Chick-Fil-A CEO is a Profile in Moral Courage

Fr. George Morelli

Fr. George Morelli

Source: OrthodoxyToday.org | Fr. George Morelli

The one who is not with Me is against Me; and the one who gathereth not with Me scattereth. (Mt. 12:30)

Whosoever then shall break one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whosoever shall do and teach them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens. (Mt. 5:19)

Most of us are aware of the profound moral courage of Dan T. Cathy, the CEO of Chick-Fil-A who had the fortitude to say that marriage should only be between a male and female. It is unusual for me to write a commentary suited for an editorial page, but Cathy’s words were so clear and the thousands of Christians who supported him so heartening that I decided to part from my usual practice. Please understand my sole purpose is to affirm the teachings of Christ and how Orthodox Christians should apply them.

This commentary is offered in the spirit of true Christian witness. We are called to model our commitment of Christ and His teachings.  I have written frequently on this theme, especially about the necessity of this witness between parents and children.  I have recommended using news media stories and open-ended Socratic questions in dialogue to explore the Mind of Christ and His Church on these kinds of issues (Morelli, 2010).  Adults can do these between themselves as well.

The response by the mayors of two prominent American cities to the CEO’s statement was an egregious over reach of their authority. When the mayors said that the restaurant chain was “not welcome in this city,” they indirectly challenged both freedom of speech and religion.  St Ephraim the Syrian (1997) instructs us that: “Blessed is he who does not defile his tongue with slander, for the heart of a slanderer is full of all manner of defilement.” Frankly, if I were a resident of either city, I would be offended by the audaciousness of someone who claimed to speak for me while at the same time denying the freedom that allows me to speak. One Chick-Fil-a supporter noting the long lines of those supporting Chick-Fil-A, reported “The one comment I kept hearing from the crowd was ‘I hope those people in Washington get the message.'” i

Waitress taking an order from waiting long line of cars

Waitress taking an order from waiting long line of cars

But speech was not the only freedom attacked. What about the sizable populations of these cities who belong to the orthodox Apostolic Churches (Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches) as well as traditional Protestants and Jews who by implication would also be considered unwelcome in these cities? Their freedom of religion was attacked too. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago Francis Cardinal George had some wise words to say about this:

I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval. Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city? Is the City Council going to set up a ‘Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities’ and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it? I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, ‘un-Chicagoan.’ Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry; and espousing the understanding of marriage that has prevailed among all peoples throughout human history is now, supposedly, outside the American consensus…Marriage existed before Christ called together his first disciples two thousand years ago and well before the United States of America was formed two hundred and thirty six years ago. Neither Church nor state invented marriage, and neither can change its nature.ii

In previous articles I echoed the 2005 call of Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev for a moral alliance by the Apostolic Churches on such issues Morelli, 2010a, 2011). This is a perfect event and time to actualize this alliance by all who are true followers of Christ and His Church.

However, extreme humility is required for all Christians in this process. Recall the event in Our Lord’s life recorded by St. Matthew:

And behold, one approached and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why callest thou Me good? No one is good, except One-God. But if thou art willing to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  (Mt. 19:16-17)

We know the commandments and that we are all called to obey them.  God’s gift to mankind of sexuality is that it is to emulate the relationship of agape love between the persons of the Holy Trinity and the kenotic self-emptying love Christ had for us by taking on our human nature and His crucifixion and death on the cross for our salvation. (Morelli, 2008) Regarding same sex relationships St. Paul make clear Christ’s teachings to the Romans when he wrote:

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness in the desires of their hearts, that their bodies be dishonored among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and reverenced and worshipped the creature beyond Him Who created, Who is blessed to the ages. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to passions of dishonor. For both their females exchanged the natural use into that contrary to nature, and in like manner also the males left the natural use of the female, and were burned up in their lust one toward another, males with males working out that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was fitting of their error.

And even as they did not approve to have God in full knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do things which are not fitting; having been filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, guile, malignity; being whisperers, slanderers, hateful to God, insolent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; who, having fully known the ordinance of God that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but also consent to those who practice them. (Rom. 1:24-32)

St. Paul has a similar message for the Galatians:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, use of drugs, potions or spells, enmities, strifes, jealousies, fits of anger, intrigues, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkennesses, revellings, and things like to these; of which I tell you beforehand, even as I also said previously, that they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

So those who deny there is such a thing as sexual sin, (or illness or infirmity) (heterosexual or homosexual, are deluding themselves. However we must keep in mind that only God can judge and that God’s mercy trumps His justice. St. Luke tells us these words of Jesus:

Therefore keep on becoming compassionate, even as your Father also is compassionate. And cease judging, and in no wise shall ye be judged; cease condemning, and in no wise shall ye be condemned; keep on acquitting, and ye shall be acquitted. (Lk. 6: 36-37)

And St. Isaac the Syrian (Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2011) tells us how to understand God’s mercy: “As a handful of sand thrown into the great sea, so are the sins of all flesh in comparison with the mind of God”.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy. And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity. (Ps 50: 1)

ENDNOTES

i http://www.wnd.com/2012/08/americans-flock-to-support-chick-fil-a/

ii http://chicagoist.com/2012/08/02/cardinal_george_enters_the_chick-fi.php

REFERENCES

Alfeyev, H. (2005, April 24). Toward a Catholic-Orthodox Alliance. http://en.hilarion.orthodoxia.org/7_2

Holy Transfiguration Monastery. (ed., trans.).  (2011). The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian(revised, 2nd edition). Boston, MA: Holy Transfiguration Monastery.

