Paul Prather: Chick-fil-A gay-marriage flap not about persecution or playing the victim

Chance encounter in Chick-fil-A parking lot provides food for thought

Contributing columnistAugust 10, 2012 

Cars were lined up at the Nicholasville Road Chick-fil-A restaurant Aug. 1 as people showed their support for the chain. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, had declared it Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day in response to calls by gay rights and other groups for boycotts after chain president Dan Cathy publicly supported the "biblical definition of a family."

I'd stopped at a Lexington Chick-fil-A hoping to see a fistfight between a Christian fanatic and a gay guy, when who should I spy in the parking lot but the world-renowned Religion Guru? He was sitting placidly in his 1981 Chevrolet Chevette.

I grabbed my digital recorder from my car and ran to catch him before he could drive away. Turned out he was dipping a chicken strip in barbecue sauce when I interrupted him. Here's a transcript of our conversation.

Me: It's you! His Holiness the Religion Guru! How long has it been?

Religion Guru: Due to a vision, The Religion Guru now prefers to be addressed as The R.G. If you prefer, you also may call me Reverend Mojo.

Me: R.G., we've needed you. Where were you?

R.G.: That's The R.G. There is none other. To answer your question, I have been sitting on a mountaintop in Owsley County.

Me: Contemplating spiritual mysteries?

The R.G.: Plus watching television. My satellite dish is old. It works better at higher elevations.

Me: What brings you down to Lexington?

The R.G.: The R.G. experienced a profound craving for Chick-fil-A.

Me: Oh, then you're against gay marriage.

The R.G.: Gay marriage? What has that got to do with chicken strips? The R.G. is a chicken connoisseur. Chick-fil-A makes fine chicken.

Me: You haven't heard about the cultural donnybrook that's going on? You don't watch Fox News or even MSNBC?

The R.G.: The R.G. prefers reruns of The King of Queens and Bonanza. And he likes Jeopardy. The R.G. knows the questions to all Final Jeopardy answers.

Me: Well, the rest of us are engaged in the most important spiritual struggle since the Reformation. Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A and an evangelical, said he's against gay marriage. Gay people and liberals are calling him everything but a Rhode Island Red. Christians say they're being persecuted and denied free speech.

The R.G.: (Sigh.)

Me: What's wrong?

The R.G.: To borrow a line from contemporary prophet Chris Rock, The R.G. is tired, tired, tired, tired, tired. Or, as Kevin James might say on The King of Queens, The R.G. wishes people would occasionally shutty.

Me: Shutty?

The R. .: It's a polite way of saying "Shut the (deleted) up."

Me: That's not very holy!

The R.G.: Sorry. But The R.G. gives not a flip whether Cathy is for or against gay marriage. The R.G. doesn't care if Cathy himself is gay. The R.G. doesn't care if Cathy engages in carnal congress with a brontosaurus in the Creation Museum's gift shop. The R.G. comes to Chick-fil-A for chicken, not moral indoctrination.

Me: I'm surprised at your attitude. Shouldn't Christians who hold positions of leadership take a stand for God? I mean, prominent liberals voice their opinions.

The R.G.: The R.G. is equally tired of them. The R.G. didn't give a fig what the Dixie Chicks thought of George Bush. The R.G. doesn't care what Bono thinks about anything. The R.G. doesn't care what any singers, actors or chicken sellers — left or right — think about politics, religion or the culture wars. The R.G. does not remotely desire to be favored with their insights.

Me: What about First Amendment rights? Cathy only voiced his beliefs. Then he was gobsmacked by every gay person in America.

The R.G.: Are you high on bath salts? That is the First Amendment. If a citizen ventures into the public arena to make a strong pronouncement on any sensitive subject, somebody's going to get mad and call him an idiot. The subject doesn't have to be gay marriage. It could be highway improvement. You've got the First Amendment, they've got the First Amendment. All God's children got a First Amendment. Which, by the way, would make a killer gospel song: All God's Children Got a First Amendment. The R.G. might write it.

Me: But several big-city mayors even threatened to bar Chick-fil-A from opening new restaurants in their towns. Aren't they persecuting Christians?

The R.G.: Bath salts — give them up, I said. Persecution is when the government carts you off to be fed alive to lions. Persecution is when your neighbors show up at your house with machetes and hack you to pieces because you're the wrong skin shade, tribe or faith. Besides, in America, mayors can't stop you from opening a restaurant just because they don't like your religion. That's illegal.

Me: I admit, the mayors pretty much got gobsmacked themselves.

The R.G.: I'm sure they did. To The R.G., all this nonsense sounds like a mere difference of opinions. Christians need to quit playing the victim. If you can't stand being disagreed with, stop expressing yourself.

Me: Christians would say gay activists play the victim, too.

The R.G.: Hypersensitivity, caterwauling and self-pity are common to all factions today. It's our national curse.

(The R.G. finished his last chicken strip, then licked his lips contentedly.)

Me: I never know what to make of you. Are you Christian or heathen? Conservative or liberal? Logical or a crank?

The R.G.: What The R.G. is, sir, is weary of hearing people howl and whine about every imaginable thing. (He turned the key in his car's ignition and pumped the gas pedal. The engine ground, then sputtered to life.) What I am is on my way back to my holy mountain. If The R.G. hurries, he can catch four consecutive episodes of Law and Order.

With that, he revved his rusty Chevette and tore out of the parking lot, heading east in a cloud of blue smoke.

Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You may email him at

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