Dan Cathy stirred great controversy two years ago with his comments in support of biblical marriage. In an interview this week, he clearly stands by his beliefs on the issue. However, he regrets making Chick-fil-A, the company he leads, a symbol in the marriage debate.
Cathy: “The bottom line is we have a responsibility here to keep the whole of the organization in mind and it has to take precedence over the personal expression and opinion on social issues.” Asked about a related legislative issue, he responded, “I think that’s a political debate that’s going to rage on. And the wiser thing for us to do is to stay focused on customer service.”
Is this focus on customer service the right thing for Cathy to be doing? Or is he putting corporate profits ahead of religious conviction?
It’s a vexing issue. On one hand, everyone who accepts a job with an organization is morally obligated to serve the interests of that employer. Scripture teaches us to “work with your hands… so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:12). If our statements or actions regarding social issues hurt our company, are we violating this obligation? If I were on the board of Chick-fil-A, I could argue that the company must be profitable if it is to serve its employees and fulfill its vision. “No margin, no mission,” as the saying goes.
On the other hand, if employees cannot express personal convictions that might negatively impact their employer, how is their freedom of speech to be protected? We can say that Cathy should state his views on his own time, but there is never a time he is not the CEO of Chick-fil-A. Nor should we demand that people ignore their deeply held beliefs while at work. Such a divorce of values and actions is unworkable. There’s no such thing as no character—there’s only good character and bad character.
As an example of this dilemma: Suppose someone claims that Chick-fil-A’s decision to close on Sunday imposes its religious values on secular customers. Or that this decision is unfair to Jews, who view Saturday as the Sabbath, or to Muslims, who make Friday their holy day. If it opens on Sunday, however, it violates Christian convictions regarding work on Sunday. There’s no non-controversial position here.
Where is the balance between bold witness and vocational responsibility? After some hard thinking on this issue, I have decided that there isn’t one position that applies to every person in every situation. Peter told us to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority” (1 Peter 2:13). But when ordered by the authorities to stop preaching the gospel, he refused: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29). I believe that, when we find ourselves in this dilemma, we should ask the Spirit to guide us and follow his lead with courage, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
What are your thoughts? And remember: “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).