Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers.
If you saw me at Chick-fil-A this week it was because I, like hundreds and thousands of the restaurant’s other patrons, was making a sure and bold statement.
The statement I made was simple yet profound. It changed the course of my day, and caused me to feel full inside.
But, unlike many others who graced the Atlanta-based food chain’s premises throughout the week — especially Wednesday — my statement had absolutely nothing to do with opposing gay marriage, and everything to do with fighting against mid-afternoon hunger pangs.
Now before I get to the good stuff, let me set the stage by sharing some facts about myself: I am a Christian a pastor and church planter by day, and a writer and journalist by night. I grew up in a two-parent, middle-class, Midwestern Christian home. I am the son of a Baptist deacon and two long-time Sunday school teachers.
I’ve been a minister for 15 years and a pastor for five. I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.
And I support gay marriage.
Now, slow down before you open up your e-mail accounts and stand tall on your cyber soapboxes to tell me how much of a heretic and hypocrite I am, and hear me out.
Trust me, I know all of the scriptures that say homosexuality is a sin. I’ve read, taught and preached from passages of the Bible that lump gays in a category with liars, cheaters and heterosexual adulterers as people who won’t inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
I respect Dan Cathy for taking his stance against gay marriage — what else do we expect a Christian CEO of a Christian-based company that’s closed on Sundays to say about it anyway?
I understand the reason why people feel like they are pleasing Jesus by showing up in droves to buy chicken. I also even agree with the fact that God’s idea of marriage is solely between a man and a woman.
However, if Christians desire to be true to the tenor and tone of Jesus Christ, and how He handles people caught in a lifestyle of sin, then I implore all poultry protesters to take a pause from their cause and consider the true effectiveness of their actions.
Anyone who has just casually perused through the first four books of the New Testament, A.K.A. the Gospels, knows that Jesus was more interested in winning souls than arguments. The Jesus depicted in John chapter 2 was indeed firm — he tossed first-century prosperity preachers out of the temple when they made money off of the people’s desires to make sacrifices to God.
But in John 8:1-11, He was also seen as fair and loving when He showed mercy and forgiveness to a woman caught in the act of adultery, while shaming the religious zealots who, some scholars believe, purposefully set her up in the first place.
John 4:1-26 shows a dialogue between Jesus and a woman who had been through five divorces, and was currently living with a man to whom she was not married. And instead of Him trying to wear her down a battle of theological wits, He ended up saving her soul.
The Gospels are rife with accounts of Jesus’ actions that show a balance between His messages of holiness and His heart for the hurting sinner. But they also paint a picture of a Christ Who was quick to save a sinner — and even quicker to rebuke a religious fanatic.
And as I saw the people piling around several Chick-fil-A restaurants, showing support for their cause, while ignoring the smattering of gay rights enthusiasts that peppered the parking lots, I couldn’t help but believe that this is not what Jesus would do.
Ever since President Barack Obama showed his support for gay marriage three months ago, Christians from the pulpit to the back pew have amped up their messages about God’s disdain for homosexuality.
Pastors on both sides of the political aisle and regardless of ethnicity, are forming alliances against the President. And some Christians are even chastising others who do not publicly express their rejection of homosexuality and gay marriage with the same vitriol and energy as those in the forefront of the debate.
But still, in my mind, are the images of hundreds of Chick-fil-A — and by proxy, Christian — supporters who outnumbered the few gay rights supporters. And I wondered, what is all of this actually proving? What has it solved? If homosexuality is a sin — and I do agree that it is — then what does the spirit of one-upsmanship do to help alert a homosexual to their sin and potential Savior?
I want to talk to the Chick-fil-A Christians who bought lunch for a homosexual protester. I want to rap with a Christian couple who conversed with a homosexual couple over Waffle Fries and a sandwich just to hear their hearts on the issue instead of preaching hell, fire and brimstone over their heads.
I wonder how many Christians lovingly engaged those with whom they disagreed. I want to know why many in the church can graciously accept the drug addict and alcoholic and eagerly counsel the splintered heterosexual marriage back to health, yet when homosexuality shows up on the scene, Christians all of a sudden become frozen and rigid.
According to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin. But so is adultery. So is lying. So is cheating and stealing. Some of the same clergy men who are calling for Obama’s ouster because of his stance on homosexuality were also crying foul to any person who would dare speak a word against former President Bill Clinton for his heterosexual indiscretions.
Some of my friends who bought chicken in the name of saving a world from gay marriage were also mad at the NCAA for throwing the book at Penn State football after disgraced coach Jerry Sandusky was indicted for raping innocent boys.
Where is the consistency?
I personally know people who lived a homosexual lifestyle and were turned toward the healing love of Jesus Christ, not by a protest but through prayer. Not by politically charged ramblings and sound bites, but through building relationships with other Christians who didn’t preach at them but walked with them toward understanding and healing.
So why do I support gay marriage? Because I believe that ultimately the heat of this topic will open the door to a sorely needed discussion on how the church must minister the love of Jesus to homosexuals instead of arguing at them from a religious-based, political platform.
Beneath the protests, I believe homosexuals (some, not all) were making a statement, too — to be heard, to be loved and to be considered not as threats to a religious agenda, but as souls that, just like all of us, are never too far from the loving reach of God.