they will incur God’s wrath if they do not turn from their sin.” This is why Christ died. Not to allow us to indulge our every fantasy, but to forgive us from our sin and warped ideas about who we are. I am deeply saddened that homosexual activists like Angela are given safe harbor in Christian denominations, but the truth of the matter is that this is not Christian at all, other than in name.

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.harden.718 David Harden

      I would like to just mention that since you bring in history into the discussion that originally the Church after the time of Jesus had gay marriage. It wasn’t until Constantine banned gay marriage that it was picked up by the Church as being wrong. The Word in the original language It was written never actually condemns gay marriage or homosexuality as we know it today. If you were to bring anything up from Lev, that was discussing pagan temple prostitution act, Sodom and it’s sister city Jesus flat out says were destroyed for their inhospitality which in those days was the same as murdering someone, and all references in the NT even in early English translations didn’t even remotely reflect homosexuality.

      Many theologians believe that among King David’s lovers one of them was Jonathan, this is derived from again the original language that was written. So please research the Bible and truly study it. I would be willing to accept questions on this topic if they are presented in a kind and polite manner.

      • ISAIAH MITCHELL-JAMES

        Can you explain further you r statement
        that originally the Church after the time of Jesus had gay marriage. It wasn’t until Constantine banned gay marriage that it was picked up by the Church as being wrong. You can email me at isaiahjames@charter.net. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ray.wilkins Ray Wilkins

    In regards to why one’s theological position would lead them to oppose what Angela Yarber describes as a “Civil Right,” I cannot speak for Mr. Cathy but I can speak for myself. The issue of same-sex marriage from a civil standpoint is about more than just two people committing themselves to each other. At its core, same-sex “marriage” is declaring that gender differences do not matter. That there is no fundamental difference between men and woman other than biological parts. Thus, a child does not need the influence of both male and female in his/her upbringing. I think that both scripture and nature would reveal this to be false as would recent studies on the value of a two parent, male-female household. Boys and girls need the benefit of both Fathers and Mothers in order to appreciate the complementarian nature of the different genders as well as having a proper role model for one’s own gender.

    Historically speaking, the reason that civil governments have acknowledged marriage and given special considerations to marriage is for the protection of the family with regards to the raising of children. Am I saying that heterosexual marriages where there are no children are somehow incomplete? Yes. The purpose given in Genesis and revealed in nature for men and women coming together is for procreation. Heterosexual marriages where there are no children are either the result of a genetic defect preventing pregnancy or a selfish choice not to have children.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=55102431 Jacqui Shooter Causey

      On the contrary. The differences matter very much to my wife and me. You speak with great authority for someone who knows nothing about us.
      You speak of us as if we are beneath you. For the record, if you are quoting Genesis and can make no argument using the words of Jesus Christ, you may be Jewish,

  • http://www.facebook.com/baraq.osama Baraq Osama

    what a joke you modern day christians are

  • http://twitter.com/troophhound Trooph Hound

    I have to ask of those that are at odds with Rev Yarber’s desire to marry, yet accept her homosexuality through some cathartic revelation to “love thy neighbor”: Why do you delegate your behaviors and inner most feelings to what is written in a 2,000 year old book of stories! Would you also then practice surgery from a 50 year old medical book? So, why hang something as intimate as how you feel about another human being on words that are so out of touch? Humanity, necessarily so, is progressing way too fast, and with that, issues surrounding inter-, and intra-, human relationships becoming more and more complex. Sounds to me then that scripture of any age, in turn, becomes exponentially irrelevant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=55102431 Jacqui Shooter Causey

    Dr. Yarber is both my pastor and my friend. I attend Wake Forest Baptist Church (when I do attend church) because of her. You see, I am a gay woman who was once called to the ministry. The seminary I had selected told me that I could pretend to be straight, or I could figure something else out, but I could not be a gay minister. I broke with the Church that day. You see, that day, the Church, the embodiment of the teaching of Jesus, told me that LYING about who I was would have been an acceptable option. I know a lot of preachers who will happily lie from the pulpit. I was not going to be one of them. I have had rocks thrown at me, rumors and lies at my expense, faced rejection by me family and friends, all by “good” Christians. Did I mention I was celibate at the time? For over a decade I waited for my wife, whom I love with as much passion and protectiveness as any of the privileged men who have responded here… perhaps more. Why? Because I know what it is to live in fear. Fear of God’s wrath? Absolutely not. I have prayed and prayed, and while you may have a book that tells you the rules (which you pick and choose, by the way), I have the word of God straight to my ears and it told me to love, to honor the person God created in me, and to follow my calling, and it was glorious and beautiful and kind… all of the things that I have always known God to be, all of the things I am watching Christians fall away from in the name of fear, judgment, intolerance and hate.

