Seen on the run: Christian charity vs. food politics

I appreciate what this group was doing on Wednesday.

I’ve got a funny habit of writing about things I observe when I run that interest me, and yesterday was no different. In some ways, I wish it hadn’t been so remarkable. But that’s a reflection of the spirit of the day in which we live. I’ll explain.

It’s been stinkin’ hot here in the Southern Plains. Yesterday it got up to 113. That makes my outdoor runs pretty short and to the point. But at the end of the run, I saw something pretty cool.

When I run in the city, I wind up at the doorstep of my gym downtown. That particular street is shaded in the afternoon, and as a result, a few homeless people are known to hang out here to take refuge from the sun.

I crossed the street, slowed to a walk, and then stooped over to put my hands on my knees. You know, that universal sign of “I’m done.” I looked over to my left and saw a pickup with a bunch of cases in the back and two people handing out cold bottles of water.

“Hey man, you want some water?” one of the guys asked.

“Nah, I’m good.” He asked if I was sure, and I assured him I was OK. They went on, handing out bottles to homeless guys who’d been out in the heat all day and likely would be all night.

The guys I saw were working with a charitable ministry called John 3:16 Mission. The Mission runs a homeless shelter downtown and tries to reach out to those who decline to stay at the shelter, like the men who were congregating on that street yesterday.

I loved this, but on that particular day, it was also a disconcerting contrast. While these guys are sweating it out trying to keep the homeless hydrated and safe, hundreds of thousands of their brethren in the faith were sweating it out in long lines outside Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country.

Wednesday was an unofficial Chick-fil-A appreciation day, organized by FOX News talk show host Mike Huckabee in response to an uproar over the fast food chain’s boss’ comments about gay marriage and his support of organizations that oppose it.

The latest lightning rod in America’s culture wars. Yay culture wars!

By all accounts, these stores were packed. People spent an hour or more happily waiting to pick up their orders in exchange for their hard-earned cash.

I get it. A lot of folks were upset over comments made by leaders in Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston, who said the restaurant chain isn’t welcome in their cities. The people queued outside Chick-fil-A locations think their views are being disrespected.

Without getting into the politics of it, there are a few observations I’d like to make concerning the efficacy of all this.

Believe what you want. This is a free country, a legally protected free society that allows you express your thoughts and worship how you please.

Eat what you want, where you want. We live within the architecture of a free market in which the consumer ultimately decides the success or failure of any business venture.

But on this day, it would have been pretty cool to see all of the time and money making a show of political support to a business directed elsewhere. If you’re going to sweat it out, why bother packing the house of an already successful and prosperous enterprise? Trust me, Chick-fil-A will survive this tempest and continue to sell scads of chicken sandwiches for years to come.

Meanwhile, John 3:16 Mission is running short of bed space, clean clothes, food and other supplies. Like many charities, funds are stretched thin, especially in times like this, where a record-breaking and dangerous heat wave hits hardest at those living on the edges of society. I’d say that cause, and many more like it, need our time and money more than a fast food chain.

When your years pile up and your sight grows dim, what would you like to remember of your life? Jesus said when you feed and clothe “the least of these,” you did the same for Him.

Take a stand for the faith if you must. But be picky in the manner in which you make that stand. Make it count. Ask yourself: How do I want to be remembered? As a faith community, how do we want to be remembered? Where can we make the biggest and best impact on people’s lives?

Just a few thoughts of what I see when I run…

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088


5 thoughts on “Seen on the run: Christian charity vs. food politics

  1. I have witnessed countless protests where I work…Big ones. Small ones. Quiet ones. Extraordinarily loud ones. Protests that block the sidewalks. Protests that flood the building. Protests where there is much singing of church hymns. Yes, everyone has the right to voice their opinion, and with a policy issue such as homosexuality, the emotions of both sides naturally escalate. With all that said however, we ought to recognize and acknowledge the productivity level of whatever “protest action” we choose to participate in….and in my opinion, the media frenzy developed because of this issue doesn’t count. 🙂

  2. What I think we should be asking is why the “leaders” of Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago care what the CEO of Chick-Fil-A thinks. Would they care if he said he was opposed to adultery or gambling or beastiality? What does it have to do with them? So he has an opinion. Don’t we all have opinions on this subject? Obviously we all do or it wouldn’t have become what it did. So another great moment in history for freedom of speech along with so many other freedoms our country protects.
    I’ve worked at John 3:16 Mission many times. I’ve made sandwiches on the street for the homeless and fed them in the soup kitchen, sang at their worship services and talked to the people spending the night. Yesterday I was at Chick-Fil-A supporting a man’s right to his opinion and yes one I share. Does that make me a bad person? No. It makes me a person who is leaving an example for my children that we have the right in this country to believe what we want. Stand up for those who are ridiculed for taking a stand especially if it is a biblical one.

    Did Don Cathy ever say he hated gay people? So what’s the big deal? Where do you think all the money goes that ends up in the offering plate or box or whatever it is at your place of worship? Do you know how much that is across our country? I bet it is way more than what was spent yesterday.

    • Interesting take. First off, I think the city leaders in the communities you mentioned are off base. Unless the business is breaking the law, they can’t deny that business the right to open up shop provided that business obeys local zoning, licensing and taxation rules. To go beyond that is, indeed, shaky in terms of constitutionality.

      My question is efficacy. How does yesterday’s display look to the world outside the church? The people the church is trying to reach? How has it played? Hundreds of thousands of people lined up outside those stores, making a very public demonstration of their feelings on this subject. The contrast, though, is clear: Mr. Cathy doesn’t need defending. His rich. No, not rich. Wealthy. He has all the resources he needs to defend himself, support his causes and so forth. The sentiment, I’m sure, is appreciated. But next month, next year, ten years from now. Mr. Cathy and his business will be just fine.

      The same day, local charities are straining under the weight of increased need, dwindling supplies and shrinking donations — product of a bad economy, freaky weather and a growing number of homeless/mentally ill on the streets.

      If Mike Huckabee wants to use his influence to do good, I suggest he head in that direction — to where real need lies. But that won’t drive the TV ratings.

      Anyway, I appreciate the input and the well thought-out response. This is a conversation we all need to have.

  3. As a native Atlantan, Chick-Fil-A’s Cathy family is well-known. I’ve been fortunate to see Truett Cathy (spunky old guy!) and his son, Dan, speak. I admire how they have stuck to their guns on staying closed on Sundays and encouraging / fostering employee development. They have self-financed many employees to buy their own franchise. And they are profitable. And the employees are always courteous.

    I don’t personally agree with his personal position, but CFA is a privately held company. Franchisees are well-aware of their fundamental beliefs. I wholly support someone, as a consumer, voting with their wallet. But the bullying that went on towards CFA was ridiculous. I stopped by my local franchise & had a yuymmy peach shake. I support free speech. I support taking a stand. I support a business t

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