On Loaves, Fish, and Chicken Sandwiches

I know people are going to misunderstand this blog. I just do, and when it happens it will be for the same reasons I am trying to highlight here. I wish it weren’t so, but there will be those that push my analogy too far

As Rachel Held Evans has pointed out, the world will survive without another Chick-fil-A post. But I have had all this rattling around my head with last Sunday’s gospel passage (John 6:1-21), and maybe I just need to get this out.

To me, one of the most dramatic and overlooked elements of this episode and the rest of John 6 is the manipulation and rapid intention to remove Jesus’ personal freedom. At the very moment this miracle becomes apparent (when the left-overs are collected), Jesus starts picking up some bad vibrations from the crowd. They want to “take him by force to make him king” (John 6:15, ESV). So Jesus runs away.

As soon as they discover the miracle that has been done, they are not driven to follow Jesus, ask him questions, or discover more about him at all. Instead they want to possess him and the power he wields. They move, against Jesus’ will, to guaranteed that he is aligned with their will, their intentions, their agenda. They don’t care what Jesus wants. They don’t care who he is. They don’t care to discover his purpose. Jesus is not a person to them, he is merely a tool to accomplish their agenda, willing or not, come hell or high water.

Here’s where I’m going to get into trouble.

I was reading this article by John Pierce on Baptists Today. His point (at least as I read Pierce’s blog), is not so much to choose sides as to reflect on the outcry through the historically Baptist lens of freedom. Pierce deserves particular commendation for his willingness to consider all this through the eyes of Dan Cathy.

As Pierce gambles to guess, I don’t believe Cathy intended to engage in a battle over gay rights. The original report seems to be the product of the Baptist Press spinmeisters, who chose to highlight a small portion of an otherwise typical interview, captioning the title in a manner so as to suggest Cathy is aligned with their greater agenda. In the uproar that followed, Cathy sought to clarify his position (which I read as “softer” than the SBC agenda  he was depicted as espousing), but the spinmeisters kept pushing. As Pierce states:

In other words, the Southern Baptist news and public relations arm is not helping Cathy (whom they claim as one of their own) in clarifying his company’s perspective and eagerness to exit the culture battlefield. They have a war to fight and they want Chick-Fil-A in their corner — willing or not.

And there it is again. “Willing or not.”

My “biblical ear” hears echoes of the John 6 text in the experience of Chick-fil-A executive Dan Cathy. Both Cathy & Jesus are seen as potentially powerful allies in a battle that neither one wants to fight. There are those that seek to manipulate what they both say and do, in order to accomplish what neither intends. Each finds himself facing an unexpected enemy–those close who work to take away their freedom and personhood, reducing them each to a weapon to be wielded or a showpiece to display.

You have the freedom to patronize Chick-fil-A, or to buy food elsewhere. You have the freedom to have your own motivations and convictions. You have the freedom to write or say what you will.

But you do not have the right to take away anyone else’s freedom. And you certainly do not have the right to suggest Jesus is on your side. Because here, in John 6, Jesus runs the other way when he sees these freedom-takers coming toward him.

 

The funny thing is that I really do believe these “issues” would be nonexistent if we would simply choose to value people over issues. Discussion over “issues” becomes so violently enraged because it ignores the human quotient; indeed, it dehumanizes those our “issues” affect.

I am intentionally naive enough to believe that if we could all sit down, break bread, maybe even eat a chicken sandwich–if we were willing & able to spend some time & engage one another with our hearts tuned toward freedom, I think we would find a lot less to fight about. And that would be a beautiful day. I think even Jesus would join us.

 

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