Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Stop with the whining!

Does eating “Jesus chicken” make you a homophobe?

On February 11th and 12th, the Pennsylvania Family Institute will hold seminars in Camp Hill and Reading on “The Art of Marriage: Getting to the Heart of God’s Design”. The organization’s president, Michael Geer, asked the local independent operator of Chick-fil-A to co-sponsor the event (i.e., provide the sandwiches).

Chick-fil-A is a big deal down here in the South. A family-owned company, they’ve been embraced by the free-church Evangelicals because of the Christian ethos promoted by the owners … they’re the only QSR chain that closes on Sunday. However, even secularists love what they call “Jesus chicken”. I’m not a fan myself; must be the same cultural thing that exists between New Mexicans and Blake’s Lotaburger (the only chain that offers chiles for your burger), or the East Coast and Krispy Kreme.

Now, as you can probably guess, PFI is a political group which takes a definite stand on one side of the culture wars. Chick-fil-A’s Christian orientation goes beyond being closed on Sunday; employees gather together for prayer, and the owners contribute to a variety of Christian political and social organizations. So when the franchisee agreed to the co-sponsorship, Geer exulted to Kim Severson of the New York Times, “It’s a win-win situation.”

Not for the gay community, though. PFI’s pro-marriage, pro-family, pro-life orientation includes opposition to same-sex marriage and gay adoption. The Cathy family, who owns the chain, contributes frequently to groups which oppose same-sex marriage initiatives. To gay activists, the alliance is a match made far south of heaven.

I understand and support the concept of the boycott … especially since it was originally invented in Ireland (as Ens. Pavel Chekov would say, were he Irish). For instance, I no longer buy Frappucinos because Starbuck’s supports Planned Barrenhood—a minor mortification I offer up, as they’re so tasty.

On the other hand, if a company’s product isn’t worth going out of your way for, to my reckoning, then I can’t whip up any enthusiasm to man the barricades of an anti-boycott. I have no love for big companies, anyway, and tend to view QSR chains as willing tools of Satan. The temptation is to let economic Darwinism take its course … survival of the fittest and all that. And I can also understand people who view boycotts and anti-boycotts as silly and petty, who ask (like Jerry Seinfeld), “Can’t I just eat my soup?”

But one point where the shoe pinches is adequately expressed by Douglas Quint, a concert bassoonist and owner of The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck in NYC: “It literally leaves a bad taste because I know the people who are putting this food in my mouth actively loathe me.”

If you don’t approve of everything I do, if you don’t give me everything I want, then you hate me. How utterly adolescent.

Yes, there are people who do hate homosexuals, and they’re not all Christian or even religious. But if I think/believe/feel that something you do is immoral or unhealthy, regardless of how ill-founded my opinion may or may not be, it doesn’t follow that I hate or disrespect you. Or, I may disrespect you—not because your actions are immoral or unhealthy but because you react to my disapproval like a whiny, spoiled brat. Put on your big boy britches and deal with it.

Which brings up my next point: The whole you-won’t-let-me-marry-my-gay-lover-because-you-hate-me argument is intellectually dishonest because it refuses to engage the real arguments against same-sex marriage. Instead, it distracts the conversation into useless, irrelevant bickering over emotions: “You hate me!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” Yadda, yadda, yadda ….

I’ve written before about emotional blackmail. The classical fallacy argumentum ad misericordiam (appeal to pity) runs this way: N is suffering; s will alleviate N’s suffering; therefore, s should be allowed, even mandated. Emotional blackmail then turns this argument into psychological pressure: If you don’t support s, then you, sir, are an insensitive, unfeeling bastard. And who wants to be an insensitive, unfeeling bastard?

The appeal to pity is classified as a logical fallacy because, while p may indeed alleviate N’s suffering, it may also do harm to others, or it may create more problems than it solves, or it may be solving the wrong problem (N’s suffering is caused by p, which s doesn’t reach). Emotional blackmail ignores the substantive concerns in favor of manipulating people into assent.

And that’s why I use the pejorative “brat” advisedly. The brat is a master of emotional manipulation. He does it because it works; it gets him what he wants with the least work necessary. Between grinding on your nerves and yanking on your sympathy string, he succeeds in getting you to give in, partly because he’s succeeded in making you feel bad for him, partly because you just want him to shut up. Against your will, you find yourself saying, “Oh, what’s the harm in it?” And the more you give in, the more you reinforce his manipulative behavior.

The cycle breaks when we stop addressing the whiners. This is difficult precisely because there are homophobes. Which means we have to stop giving both the whiners and the homophobes an audience.

There are substantive issues with same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting that need to be addressed. They aren’t addressed by calling all opponents “homophobes”. They aren’t addressed by giving in to the whiners. At the same time, they aren’t addressed by giving the gay-bashers and Fred Phelpses of the world a public platform. They have a right to speak; we don't have an obligation to listen or react.

If you feel boycotting Chick-fil-A is what you need to do, that’s your prerogative. If, however, you don’t want to deny yourself, enjoy. Their restaurants aren’t segregated by sexual preference. Your dollars are just as green.

And the chicken tastes just as … meh.


  1. Well said Tony! It is unfortunate that the vocal minority tend to speak for the majority. It is also unfortunate that the "they's" feel it necessary to shove everything in your face and if you don't like it, you are labeled. I don' want anything shoved in my face and told I have to like it nor do I want to be the one shoving it in people's faces either.

  2. Thanks, Greg!

    I'd like to believe there are reasonable people on the other side of every issue, especially when some of them are people I love and respect. Sometimes it takes the loudmouths to move the ball forward (or push it back, depending on whether you're offense or defense). But I resent manipulation no matter which side is doing it.


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