Thursday, July 26, 2012

More than just chicken

Chick-Fil-A has apparently struck a nerve. Or, perhaps more accurately, its chief executive officer Dan Cathy has done so.

The Atlanta-based fast-food firm, probably best-known for keeping its stores closed on Sundays in line with Cathy's Christian commitment, has recently drawn the ire of the mayor of Boston, Mass., for being anti-gay-rights.  Specifically, Cathy supports organizations that oppose "gay marriage" and, if my facts are correct, at least one that supports controversial "reparative therapy" for gays to change their orientation; as a result, the mayor is trying to keep Chick-Fil-A stores from opening in that city.

I don't pretend to know his motives -- whether those are his true convictions or thinks he will win gay votes in the process -- but he's wasting his time and energy.

The reason is simple:  Probably most of the folks who oppose same-gender matrimony consider that conviction bedrock and, on this issue, won't bend to the whims of popular culture.  And I mean absolutely never.  From a conservative Christian perspective, it's an issue of improper behavior, not one of "orientation."

Some on the political left have tried to frame same-gender matrimony as a civil-rights issue and especially comparing it with the oppression of African-Americans in the South.  But the analogy fails because sex, sexual expression and marriage simply aren't Constitutional rights.  Besides, one's race is often obvious, while sexual orientation doesn't have to be.

One contributor and a number of posters to Sojourners' left-leaning "God's Politics" blog have said that they would no longer patronize Chick-Fil-A.  They have that right.  They ought to understand, however, that not only will a boycott be ineffective but that it has already sparked a backlash, with supporters targeting Aug. 1 as a day they will specifically patronize the store.

In addition, as I mentioned, Cathy will not change his stance; remember that he keeps his stores closed on Sundays even though he could probably make way more money with an "after-church" rush.  So I don't know what the mayor of Boston is trying to prove.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who really built the business?

President Obama's critics had a field day when he made a speech a couple of weeks ago with the admittedly ill-timed remark "You didn't build that."  Of course, he was specifically referring to infrastructure such as roads, sewer and water systems and bridges for which government maintained responsibility, but it sounded as though he was specifically referring to businesses.

But his ultimate point was correct -- in more ways than he knew.

A lot of business owners complained that the president was pooh-poohing their hard work with that clause, although if you heard the entire speech in context you would realize that he was doing nothing of the kind.  Rather, he was criticizing the sense of entitlement and freedom from responsibility that they seemed to embody.

The big issue, however, is that those who run businesses do not operate in a vacuum.

Say if you always wanted to own your own business, you put a plan into place and ultimately become successful.  Nothing wrong with that -- but here's where you do owe more to people than you may realize.

First, you had to get the education from somewhere, either in college (which someone had to pay for) or through direct mentoring, so someone had to show you the ropes.  Then, you needed to get capital for financing, mostly likely through a bank but also perhaps through some program, whether private or public.  Then, you had to deal with suppliers.

And -- more importantly -- you had to build a customer base, for without customers all your hard work would go for naught. (I'm probably missing some steps here, but you get my drift.)

Also, if you're a Christian you have to understand that God ultimately gave you these things and that your business, but not just that, exists ultimately to glorify Him.  He requires you to treat your customers and clients with equity and justice, giving them good value for what they're paying and give your employees a fair wage or salary.

One of the major dysfunctions in our economic culture is that too often we focus exclusively on the bottom line and cutting costs, forgetting that our "investments," whether in taxes or people, represent the lifeblood of our economy.  I sometimes think of Jesus' parable of the talents, his point being that we are but stewards of God's created order, and if we simply hold on to what we have because we're afraid of losing it, down we'll do so anyway.

Basically, being in business is not simply about making money, although that's certainly necessary.  Rather, it's part of a social contract for which we all need to take responsibility.