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Give Up My Waffle Fries? Are You Kidding Me? But ...

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

August 8, 2012

This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.

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Give Up My Waffle Fries? Are You Kidding Me? But ...

Give up my waffle fries? Are You Kidding Me? Have you lost your mind? I love love love Chick-fil-A.

Those waffle fries are so freakin good, the potato addict that I am cannot live without them.

And I LOVE those chicken nuggets. Chick-fil-A is some of the best fast food I've EVER had and let's not forget that Banana Pudding Milkshake, it will make you slap someone it's so good.

Up until a year ago there were no Chick-fil-A's in my neck of the woods; I would only catch them while on the road speaking, mostly in the airport. Then, they opened in my neighborhood on Chicago's Gold Coast and I've made my way there often because Sophie loves those fries and nuggets too.

I didn't learn about the politics of the owner until about 6 months ago. I was standing in line and 3 openly gay guys walked up behind me. The one friend was telling the other 2 friends that he was not going to eat there. He said, "You can eat here and I'll watch." So I jumped in and asked why. He explained that the owner was super religious, anti-gay and has strict policies about who could buy a franchise. "You must be married," the guy spouted out. Hmmmm, I thought that was a bit extreme but I shrugged it off. NOTHING was gonna stop me on that day from getting my waffle fries and nuggets.

Give Up My Waffle Fries? Are You Kidding Me? But ...

As they walked out, I turned back in line and waited my turn. I got my order and sat in the very busy Chick-fil-A and savored each bite, the foodie that I am. Deciding to stay and eat that day was major for me because I'm the woman who boycotted grapes for years in support of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. I boycotted Campbell's Soup for years for the same reasons. You have to remember, before I became an AIDS Activist I spent my first 12 years in politics as a national political organizer; a history that I am very proud of. I don't cross picket lines under any circumstance. There could be a check on the other side of the door and they would have to bring it to me, or I just won't get it.

My politics is long and deep and I tend to be on the left side of left. In college I organized the Free South Africa Movement and led the boycott against my university because the foundation invested in South Africa. I remember I boycotted Whoopi Goldberg for years because she performed in white South African resorts at the height of Apartheid. "How dare she?" I thought! "Didn't she understand the suffering of the people?" As a black woman I couldn't understand why she would perform in a place where blacks were not welcomed, this was the '80s not the '60s when there was very little choice.

But that day standing in the line at Chick-fil-A I had failed my comrades in the movement over some darn waffle fries. My gut said to me, "You should get out of line and read about them." But I could taste those waffle fries and I promised that young man that I would. But that turned into a lie and the truth wasn't in it. To learn more, would force me into action and I was NOT giving up those waffle fries! NOT! So I went on with my life.

Then a week ago, I was forced with having to face my truths. I had seen some tweets about Chick-fil-A, but I didn't click on the links. I was NOT giving up my waffle fries! I didn't want to know the details! Then my BFF Luke picked me up from the airport on Wednesday night as I arrived to New York City for Blog Her 12 and it was the first thing he hit me with.

Lawd, Lawd, Lawd, I didn't want to get involved, I was NOT giving up one of the best milkshakes I've ever tasted in life. I said, "Boo, so what he stands for what he believes in." Took a deep breath and continued, "You know I have a lot of critics too. Remember, I just wrote a book addressing my methodology. I got kicked out of Delta because I say what I mean and mean what I say and I don't apologize!" I asked, "Why should the owner of Chick-fil-A be punished because he stands for what he believes in?"

Give Up My Waffle Fries? Are You Kidding Me? But ...

"But Boo," Luke said, "You don't understand. He's just not anti-gay, he supports organizers that depict gays as pedophiles and sub-human." I took yet another deep breath, it was not looking good for my waffle fries. I started to listen. After a wonderful dinner at Chez Lucienne, a great French restaurant in Harlem, we grabbed dessert at Sylvia's and headed home to have it with some tea. I opened my laptop and goggled the debate and my mouth dropped to the floor. I knew then that I would never eat those waffle fries again. Never! And I'm mourning.

I was at Blog Her and that took all of my energy, so I just watched the madness from the sidelines. The pictures of long lines, the debates on Facebook, the tweets and it all made my stomach turn. I couldn't deal with it then because I was deep into Blog Her 12, but I have to address this. I became sick to my stomach the more I read about how the chairman of the board of Chick-fil-A spends his money. For Example, there is a claim that one organization Chick-fil-A supports through its philanthropic organization, Winshape, spent $25,000 to lobby congress in support of the "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda. Click HERE for more on the Uganda campaign.

