The Human Cost of Arguing
Do you often find yourself wrapped up in a conflict? I have experienced it on a couple different levels these past few weeks, one of which is the battle royale between the gay community and Chic-Fil-A. Just to be clear, I am not gay. Nor am I falling over Chic-Fil-A’s food. Yes, they do make a rather tasty fried chicken sandwich, and who doesn’t love waffle fries? But it’s also deep fried fast food, which is not something that I make a part of my every day diet, no matter a company’s politics.
I personally side with the gay community on this topic. Not because I think that the Chic-Fil-A corporate leaders don’t have a right to their belief. But because they exercise that right by taking profits from the sandwich I buy and sending a portion of that money ($2 million in 2010) to organizations that are explicitly anti-gay, and some of which actively campaign against the (civil) rights of gay Americans. (The Marriage & Family Foundation received $1,188,380 in 2010.) That is discrimination. Not Freedom of Speech.
It is easy to get wrapped up on either side of an issue, especially if your feelings are strong one way or the other. Social conservatives note the decline in our general morality, and turn to the Bible to back up their beliefs and support the return to a “simpler” time when all was good in the world.
This is not as clear cut as it may seem, as the bible hardly illustrates simpler times. The bibles depicts murder, rape, sex trafficking, slavery, and all sorts of fun . And not always in a bad way. I definitely agree that the bible does always seem to come back to the idea of loving your neighbor as yourself.
I’m also not sure that the “biblical definition of marriage” that Chic-Fil-A President and CEO Dan Cathy says he believes in is as clear cut as it seems. Biblical marriage was often more about land transactions than romantic love. Polygamy is illegal in our country, but it is certainly tolerated in the bible. (I found this article interesting, as it agrees that God does not condemn polygamy, but only because it solved a population problem during biblical times. An interesting interpretation, indeed.) Interfaith marriages is legal in the United States, but the bible most definitely condemns interfaith marriage. Yet I can’t remember the last time a Catholic and a Jew getting married made headlines.
I tend to believe that there is a lot of interpretation involved in reading the bible. Very few Christians today live exactly how the bible depicts. And certainly with 38,ooo different Christian denominations in the world, there’s room for those of us who believe that Jesus Christ is our savior to disagree on topics in the bible. (And the Catholics honestly throw a better party than the Southern Baptists. In my opinion, of course.)
I can just as easily lead you to this speech by gay Christian Matthew Vines, who argues that homosexuality is not a sin, as I can to this response by gay Christian Matt Moore, who says it is indeed a sin. The two Gay Matts read the same book, have the same religious beliefs, and yet one says that God did not intend any man, gay or otherwise, to be alone, while the other says that he must be alone because he is gay and his homosexual acts of love are sinful. Who is right? Who is wrong?
In the end, that is what this is all about. Am I right, and you’re wrong? Are you right, and I’m wrong? More importantly, what are the chances that either of us is going to convince the other person that they are wrong? Last week’s CBS Sunday Morning had a story on Dale Carnegie, author of the revered “How to Win Friends & Influence People.” This book was written in1936, and yet people still pay $2000 for a seminar to master his teachings. I took a truncated class in my previous corporate life, and still have my book. Skimming through, I found this passage in the section titled “How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking:”
“Buddha said: Hatred is never ended by hatred but by love,” and a misunderstanding is never ended by an argument but by tact, diplomacy, conciliation and a sympathetic desire to see the other person’s viewpoint.”
There are guilty parties on both sides of the Chic-Fil-A debate. In fact, in any disagreement, whether it be healthcare, gay marriage, or a conflict with a family member, there is no winner when you argue with the other person. No one wins an argument. The other side simply gives up. We are all guilty of this. I am not immune to trying to change someone else’s mind by simply arguing my side. I’ve done it as recently as this past week. I have posted things on my Facebook wall that flame the fires of discontent. And what has it cost me? Grief. Pain. Knowledge that I’ve made someone feel bad about themselves in trying to illustrate my differing point.
In this article, I have stated my belief that the bible is interpreted in different ways by different people, and many will strongly disagree with me. But you’re unlikely to change my mind. Anymore than I am going to change your mind. And this is OK. I still love you as a brother or sister in Christ. And if you are not Christian, I still love you, too, and I am not going to try to change the religious viewpoint (or lack thereof) that you live by. If you are not harming me or my loved ones, you are free to do as you choose. This is America, after all.
So if you want to eat a delicious, yet fat and chemical-filled, chicken sandwich today, so be it. I would hope that you don’t, but I’m not going to stop you. It is my right to boycott Chic-Fil-A – when the American marketplace provides us true choices, we all have equal ability to boycott a company whose beliefs we don’t agree with or who actively campaign against a stance we oppose. And others have a right to step across that picket line.
(I’m being figurative. I will not be physically picketing my local Chic-Fil-A. I’d have kids in tow, it’s hot, and I am exercising my right to be heard by using my blog.)
I’m hearing your message loud and clear, God. Forgive, apologize, love, and accept each other’s differences, as our time here is short and our family, friends, and neighbors are to be cherished. And it just costs us too much as human beings to do otherwise.