Junk food for Jesus

Jesus at Chick-fil-A

You cannot serve two masters. Do you choose the Gospel according to Jesus, or the gospel according to Cathy? Image: Jim Tignor.

I’m a Christian. But I wouldn’t eat at Chick-fil-A even if the company’s CEO were St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And it’s not really because I disagree with the views of the company’s actual CEO about gay marriage. It’s because I think that Chick-fil-A’s whole business model is itself basically un-Christian, despoiling God’s creation in all too many ways.

All that Constitution stuff

But first, let me go on the record that I support the U.S. Constitution. As to freedom of speech, I believe everyone involved in the situation has a right to do what he or she pleases. CEO Dan Cathy has the right to broadcast his religious conviction that gay marriage is wrong , as he did in a radio interview in July:

We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.

Gay rights supporters have  a right to boycott Cathy’s stores. And religious conservatives have a right to break the boycott with their “buy-cott” and open their wallets and their mouths to Chick-fil-A’s putative food.

Jon Stewart quote

Insult to injury. Photo: The Other 99%. (Click to enlarge image)

Then, I also support the separation of church and state. I don’t believe that the Bible or any group’s interpretation of it, any more than Sharia Law or the Code of Hammurabi, should determine the laws of a modern, secular democracy as the United States still claims to be.

Finally, as a Christian, I don’t think that a religion of love should be used to deny people rights or whip up angry senior citizens and other mob-like factions into a gay-bashing frenzy.

My point now is about fast food. Maybe Chick-fil-A is no worse in its effects on the Earth and cardiac health than McDonald’s or Burger King. But since Cathy wears his faith on his sleeve, he’s set a higher standard for Chick-fil-A than its purely secular competitors who make no claim to be particularly godly.

Unfortunately, when you look closely, Cathy’s outfit doesn’t seem to  do any better by dedicating itself to the Lord of Hosts than it would do by pimping a cartoon clown. And his supporters in this farcical fracas look less like faithful disciples than like lost sheep.

Copious consumption in the name of the Lord

Really, Jesus, is this how far we’ve sunk? That Christians equate eating a sloppy chicken sandwich with greasy fries followed by a sickeningly sweet dessert, each wrapped in disposable cardboard, paper and plastic immediately destined for the landfill and washing it all down with a soda made mostly from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) with doing God’s work? That they want to do so as an act of purported “family values,” essentially schooling their kids in waste, ill-health, and excess? These are “family values?”

We’ve clearly become a junk-food-for-Jesus nation. Or is that simply our new church?

I went to the Chick-fil-A website to check out the nutritional values in their food offerings. As expected it was the typical high calorie, low-quality ingredients of other fast food chains, including HFCS in almost everything, white bread buns out the wazoo, meat from heavily corn- and grain-fed chickens, and your typical array of sugary drinks and desserts. Then it’s steeped in the mysterious set of “other natural ingredients,” industry code for chemical derivatives designed to trick the olfactory system into thinking it tastes really, really good — “better than homemade!”

The chicken sandwiches, salads, and most everything else are made with plenty of harmful preservatives, like Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, the risks of which are huge, such as estrogen problems, pre-cancerous signifiers, and exacerbating ADHD, among other serious health concerns.

And why should Chick-fil-A (or any fast food joint) need TBHQ? Because they don’t really make anything on site, another of the problems with worshipping at the altar of fast food. By definition, it’s the polar opposite of eating local.

The Chick-fil-A website is careful to use the word “prepare” to describe what is happening on-site. What the company doesn’t emphasize is that its “fresh” produce, chicken, and seasoned coatings are processed in central plants to be shipped long distances in plastic sacks and bags to thousands of locations across the U.S. and “assembled” on site using the Speedee method. In order for ingredients to come this way they’re processed all to hell and loaded down with sketchy preservatives and wrapped in generous packaging.

The shipping alone to get a sandwich from the processing center to your closest Chick-fil-A is nothing short of sinful in a nation facing an imminent energy crisis.

Of course, that’s nothing you wouldn’t find at Wendy’s or Taco Bell. But those places don’t claim to be stuffing your tummy in the name of a higher power.