    We may always disagree on the theological interpretations of the Bible, but I urge you to remember this: The worst that you can say about us is that we are sinners. So are you, good sirs. And yet I see no one bullying, harrassing, or tormenting adulterers, gluttons, certainly not the prideful (look in the mirror on that one.) or trying to invalidate their marriages. What you all miss is this: We are PEOPLE. CHILDREN OF GOD, MADE BY THE SAME HANDS THAT MADE YOU. You may not like what we do, but Christ demands that you love us, that you do not judge us, that you treat us with kindness. Jesus Christ spoke not one recorded word about homosexuality. But he did speak about calling people to his church. And yet over and over again, LGBTQ are bullied out of their churches. If you are those pastors, you are chasing good men and women AWAY from Jesus. Whatever you think of what we are doing, at least we are loving. At least we are near the path of Jesus.

    Thank you Dr. Yarber. Thank you, Angela, for helping so many of us begin to find our way home. May God have mercy on those of you who hate in HIs name.

    Dr. Yarber has gone a long way to heal the chasm left between me and the church.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.salmons.9 Laura Salmons

    Pastor Yarber says to Dan Cathy: “I am not asking you to change your
    theological position on marriage.” This is a fundamental difference in the way
    this conversation has progressed – between those who are willing to accept the
    reality that there are at least as many interpretations of the Bible as there are denominations of
    Christianity, and willing to accept that one of the reasons these conversations
    are so difficult is because the beliefs are CORE to us as human beings. However,
    Dan Cathy, his “followers” (who appear to treat a restaurant chain with a kind
    of patriotic or religious reverence), and those who support their
    anti-homosexuality stance with “Hey, it’s in the bible” fail to grasp that this
    issue harms human beings, children of the same God, who are homosexual. The
    profession of anti-homosexual beliefs, along with the fervor and vitriol that
    surrounds that, which includes death threats, continues to cause young people
    to hate themselves, other young and adult people to hate, bully, abuse and kill
    them, and causes them to bring harm to themselves.

    I am truly grateful to have a chance to participate in this discussion and to
    see it happening, because it allows people who have kept silent for too long to
    openly speak about the truth of their lives and beliefs, and it allows us all to
    keep moving, if too slowly, toward a true dialogue about these issues.

    However, If I had a dollar for every time I heard a particular brand of
    Christian say something offensive to another Christian in the name of God, then
    is confronted with the ways in which he/she has offended the other person, and
    responds, “Oh, I didn’t come up with that, it’s right there in the bible!”
    I would have . . . a lot of dollars. It seems a bit unfair to throw the bible
    at someone’s face and then pick it up and hide behind it.

    I was raised in the Southern Baptist church, where I heard some hateful
    things said about women, homosexuals, and people of other faiths, to be sure, but
    I was also taught to love, to give aid to those in need, to be an instrument of
    the Lord’s peace, and to always pick out the “board in my own eye” before
    judging the splinter in another’s. I was taught that no sin was greater than
    another and that PRIDE is also a sin.

    I grow weary of people whose last word in a supposedly civil discussion
    is “I know the bible better than you do” or “My interpretation
    is correct, yours in incorrect” or “You are not a REAL Christian, but
    I am.” It smacks of Pride to me, the kind that goes before a fall. As
    someone who believes that civil discourse lifts us all up, and who believes
    that if your religious beliefs can’t stand up to questioning, they aren’t worth
    so much, it bothers me that this form of discourse shuts down dialogue. People
    who use that argument many times turn right around and note that the person
    they just insulted is “hostile”
    or “defensive,” or even “crazy” – another popular move to shut down people
    who don’t agree with you.

    Pastor Yarber isn’t saying that people whose interpretations differ
    from hers aren’t true Christians, and she acknowledges that their beliefs are
    deeply held. She hasn’t denied anyone the opportunity to express their beliefs,
    but she won’t keep quiet in the face of painful and dangerous discrimination,
    and neither will I. I’m grateful for the chance to post here. Thank you Dr.
    Yarber. Peace. Namaste. The Lord Bless
    You and Keep You. All of you.

    • Ray Pifferrer

      Having been involved in one such “dialogue” that played out exactly as you described, Laura, I appreciate both your analysis and support. Dr. Yarber, thank you for your work on behalf of people whose voices are often drowned out amidst the shouting.