There is NOTHING Christian about that. NOTHING! When Jesus was brought the woman found committing adultery, He said to the people, "He who is without sin cast the first stone." Russell Simmons Global Grind did a great article on how Chick-fil-A spends its money, click HERE.

Give Up My Waffle Fries? Are You Kidding Me? But ...

For sure they have donated money to the Right Wing Organization the Family Foundation, that is an active advocate against important stem cell research and the right for a woman to choose, along with its anti-gay issues that they promote.

While I am always faced with the moral dilemma of abortion, I will never advocate or support someone who advocates the elimination of a woman's right to choose. The period before choice was ugly for women in the United States and I don't think the government has a right to tell a woman what she can do with her body, that's between her and God. And quiet as it's kept, the legislating of a woman's body has always been connected to the agenda of men from one end of the globe to the other.

There is a slippery slope when the government can regulate your body. I suggest you take in some history and read Plessy v. Ferguson: A Brief History With Documents, edited by Brook Thomas. In a Democracy, it has been shown over and again, that when you open up the door for the disenfranchisement of one, it leads to the disenfranchisement of others. That was the main argument in the one dissenter in the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case, declaring separate but equal legal.

As a minister, I am saddened. The fact that people were standing in long lines to support what they believed to be a Christian idea. It showed me how much people don't really know about their own faith on the one hand, and on the other, I wondered if they were really standing in line to simply show their distain for gay lifestyle and not their faith at all.

This picking and choosing and layers of sin Christians seem to have is getting on my last nerve and truly it's simply justification for hate for what you don't understand, not about our Christian faith.

FYI: For the Super SAVED, SIN is SIN and if you had sex this week and you are NOT married, that was SIN. There is NO where in the Bible where one sin is set above another. When Jesus was on the cross, He STOPPED dying for the thief; he didn't say, you gotta promise me you won't sin no more. He simply said, "Today you shall be with me in paradise."

I'm going to say it again, Jesus gave two commandments in His earthly ministry, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and to love thy neighbor as thyself. The kinds of organizations Chick-fil-A gives money to are NOT about this love, it's about spreading hate, untruths and the disenfranchisement of segments of our society, from gays to women. It's one thing to say you don't support gay life style, it is another thing to support organizations that advocate their death and or spread lies about them.

I'm not sure which is worse, using the Bible to spread hate or our lack of knowledge about these issues. I was extra saddened to see so many African Americans jumping on the band wagon. Like really? Are we as a people that saved and self-righteous that we would become in solidarity with someone who spreads hate?

Have we forgotten that we were once declared sub-human to justify our bondage, first in slavery and then through Jim Crow laws? And don't tell me that's different, because Dr. King fundamentally believed when one group of people are disenfranchised, we all were. Or have you only read the I Have a Dream speech and not his theological writings? Well, I suggest you pick up, A Testament of Hope, The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr..

Rustin Baynard and Martin Luther King Jr.

Have you forgotten, or maybe you didn't know that the CHIEF Strategist for the Civil Rights moment was a Black gay man, Rustin Baynard? What is this? We have become a people I'm starting not to even know.

We will stand in the heat in long lines to show our dislike of gay lifestyle, but won't even tackle the fact that Bishop Eddie Long is a pedophile who groomed young boys of 12-13 with NO fathers to have sex with him and then when they were of legal age at 17 in the state of Georgia, he started the sexual relationship with them, so he couldn't go to jail. This was sick, a calculated pedophile and clergy abuse. Then when Pastor Jamal Bryant got his assistant pregnant and she went public, she got kicked out of the church and ostracized.

What is wrong with us? We will let R. Kelly lead a back to school parade for kids in Chicago, when he video taped himself having sex and then urinated on a 13 year old child and then we turned around and called her fast, rather than accept the sickness pushed onto her. We have mega churches that aren't addressing HIV/AIDS when it's the number one killer of black women between the ages of 25-34 and we as a people are 54% of all HIV cases in the United States and only 12% of the population. We throw away our family members who are gay, but we embrace a bigot in the name of Christianity.

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Jerry (LA, CA) Fri., Aug. 17, 2012 at 12:53 pm EDT
Hi Rae:
Can you post your source that Chick-Fil-A supported the Uganda Bill? (there's too much mis-information online)
According to Snopes, that is not true..(last paragraph)
http://www.snopes.com/politics/sexuality/chickfila.asp

I know many good Christian groups that vehemently opposed that bill.

