Last summer controversy erupted when Dan Cathy, president and COO of Chick-fil-A, gave an interview expressing his opposition to same sex marriage based on biblical teachings. Gay rights activists also reacted to the fast food company's financial support for organizations that sought to block SSM.
In the weeks that followed, supporters of Chick-fil-A and traditional marriage showed their solidarity by lining up at the restaurants for a fried chicken sandwich, and members of the GLBT community rallied protests to block the restaurants from entering some cities. The entire episode highlighted the widening divide between conservative Christians and the gay community, and few had hope that reconciliation was possible.
What we did not know was that Dan Cathy, rather than fighting this battle in the media, chose to pursue a more Christ-honoring way. He reached out to Shane Windmeyer, the leader of Campus Pride–the pro-LGBT organization that was leading the fight against Chick-fil-A. Cathy developed a friendship with Shane and his husband, and a foundation of mutual respect was created.
Earlier this week Windmeyer "came out" about his friendship with Cathy in a column for Huffington Post. He writes:
Throughout the conversations Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being "a follower of Christ" more than a "Christian." Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-A – but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.
In many ways, getting to know Dan better has reminded me of my relationship with my uncle, who is a pastor at a Pentecostal church. When I came out as openly gay in college, I was aware that his religious views were not supportive of homosexuality. But my personal relationship with my uncle reassured me of his love for me – and that love extends to my husband....
My relationship with Dan is the same, though he is not my family. Dan, in his heart, is driven by his desire to minister to others and had to choose to continue our relationship throughout this controversy. He had to both hold to his beliefs and welcome me into them. He had to face the issue of respecting my viewpoints and life even while not being able to reconcile them with his belief system. He defined this to me as "the blessing of growth." He expanded his world without abandoning it. I did, as well.
In Cathy and Windmeyer we have a model of a Christian response to the tensions between the church and LGBT community. Rather than fighting battles in the courts, legislatures, and public square, we ought to begin by loving our neighbors and establishing genuine friendships.
For more on this story, here's an interview with Shane Windmeyer from Headline News:
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