Melissa Browning, Ph.D.
Atlanta, Georgia USA

Melissa Browning is a theologian, ethicist, and activist who studies congregational and community-based responses to injustice. Melissa teaches at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University where she is the Assistant Professor of Contextual Ministry. For the past 17 years Melissa’s study and fieldwork has been tied to East Africa. Her recent book, "Risky Marriage: HIV and Intimate Relationships in Tanzania," builds on a year of fieldwork completed in Mwanza, Tanzania where women were asked to re-imagine Christian marriage as a space of safety and health for women. Melissa is also active in death penalty abolitionist work in Georgia and is an ordained Baptist minister.

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Activism LGBTQ

The Nugget Boycott: Week Two

By on August 1, 2012

This post originally appeared at Huffington Post on August 1, 2012


It’s been two weeks. I’m nearly through the detox period. OK, I’m exaggerating. I do (usually) eat other things besides those tasty chicken nuggets. But like a bad diet, when you’ve set something off limits, you really start to crave it.

One question I’ve been asked is, “Why boycott?” Good question. I am not arrogant enough to think that Chick-fil-A will miss the $7 bucks I give them once a week for that nuggets combo. And unless Dan Cathy and his buddies stumbled on my article by googling themselves, they likely don’t know I exist. This is OK because here’s the thing: I’m not boycotting to get revenge. I’m not trying to “stick it to them.” I’m boycotting to save my own soul.

You see, each time I walk past a Chick-fil-A without stopping in, I reaffirm my commitment to not contribute to an organization that marginalizes people based on their sexual orientation. In this small act, I am paying attention to my own moral formation. The decisions we make each day, especially the ordinary ones, shape the people we are becoming. In boycotting, I am less concerned about Chick-fil-A’s reaction, and more concerned about my own conscience. Changing ourselves is the first step in creating change in our world.

Of course, I would love it if Dan and the good folks at Chick-fil-A saw things differently. I honestly wish that they knew some of the good people I know. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks who live each day in loving, committed relationships with God and each other. Folks who raise their kids with care and faithfully sit in the pews and serve in their churches on Sunday mornings. I want them to know that Christians on the “other side” are reading the same Bible they are reading, but coming out with different conclusions. This is because we have realized (from knowing each other and seeing God in each other) that in the time the Bible was being written, there was simply no concept of committed, loving or even consensual same-sex relationships. The same-sex relationships we know today would have been nearly impossible in a biblical world ruled by patriarchy. And while we’re on the subject, opposite-sex relationships where women were not property would have been nearly impossible as well.

We all want people to see things the way we do, or at least to hear us out. This is our human nature and I believe it comes from our longing to be in community with each other. From the way Chick-fil-A spends their money on anti-gay campaigns, I can assume that the good folks at Chick-fil-A might wish that people like me on the “other side” would see things their way too.

A lot of people have assumed that I’m boycotting Chick-fil-A because of Dan Cathy’s personal views on “gay marriage.” (There have been letters!) But that’s really not it. I have friends and family members who share his same view. We still go out for lunch and coffee and have yet to “boycott” each other (unless you count those people who have unfriended me on Facebook this week). My response is about the civil rights that I believe should be extended to all people. It is about the$5 million that Chick-fil-A has given to organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled as “hate groups,” groups who are trying to convince us that civil rights are only for straight folks.

Some of the money that Chick-fil-A is using to fund these groups came from my wallet, which means I share in this brokenness and violence that has been done in the name of Christ. As a person of faith, as a former customer at this establishment, I am also responsible, and therefore I have a responsibility to respond.

So here’s my response to Dan and the good folks at Chick-fil-A and to any others who might find themselves listening: Perhaps I’m too optimistic, but I would like to think that a church built on the teachings of Christ could agree on at least a few issues in this “debate.” Yet, instead, we’ve entered into a war of words where it has become too easy to do violence against each other or violence against ourselves. Some words that are being spoken are in themselves violence. These words forget that we’re not talking about an issue, but real living and breathing people, all created in the image of God.

As a follower of the Christ, who said we will be known by our love, I believe that its time to find some common ground. Contrary to the opinion of a few pastors who have spoken hate from the pulpit, I believe that most Christians agree that hate crimes are wrong. Should we not also agree that hate speech, which too often incites violence, is also wrong? When Christians like Dan Cathy evoke images of God’s judgment, then they are contributing to an environment where people feel compelled to take this “judgment” into their own hands.

I was glad to read this week that Chick-fil-A has decided to not make any more statements on same-sex marriage. This is a start but it’s not near enough, not as long as they are paying others to speak hate for them. I guess we boycotters will wait for next year’s financial reports to come out to see what Chick-fil-A has done with their charitable giving. After all, Christian Scriptures tell us that “where your treasure (or your money) is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34, NRSV). Until then, I guess we’ll all just learn how to make our own Chick-fil-gay sandwiches at home.