I don’t need to eat no stinkin’ local

Meanwhile, you can be assured that Chick-fil-A’s food ingredients are not sourced or purchased in your community. In fact, each visit by diners offers a slap in the face to struggling, local farmers as tithes are conferred to Big Ag instead.

Chances are, the foods are not packaged and shipped anywhere near your community either. Essentially, your town is nothing more than a footprint for a location and the provider of a few, mostly low-level unskilled jobs. It’s vertical integration with a drive-through.

Just the presence of the Chick-fil-A in a strip-mall near you is part of the larger corporate onslaught that has shuttered truly local businesses across the country for decades, killing local jobs and the autonomy, diversity, and uniqueness they represent.

Further, it should be underscored that there’s nothing local or mom-and-pop about the place because the company’s franchise model is so much more restrictive than even its fast food competitors’. So, while some supporters have said they don’t want to punish local franchises with a boycott really directed at CEO Dan Cathy, such compassion is sadly misplaced because local franchisees are little more than fast-food sharecroppers.

When consumers do spend money at Chick-fil-A (or any other fast food joint) they are themselves making a big wasteland of our world, while making a statement through behavior and dollars about what they value — and don’t value.

For example, Chick-fil-A boasts a recycling program that has enough caveats to make you wonder if they should’ve bothered at all. They “recycle” styrofoam in locations “where available” but they don’t give any numbers on what percentage of locations actually do this putative recycling (having in-store sorting bins is NOT the same as actually recycling the stuff).

Chick-fil-A does practice water use reduction in some stores and are planning it for more. But when your larger model strains water sources so much — from paper and packaging production to in-store uses to all the post-consumer waste — what’s the dif? Being “better than nothing,” in the case of corporate-scale production is just not good enough anymore.

Really, there’s a difference between doing the least thing possible to reduce impact and what is implied in the much more comprehensive concept of “environmental stewardship.”

A very big difference.

The company website also shares “plans” to implement more environmental “solutions” such as reduced electricity usage, lower-energy use in routine training, and greener materials in some buildings, all set for some indeterminate future —  during which the business presumably continues to grow more stores, none of which are slated to leave the centralized production model, give up massive shipping, or cut the huge waste stream in any meaningful sense.

And with their one LEED platinum store, it’s corporate greenwashing at its best, making consumers feel that it’s okay to get an ordinary meal served with all disposable wrappers, cutlery, straws, and cups because some effort somewhere is less bad. “Look at me, I go to the better fast food joint. Don’t I feel all Christian and virtuous and stuff. A-men!”

Yes, I am glad for the small efforts that they’ve made. But the model is itself flawed, and that’s the problem.

What oil would Jesus hydrogenate?

In my view, any Christian who supports this kind of wastefulness is no steward of divine creation. And though a Christian mission is purportedly at the center of the Chick-fil-A corporate philosophy, the centralized sourcing and processing, the industrial scale of production, the lack of any interest in going local, and the overall sinful wastefulness give the lie to any godliness that Dan Cathy might claim to be bringing to business.

What I see in Chick-fil-A, its CEO Dan Cathy, and those who buy the product is just a good old fashioned worship of mammon — polluting God’s green Earth, adulterating God’s pure food and leading God’s children into temptation just to make a buck. Dancing around the golden calf — er, rooster.

And I fail to see how gorging on the vile faux food peddled by Mr. Cathy, as destructive of the Earth as it is dangerous to human health, can do anything but alienate Christians from the Christ they purport to serve. And more so when eating that food is done as an “in-your-face” to those who have themselves refused the model.

In Jesus’ name? For the Bible? In no universe is that Christian behavior, even if you agree with Cathy’s views.

Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus fasted to get closer to his Father and to the truth of faith, hope and charity that all religions share.

I humbly submit to my fellow Christians that, when confronted with the conflicting examples of CEO Dan Cathy peddling poisonous notional food “stuffs” and Our Lord Jesus Christ who turned the moneylenders out of the temple, that we choose the latter.

Might I also make a suggestion to bring down the temperature of this heated debate, with the hope that American Christians can work together to do something other than encourage more disgusted observers to become atheists?

Please stop making Christ or the Bible the rationale for doing things that couldn’t be more unrelated to Biblical living. If you want to get in a froth about gay marriage and then use it as an excuse to chow down on cretinous chicken, look in the mirror and give credit where credit is due.

–Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice

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  1. says

    Great article, Lindsay! I was wondering when someone would finally address the real issue here: stuffing our mouths with unGodly “food products”.

    Sharing on our FB page right now.

    Thanks for all you do.


  2. Auntiegrav says

    “I believe everyone involved in the situation has a right to do what he or she pleases. ”
    This would be the concept behind “pursuit of happiness”, would it not?

    The unwritten part of that phrase is that the majority choose to seek happiness with OTHER PEOPLE. This is why we have a constitution, and it does not grant pursuit of happiness as a right. Why? Because it ain’t so. Rights are determined by the social contract, not by God (God grants the right to Try to Live). Many countries worship many gods, and they all have different ways of allowing or not allowing people to do things. This is because when we join a society (either through birth or choice), we agree to abide by the rules of that society and the society agrees to let us live(the social contract). The rights to worship and free speech are flexibly applied as needed to maintain order. There are other laws that come into play which we also must abide, but sometimes, just common decency must override one’s desire to do or say what they please. When that fails, we have to write more laws against things like disturbing the peace or inciting riots, or laws against hate crimes. These are all laws that come about because people CHOOSE to NOT be decent to each other. The psychopathic nature of a corporate charter implies that you should NOT be decent to human beings if it interferes with the profits of the shareholders.

    It has been my experience that Christians CLAIM to hold some higher moral ground, and a few actually think about it and behave in ways that reflect their claims. Very few. Most just show up for the donuts and the social contests while pursuing “happiness” in their jobs or recreation just the same as everyone else. The false claims to morality create a cognitive dissonance if they actually think about their actions, but far too many do not engage connection between belief and action, and by not questioning their faith, or connecting their faith to their behaviors, they tend to live in two worlds: their faith-oriented, simple and enlightened Belief Model and their dark, confused daily life that is full of “challenges to their faith” and “evildoers” who inflict reality upon their fantasy.
    Some manage to get past the marketing and mind control aspects of their religions and utilize the social aspects of faith to create a better world for themselves and everyone they meet. These are the ones that simply sing the praises well, smile and accept their neighbors, and serve the future (God) charitably without pretense and mostly by ignoring the blind faith aspects of their own group’s rhetoric. In other words, they show up and do the work of their faith, but they don’t buy the whole package because the whole package doesn’t make much sense outside the Bronze age (where nothing made sense). It does however, contain wisdom in its socialization of people and the experience of its members.
    Those who seek the wisdom and ignore the rhetoric make the world a better place.
    Those who seek the rhetoric (usually for business or other self-serving purposes) and ignore the wisdom are doing evil works.
    God is the epitome of Net Future Usefulness: He created everything from nothing. Consumerism is exactly the opposite: destroying everything and giving nothing back.
    This Chick-Fil-A flap is another media feeding frenzy that just encourages the bullies to start wars over an imagined difference between people, amplified by the imagined difference between people and the rest of the living environment. Look at the similarities instead, and the universe starts to make a lot more sense, and the good bits of the bible can be enjoyed more fully as the ancient words of people who didn’t have the tools we have now (especially the “delete” key for trolls).

  3. Auntiegrav says

    My apologies for the length of that. Your article was GREAT Lindsay, and I will also share it.
    Thank you for the good work.

  4. Ron Howerton says

    American religious zealots who assert that a call to boycott CFA is a violation of anybody’s civil rights need to stop parroting to their religious leaders and actually read the Constitution.

    • says

      It’s really amazing that otherwise functioning human beings aren’t capable of distinguishing between their right to religious freedom in the US, and therefore enjoying their religion, and the imperative under civil law, which is that we all must deal with everyone else’s religious freedom too. All freedoms have two faces, a positive and a negative feature, otherwise known as freedom for something, ie, to worship, and freedom from something, that is to say the freedom not to worship nor to be swayed by those who do.

      For me it’s been very important to enjoy my faith life while recognizing that, though it is more important to me ultimately, in this time and space it exists alongside civil law with which it must co-exist. Christians who are not getting this are making life rough for all Americans, including a great number of fellow Christians. It’s really tiresome at this point. I mean, what year are we in already?
      Thanks for the comments.