Sure everyone has their first amendment right to their opinion, but I have many gay friends that work for Chick-Fil-A, and they've had nothing but a great experience with the company...and the waffle fries! I don't agree with the KKK, but under our constitution, they have their freedom of speech and religion too.

Thanks for a great article!
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Comment by: Douglas (Miami Beach, FL) Thu., Aug. 16, 2012 at 11:57 pm EDT
I was nervous when I read the headline of your article, but relieved and pleased by the time I finished reading it. I'm not Christian, but I think that Christ (and certain other religious icons) led a model life and I aspire to emulate the philosophies he embodied. What Cathy is doing is not what Christ do. I know you know that and say thanks for standing with us.

P.S. Sorry if you'll miss the waffle fries, but they aren't good for you anyway.
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Comment by: Gregory S. (Saint Helena CA) Thu., Aug. 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm EDT
Thank you for a very thoughtful statement.

I for one know that in my heart I am not an evil person, just weak in my resolve and regretful when I dissapoint myself in my loving interactions with others. I cannot live my life in expectation of an unknown such as heaven, but only live in this reality, based on what I know and how I wish to play fairly.

My crisis of faith happened decades ago and while I still adhere to the philosopy of Jesus Christ, and many other historical wise persons, I cannot in anyway align myself with any of the myriad of intrepretations of his teachings from the Catholic church to the many protesting sects that sprung from that coroporate instition. They seem to me to have lost their way and more intent on judgement rather than the instruction of love and caring. The same applies to many other religions we have spawned thoughout human history.

To think that one has an exclusive connection to a supposedly omnipotent being is hubris at best. To think that It is restricted to one representation of Itself is to limit the very definition of an unfathomable and limitless Divine being. It may indeed be all of the above and without reproach in such representation.

I believe man has mostly created gods in his own likeness and prejudices in a attempt to answer the questions of purpose and the meaning of life. Belief neither proves the existence of such an entity, nor does it eliminate the possibility of chaos.

If we are created in the image of a god, our deceptions, deceits and many images of god on the planet suggest a problematic deity.
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Comment by: saint james (Boston, MA) Thu., Aug. 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm EDT
What a wonderful commentary. I love that you are a thinking and reading follower of Christ; not merely a lemming of the religious right. I admire both the conviction of of your view and your eloquence. I believe that if people really believe that abortion was murder they would advocate to prevent people from doing it. In that regard I fully support the CEO's efforts re; abortion. Re: Hate groups of any kind are dangerous. I think that mischaracterizations are happening on both sides. I think the religious right who lump all Christians in the same bunch and label as haters is a toxic lie and a disservice to dialogue and communication. The religious right who claim that all gay people want to molest your children and turn America into a gay bath house is also a lie and is out of character for the Christ they claim to follow. Boycotting Chik-fil-A was as misguided as going there to buy a sandwich in support. Jesus didn't appreciate the purchase of a sandwich to make a man even more wealthy. Did you give the sandwich away to a hungry person? Going to the establishment to have a kiss in was plain just ineffective. The right points and says: "See!? I told you!" Bad move politically and socially. There is no Chik-fil-A here in Boston yet. Mayor Menino told the company they were not welcome here because their views do not reflect the views of Boston. Some Christians are asking if they are no longer welcome if they don't support same sex marriage. Rhetoric, talking points and blanket comments are never truly helpful. I appreciate your viewpoint and will follow
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Comment by: Seer Clearly (San Jose, CA) Thu., Aug. 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm EDT
Rae, Thank you for your insightful comments. However I'm puzzled by the blind spot you have for waffle fries. Nothing at Chick-fil-A is healthy, and when I say that I mean it's very UN-healthy. As Paula Deen recently found out, burying the truth about what you're eating somewhere in your unconscious is just about as self-destructive as burying the truth about your relationship with the Divine in there. If you'd like some clarity on this, I reccomend the movie, "Forks over Knives" Truly, the two issues are related: if you feel dull, tired, weak, and overstimulated from a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, you also cannot achieve the mental clarity to grasp and embody the concepts you have been writing about. Spiritual purity always goes hand in hand with purifying the material existence, which starts with your body. Your essay really is telling us that we can't live unconsciously anymore, and that goes for what we eat as well.
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Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

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