“Did you know that Chick-fil-A’s owner said he hated gay people?”
That question came from a 19-year-old I’ve known for years shortly after lunch. When I asked where he heard that, he said it happened in an online interview. Pressed further if he had seen that interview himself, he responded that no, but a lot of his friends had told him about it.
Okay, I told him, but that simply isn’t true. Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s president, never said anything of the sort. He only stated in a 2012 interview that he and the Cathy family backed the biblical position as expressed by Jesus Himself that marriage should be between one man and one woman. He never expressed “hate” for anyone.
Just to be sure, I did a cursory check online to see if, indeed, what my friend said had happened. All I found was the latest round of attacks against the Atlanta-based CFA from earlier this year. That included the San Antonio City Council voting to ban the restaurant from the airport and the subsequent “Save Chick-fil-A” bill signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Before that, a New Jersey college wouldn’t allow the restaurant on campus, prompting one dean to resign in protest. The reason for those actions centered on CFA’s history of giving to and supporting groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and The Salvation Army, both deemed anti-gay by their critics.
I went on to advise my friend on the importance of knowing the truth of a story, not hopping on to the narrative being peddled by the group. This is a growing issue for our country, I fear, and not one I see remedying itself in the coming years.
The odd thing is it’s a problem many admit, but few of us try to address or fix in any serious manner. A Pew Research Report earlier this year showed that half of Americans feel made-up news and information was “a very big problem” for the country. That out-paced violent crime (49%), racism (40%), and terrorism (34%).
Today there is more effort in creating truth rather than embracing it. This “creation” happens by restating something ad hominem until it reaches critical mass where people simply accept it. There is no questioning as to its veracity, much less origins. That’s what happened to my friend.
The pace of our lives – present company included – makes us vulnerable to accepting such messaging. That’s why it has become more important for us to gauge our reactions in a time where being reactionary can appear to have its benefits. Social bonus points go toward the first with a quirky comment that will be shared with others. But as the brother of Jesus wrote, we’re to be quick to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19).
I expect similar false narratives will continue to be spread about Chick-fil-A. I’ll do my best to correct others on those stories when I can, then buy a spicy chicken sandwich combo with large waffle fries and sweet tea. But this is bigger than Chick-fil-A. We’re more prone to believe the version of a story closer to the version we want. The Gospel calls us to examine what’s passed along, whether digitally or face-to-face. Test everything; hold on to the good.
Because for all the information we have at our fingertips, it’s more difficult than ever to get at the truth.