  5. Mahesh says

    Enjoyed the article (found this through your link on the FB link you posted). But atheists aren’t born from being disgruntled Christians. =) I might have to ‘boycott’ this page to make sure you don’t spread more misinformed pro-Christian and anti-Secular propaganda for your agenda machine!

    • says

      Couldn’t quite tell if you were joking or not.

      But a close read on the sentence will show that I simply said that Christians should do “something other than encourage more disgusted observers to become atheists.” Observers can be any faith, agnostic, already atheist, or indifferent to religion. But if observers see so much ridiculous in religions and religious life, it might hasten the traffic toward atheism (itself a faith-based religion if you don’t mind me saying), rather than make religious life seem compelling or worth engaging in.

      • Mahesh says

        Thanks for the reply. I just found the comment to portray the ‘faith’ (atheism) in a negative light and thought it was worth mentioning. No real ‘faith’ deserve a second-class treatment. While, it was a tongue-in-cheek jab (satire even) hoping to incite more thoughts. The intent of the comment was to draw attention to how any group might react to such a ‘silly’ claim.
        Amongst, that silliness creates a disgust for life and nihilism or just simple disengagement. Already you hear “move on!” from the topic while never hearing the voices that might need a moment to engage themselves in their lives.
        Again, thanks for the article! Always looking for feedback.

        • says

          Well, I don’t so much mean that atheism is a religion in that it has a set of rites, rituals, etc. But it is a faith-based position. To be 100% certain that there is no entity(ies) outside of that which can be seen and known by the apparent senses (as opposed to unsure, as agnostics would be) is to have complete faith that all that is known is all that can be known. The only way to arrive at the place is through faith based on a lack of encounters with that entity(ties). Having no proof, the existence is denied. But there is no room to entertain that proof is not needed, hence faith that no proof is sufficient.

          • Mahesh says

            Sure. I’ve heard those arguments and I’ve been through that thought process, I generally disagree but I get where it comes from and I’ll concede for the sake of our time. =) I’m truly not trying to put you in any negative position or cast your article in a negative light. =)

            I just thought the point worth bringing up was that I felt that your concern was that of Christians turning towards atheism was a misstatement (not necessarily a mistake). What I really think you meant was Christians turning toward nihilistic or a disgusted view of life and somehow you used ‘atheism’ as a branding of such views.

            What my point of accepting your claim of atheism as ‘faith’ is that it now gets placed in the same category as Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and so on. If that is the case, then saying, “something other than encourage more disgusted observers to become atheists.” is fairly a cutting remark and isn’t dissimilar to “something other than encourage more disgusted observers to become ignorant oppressive Muslims.” Atheism is not a second class faith seeing you claim it is a faith. I don’t think it’s a faith but I’m simply using your semantics to show… that nihilism, disgust, and ignorance are independent of faith and are really what the concerns of such topics should probably be.

          • says

            Well, as a Christian, of course, I have my feelings about the difference God makes in a person’s life. I get that many atheists are also humanists, humanitarian, loving, kind, generous, etc. I am not equating atheism with nihilism as such, or imbuing it with added despondency. But by denying God’s existence, or refusing, or simply not believing it, making people who are otherwise in an observing state disgusted with religious behavior, having them conclude from that that there must not be a God is, to me, unfortunate.