Morelli, G. (2008, July, 8). Good Marriage XIII: The Theology of Marriage and Sexuality.http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles8/Morelli-Smart%20Marriage-XIII-The-Theology-of-Marriage-and-Sexuality.php.

Morelli, G. (2010a, April 30). Toward healing Church schism: Overview and psycho-theological reflection.www.orthodoxytoday.org/OT/view/toward-healing-church-schism-overview-and-psycho-theological-reflection.

Morelli, G. (2010b, November 25). The Ethos of Orthodox Catechesis: The Mind of the Orthodox Church. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/view/morelli-the-ethos-of-orthodox-catechesis

Morelli, G. (2011). Moral Courage: Something the Apostolic Churches Can Do Now. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/OT/view/moral-courage-something-the-apostolic-churches-can-do-now

St. Ephraim the Syrian (1997). The Spiritual Psalter. (Br. Isaac E. Lambertsen, trans.) Liberty, TN: St. John of Kronstadt Press.

V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.

He is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.

Fr. Morelli is also Assistant Pastor of St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.

Comments

  1. Geo Michalopulos :

    Bravo, Fr George

  2. Excellent reflection Fr. George. God bless your public witness to the Truth!

  3. Michael Bauman :

    I agree, it is an excellent reflection, a good place to start but should we not do more?

    Among other things we should not single out homosexuality as the only sexual sin. Should we not also call to repentance the porn addicts, adulterers, fornicators and aborters in our midst? Is it not by facing our own sins in confession that true humility begins to grow?

    Should not the call to repenatance be for other sins as well while at the same time we redouble our efforts to serve the poor and needy in our communities both as parishes and as private persons?

    Is it not true that the more fully we reflect the reality of the Church by our visible virtue, the more powerful will be the calls to repentance and the more humble we will be?

    My fear is that too many will mistake silence acquiesence to the way of the world as humility and compassion. Must we not also guard against that?

  4. Fr. George, you must have missed the responsed of the Church and Society committee of the Episcopal Assembly to this issue:

    You may find it HERE:

  5. You know what would have been courageous? Dan Cathy telling “pro-family” Catholics and Orthodox that they were defying the very clear mandates of Scripture (Luke 16:18, Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9, Malachi 2:16) by blessing the second and third marriages of divorced heterosexuals and that these couples, because they were “shaking their fists at God”, should have their civil marriage licenses nullified.

    Now THAT would have been interesting.

    • Michael Bauman :

      Ah, but Tomas, marriage, even marriage outside the Church or outside the Biblical norms, is not sin like homosexuality is sin or fornication is sin. When a marriage is commited to God in the proper context with humility and repentance, God can bring great blessing from it because of the union. A union that is, at least, in accord with the manner in which God created us. If a person has not committed adultery but been sinned against, is that cause for a lifetime of solitude or if a loving and faithful marriage is disrupted by the evil of death?

      Failure to uphold the Biblical paradigm of marriage is certainly at the root of the glut of fornication and homosexuality just as abortion is at the root of the increasing violence in general, but especially against women and children.

      The untethering of the sexual appetite from marriage is horrible as is the gender equality blasphemy that neuters men and makes women masculine and commends that we seek our own sex to placate the urges. Unholyness abounds but, at least in marriage, grace even more abounds and softens the hardest of hearts so that the joy of His presence is made known even though the yoke is not as pristine as it should be or as light.

      I don’t know how or why God does what He does, but he blesses where and whom He blesses and what God has cleansed, call thou not unclean.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Why would that be courageous?

      • Why? Obviously, it would have risked alienating a far greater number of people than just a few gay activists and their allies. As Orthodox, you’re free to interpret Scripture in accordance with your own traditions. However, many evangelicals consider divorce and remarriage a sin explicitly condemned in Scripture (as pastor Al Mohler clarifies) and would insist that these norms be reflected not just within the church but through the way marriage law is conducted by the state.

        However, divorce and remarriage touches many, if not most, families (either directly or indirectly through extended family). Were someone to suggest these couples should not be permitted to remain within the church, that they were standing under the judgment of God or even that their civil marriages should be nullified, well … I’m thinking that they’d be considered a bit heartless, rightly or wrongly.

        Either way, I stand by Mr Cathy’s ability to voice his beliefs without fear of reprisal from pandering politicians (whether I agree with him or not).

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