By Pastor Charles Lyons -
In the spirit of thoughtful discussion, let’s reflect on Mayor Emanuel’s statement of this past week. “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago’s values. They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors, and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community you should reflect the Chicago values.”
While we believe we understand the Mayor’s thinking, perhaps the statement lacked the breadth, the depth, and the clearer thinking necessary when interacting with the complications of a pluralistic society. It would be helpful to have a better understanding of the term “Chicago values.”
Are these the values of R Kelley, with his contribution to sexual restraint in our culture? Are these the values of Minister Louis Farrakhan and his love affair with Jews? Are these the values of our city’s political system known around the world for its corruption? We have heard no denial to a place in Chicago for these parties.
Furthermore, there seems to be some confusion related to the distinction between personal religious beliefs of a company CEO and actual practice. There is no track record of discriminatory practice or behavior by Chick-fil-A toward its employees, its customers, or the communities which they serve. Rather, they seem to be the poster child for practicing the value of consistent respect for employees, customers, and community along with outstanding business practice.
We are left then with language aimed at individuals and a business that borders on hate-speech and the actual action of blocking a business. This could easily be seen as anti-religious, agenda-driven bullying.
Thousands of faith leaders in Chicago and the hundreds of thousands they serve in churches, synagogues, and mosques are but a portion of the several billion people who belong to one of the three largest religions in the world. They have held to the Biblical, traditional view of marriage for a cumulative 7,000 + years. We are not talking about some backwater sect adhering to an obscure tenet.
It is way too simplistic to pull out the tired labels to throw at people who hold a different belief system than we do. Sound bites may work for politicians and pundits - for a moment. However, we live lives far more complicated – lives of text and subtext, lives informed by history, society, and personality, lives that deserve thoughtful discourse and understanding and yes, love.
Mr. Mayor, please do not dismiss us.
Do not disrespect us.
We are not demanding anything. This is an appeal, an invitation. We love God, love you, love our city, love our neighbors with whom we may disagree.
We, too, are Logan Square.
We, too, are Chicago.
Mr. Mayor I have come to respect you, and frankly to my surprise, like you, since you escaped Washington and came home. Though we don’t agree with you on some very significant issues, we hold you and your office in high regard. We will not hold you to a standard higher than our own. We, too, have said things we wish we could take back, or rephrase, or ...
You probably realize by now that to exclude a particular business for the reasons you have stated is problematic on many fronts. Is Holy Name Cathedral going to be told they are no longer welcome? Will the entire Roman Catholic Chicago Archdiocese, including Catholic Charities be shut out, shut down? Do we begin informing hundreds of thousands of congregants they are not welcome in Chicago: their money, their business, their taxes are not wanted, not needed?
If the thought police come to Armitage Baptist Church, we will meet them at the door respectfully, unflinchingly, willing to die on this hill, holding a copy of the Sacred Scriptures in one hand and a copy of the U.S. Constitution in the other. The Armitage Church congregation loves God and loves our neighbors – all of them. The LGBTQ community is represented here today – not because they forced their way in, but because we welcome everyone to worship in this house of prayer. We are followers of Jesus Christ. We go beyond tolerance. We seek to actively love and serve everyone, not just people we agree with.
Mr. Mayor, we appeal to you in the spirit of pursuing genuine diversity in our contemporary, pluralistic community. Please consider inviting representative faith leaders who hold the values you say are unwelcome, to sit with you in an attitude of love and honest, open minded dialogue.
When people talk, people connect. When people connect, community grows. Then, we all win.
First posted on Armitage Baptist Church's website by Charles W. Lyons, Senior Pastor & The Pastors of Armitage Baptist Church 2451 N. Kedzie Boulevard Chicago, IL 60647 Charles.firstname.lastname@example.org