"An author should never conceive himself as bringing into existence beauty or wisdom which did not exist before, but simply and solely as trying to embody in terms of his own art some reflection of eternal Beauty and Wisdom."

- C.S. Lewis
I Find This Refreshing

Gay rights leader Shane Windmeyer writes about his new friendship with Chick-Fil-A's Dan Cathy. This shows that, contrary to contemporary political wisdom and practice, you can be gracious and kind to those who disagree with you. And you can do so while still holding to your principles. Grace is a beautiful thing. Some excerpts below:

I spent New Year's Eve at the red-blooded, all-American epicenter of college football: at the Chick-fil-A Bowl, next to Dan Cathy, as his personal guest. It was among the most unexpected moments of my life.

Yes, after months of personal phone calls, text messages and in-person meetings, I am coming out in a new way, as a friend of Chick-fil-A's president and COO, Dan Cathy, and I am nervous about it. I have come to know him and Chick-fil-A in ways that I would not have thought possible when I first started hearing from LGBT students about their concerns over the chicken chain's giving practices.

. . .

On Aug. 10, 2012, in the heat of the controversy, I got a surprise call from Dan Cathy. He had gotten my cell phone number from a mutual business contact serving campus groups. I took the call with great caution. He was going to tear me apart, right? Give me a piece of his mind? Turn his lawyers on me?

The first call lasted over an hour, and the private conversation led to more calls the next week and the week after. Dan Cathy knew how to text, and he would reach out to me as new questions came to his mind. This was not going to be a typical turn of events.

His questions and a series of deeper conversations ultimately led to a number of in-person meetings with Dan and representatives from Chick-fil-A. He had never before had such dialogue with any member of the LGBT community. It was awkward at times but always genuine and kind.

It is not often that people with deeply held and completely opposing viewpoints actually risk sitting down and listening to one another. We see this failure to listen and learn in our government, in our communities and in our own families. Dan Cathy and I would, together, try to do better than each of us had experienced before.

Never once did Dan or anyone from Chick-fil-A ask for Campus Pride to stop protesting Chick-fil-A. On the contrary, Dan listened intently to our concerns and the real-life accounts from youth about the negative impact that Chick-fil-A was having on campus climate and safety at colleges across the country. He was concerned about an incident last fall where a fraternity was tabling next to the Chick-fil-A restaurant on campus. Whenever an out gay student on campus would walk past the table, the fraternity would chant, "We love Chick-fil-A," and then shout anti-gay slurs at the student. Dan sought first to understand, not to be understood. He confessed that he had been naïve to the issues at hand and the unintended impact of his company's actions.

. . .

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.

And in that we had great commonality: We were each entirely ourselves. We both wanted to be respected and for others to understand our views. Neither of us could -- or would -- change. It was not possible. We were different but in dialogue. That was progress.
And, no, I don't want to debate gay marriage in the comments thread. :-)

[Hat tip to the always awesome Brant Hansen]

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Comments on "I Find This Refreshing":
1. Karl - 01/30/2013 12:58 pm CST

I agree, that is very refreshing. I hope more and more Christians follow Dan Cathy's example. I think this part is key:

"Dan sought first to understand, not to be understood"

also:

"He confessed that he had been naïve to the issues at hand . . . Throughout the conversations Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level."

Kudos to Dan Cathy for reaching out across the divide, and to this guy for taking the risk and meeting him there.

2. Jared - 01/30/2013 4:32 pm CST

What both of these men did was really remarkable and commendable.

Predictably, gay rights supporters are already calling this activist a sell-out, saying nothing is acceptable short of Cathy renouncing the view that homosexual activity is sin. In another thread this week a Christian leader says his official position on the issue of "gay rights" is no position. Conservative Christians and gay rights supporters alike are excoriating him.

I think peace in the tension is possible between actual individual friends on either sides of contentious issue, but I see no settling or peace taking place in the cultural marketplace of ideas. Christians and gay rights activists are not going to "learn to live with each other." One or the other side will not tolerate such tolerance.

I am reminded when I apologized last year for a post that inadvertently offended some people. It was taken to imply the opposite of what was meant. I came around to regretting that, pulled it, and apologized for the post. Some accepted my apology. Others rejected my apology, saying nothing would be acceptable except my renouncing my view (complementarianism, incidentally).

And so on it will go so long as Christians continue to hold the view that homosexuality is sinful.

You cannot make peace with people who will not have peace until you totally agree with them. And of course that goes both ways, for people on any side of any issue, gay or straight, etc etc.

3. Bill - 01/30/2013 5:18 pm CST

Yes. I know it has probably ever been so, but it seems in our multimedia, 24x7, up to the minute age, debates are not allowed to develop in mutual respect. Instead, it's all about absolutely crushing your opponent.

As Christians, it can't be that way. The only opponent to be crushed is satan, and we won't be the ones doing the crushing.

I applaud Dan Cathy for extending the hand of friendship and grace, and to Shane Windmeyer for returning the gesture. As he mentions, they will never agree on this issue, most likely. But they are both made in the image of God.

4. Flyaway - 02/01/2013 10:30 am CST

When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7

5. jez - 02/01/2013 10:48 am CST

I might be unusual, but I really don't have much of a problem with whatever you want to consider to be sinful, only with what sins you want to enforce by law for all of us.

The solution suggested here, that we recognise the difference between the lawful and religious marriage, seems pretty much perfect to me. :)

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