Dear Pastor Steve (Hammer),
As a longtime fan of this column long before I was invited to contribute myself, I want to take a moment to commend your courage in tackling tough issues. When anyone in our community challenges deeply head notions about social issues such as marriage equality, there is always risk of, well, ruffling some feathers. So I hope your recent column was well received.
Still, by the same token, in my mind, you gave voice to those who may feel their way of thinking goes against the grain.
In case our readers missed your piece — I’m making reference to the column published here on Aug. 22, “Oh, for the love of chicken.” I’ve long struggled with the position some in the Christian community have taken in regard to homosexuality and marriage equality. The topic is radioactive, and so I’ve been, er, chicken to bring it up.
By now, we’ve all had time — and the benefit of hindsight — to absorb Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s statement in opposition to marriage equality, the subsequent media firestorm, and the response from all sides. The media may have moved on, but I’m glad Pastor, that you initiated a more thoughtful discussion in the weeks that followed. And I want to keep that dialogue going.
On the day some in the Christian community called for believers to express support of Chick-fil-A by scoring some of those delicious waffle fries, I neither boycotted, nor supported the effort. I believe in Dan Cathy’s right to integrate his beliefs into his business, and to steward his profits however he sees fit. I’ve always admired the decision to close the doors on Sundays.
But I also want to acknowledge that not every Christian holds the same perspective. And I believe we should stand up — respectfully, peacefully — and say so.
Your column helped me to “be not afraid” to proclaim my support for marriage equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. I appreciated your encouragement to read and interpret text through the lens of history, context and culture. You made a thoughtful case in challenging the “biblical definition of marriage.” There is great diversity among Christians on this and other topics. But that doesn’t make for compelling headlines.
When I watched the lines of folks streaming toward Chick-fil-A that day, I understood many people simply wanted to send a message in favor of freedom of speech, or show support in the eye of the backlash that ensued. I think it’s a difficult topic for us all, and I realize those opposed to gay marriage do so in accordance with their understanding of scripture. Tolerance goes both ways, and I always welcome varied viewpoints.
Still, I wondered — does the church want to continue to be associated with a divisive issue about which we will likely never achieve consensus? Would we rather be defined by what some in our community are against, rather than what we’re all for? Would we rather act as God’s watchdogs, or His ambassadors?
Mostly — during the plethora of media coverage that followed the Chick-fil-A controversy I wondered, did they know us by our love? I only wish we could garner a bit more attention for other lines in which Christians so often stand — at shelters to serve the hungry, at prisons and hospitals to visit the lost and the lonely.
Let’s keep the conversation going, Pastor, and invite others to lend their voices. My hope and prayer is that in all of it, we seek to “do justice, walk humbly, love mercy.”
• Diane Meehl contemplates the big questions in Ahwatukee Foothills, where she lives with her husband and their three chicks. They worship at Mountain View Lutheran Church.