          • Auntiegrav says

            “To be 100% certain that there is no entity(ies) outside of that which can be seen and known by the apparent senses (as opposed to unsure, as agnostics would be) is to have complete faith that all that is known is all that can be known. The only way to arrive at the place is through faith based on a lack of encounters with that entity(ties). Having no proof, the existence is denied. But there is no room to entertain that proof is not needed, hence faith that no proof is sufficient.”
            Well, that’s kinda circular reasoning from the front of a faithful mob.
            It isn’t faith that no proof is sufficient, but lack of faith that any proof is necessary for something that doesn’t exist. The terms “natural” and “universe” kinda cover it all, and inventing something “supernatural” is merely projecting anthropocentric ideas of the universe onto inanimate objects and energy.
            For the most part, any intelligent person is only “agnostic” in that they do not know something. This has nothing to do with faith. Someone who is a militant atheist merely wants to bludgeon the religions for their mistakes.
            Logically, the universe exists, but we do not know that it needed a cause to exist (most mathematical problems run into a brick wall at nothingness, so I think they should instead stop believing in it). We know that matter is (at the reach of our instruments) somewhat random in its existence as either matter or energy, and we do NOT know what “energy” is, except for arbitrary definitions in dictionaries, which again are circular reasoning.
            The burden of proof of God lies with religion. There is absolutely no burden of proof for the absolute non-existence of anything, yet atheists are tasked with ‘proving’ to religions that God doesn’t exist or they must only be in a state of ‘belief’. Disbelief is not the same as a belief. If I have 3 apples and you take them away, I do not have “zero apples”. I have nothing. I do not “believe” I have “zero apples”. I just don’t have anything. Proof of the previous existence of apples in my hands might be found in DNA traces on the apples YOU have, so the burden again lies with your apples, not my absence of them.
            All of that said, there is more value to group behaviors for human beings that have a common purpose outside themselves (to serve God or the Future) than behaviors that require the individual to do all of the thinking while they are working. Better to create a system that they trust will guide them, so they can instead think about the tasks at hand.
            Atheism isn’t very good at that: as illustrated in the time spent on this response. I don’t believe in anything supernatural, because by definition, it cannot exist: anything that does actually exist is part of nature. However, I do believe humans need systems of moderation and shared purpose and religions need atheists to keep them sane, just as civilization needs barbarians. The battle line between randomness and structured things is what defines them as real, and is probably the key to the beginning of Everything from Randomness (rather than from Nothing). Get rid of the need to define nothingness, and you get rid of the need to define God. We can’t have that: the world would fall apart.

    • Mahesh says

      At the risk of being moderated. I’d be happy to make a suggestion to change:
      “something other than encourage more disgusted observers to become atheists.”
      “something other than encourage more disgusted observers to become Jesus killing Jews.”

      I feel that is a more accurate statement. (Seriously, I’ll stop commenting now.)

        • Soo Taefan says

          @Lindsey: First, GREAT article, well-expressed!
          Secondly, request a re-look, with some questions for you, regarding your answer above to the use of hate speech in one of my favorite pubs. (1) Is hate speech, that is, racially, religious or ethnically-pejorative/derogatory words, A-OK on this forum? (The shocking phrase used in the comment above is not merely highly offensive, but also of a historically-charged (linked with brutality, genocide, some spread to foment hatred to this day) nature that it was anticipated to be “moderated out”, and may be found on white-supremacist and other anti-semitic (as opposed to merely anti-Israeli policy) websites (2) Would the N-word be okay? (3) What of epithets used historically to foment hatred against Asians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Arabs…. referencing their headgear, dietary habits… although admittedly they do not carry the murderous history of the one cited above, both derogatory, inaccurate, and used as justification for so much ill. (4) How about derogatory comments / epithets/terms about gays? Your response gratefully solicited and thoughtfully awaited, in word and/or action. (I was so stunned last night, after tardily finding your article, I thought I would give it a breather to re-look and write. The Transition Movement is a positively-inclusive one, as I understand it. Yes, I know Jesus was Jewish, Roman soldiers actually killed him, his first disciples and most of the earliest members of the church were Jewish, and there were multiple factions of Jews long ago, but the phrase is still a horrible one.)

  6. Bob Egbert says

    Great article! I’m not a Christian (nor an atheist) but I’m happy that one of that faith is willing to speak up and differentiate herself from those who use Jesus and the Bible as justification for the pillage and plunder of the Earth. I don’t have enough hubris to claim to know what God thinks, but my guess is that if he (or she) is thinking about us at all, he (or she) is very pissed off at what we are doing to the amazing, fantastic, wonderful place he has created (over billions of years) that is our home. It should be self evident to any social being that it is incredibly rude to crap on a gift.

  7. Bill says

    Chick Fil A stands by their beliefs in not modifying gods design of what marriage is. I can respect that.
    I question how they feel about man redesigning and modifying God’s original genetic make up up the chicken itself?

    • Auntiegrav says

      God gets the right to define civil marriage when He shows up in civil court. Until then, His model remains inside His domain and civil authority (representatives of the majority in a democratic republic) gets to annoy a lot of people with such things as “science” and social stability and laws that are necessary because people can’t seem to behave with common decency to other members of their world (whether they are Christians or Pastafarians or Just Plain Folk).

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