In one posting yesterday, I looked at the response of Scottish Catholic leaders to their brothers and sisters who happen to have been made gay by God. I argued that when religious leaders forfeit human decency through vicious and amoral attacks on gay human beings, they lose moral credibility. In another posting, I focused on the current boycott of Chick-fil-A and found myself agreeing with the (Catholic) mayor of Boston Thomas Menino that gay rights are human rights and deserve the support of decent human beings.
The human rights-human decency-moral credibility triangle is in my head again this morning as I look at the thread of responses to Michael O'Loughlin's posting at America about the Chick-fil-A boycott. I'm struck, in particular, by the proud Catholic men who use the thread to announce defiantly that they intend, by God, to stop and eat at Chick-fil-A now, given any chance they have to do so. A defiant proclamation that puts them in bed with some GOP leaders in my home state of Arkansas who, as Max Brantley writes on today's Arkansas Times blog, have been braying on Twitter and Facebook that they are loving them some Chick-fil-A now that they learn they can enjoy fried chicken and bash the gays simultaneously. A moral and religious twofer which demonstrates that God prospers and blesses those who stand in the right.
One theme of the love-me-some-chicken-with-a-side-of-hate crowd at the America thread is that the boycotters are making up the allegation that Chick-fil-A is anti-gay. According to this meme, Chick-fil-A's CEO Dave Cathy has stated merely that he's pro-family, pro-biblical family. Not anti-gay.
Peter Montgomery deftly demolishes this argument at Religion Dispatches, in response to Terry Mattingly's contention at Get Religion that Cathy is being wildly misrepresented as anti-gay when, in fact, he's pro-marriage, pro-traditional marriage. Not anti-gay at all. This controversy has nothing to do with the gays. It's about marriage!
To which Montgomery replies, "Oh, come on."
And then he points to the millions of dollars that Cathy has donated from his Chick-fil-A profits to virulently anti-gay groups like Family Research Council, and his statement in other contexts that we're "shaking our fist at" God when we seek to redefine marriage. As Montgomery notes, and as any informed person knows, "[t]alking about the 'biblical definition of the family unit' in today’s political climate means preventing same-sex couples from getting married, whether or not the words 'gay marriage' are used . . . ."
My bottom line: you forfeit moral credibility when you forfeit human decency. When you try to make a targeted minority group a parable about society's moral decline, ignoring all evidence of moral instability among those with the reins of power (a "those" which happens to include you, when you're heterosexual and male), you forfeit human decency. And you forfeit moral credibility along with it.
A church which centers its message around such attacks on targeted minorities and their human rights, and around claims that the minority group is to be equated with disease and death (a claim on which Scottish Catholic leaders are now doubling down as they defend Archbishop-elect Tartaglia), loses credibility as it presents its message to the world.
If Catholic liberals really want to know what causes many people in the world today to turn away from Christianity and the "answers" it offers to the world, perhaps they would do well not to talk only among themselves, among other largely white, largely well-heeled, largely heterosexual Catholics. They might do well to slum just a little bit and ask the gays what we think of people like Tartaglia, Cathy, the valiant fried-chicken brigade of lads at the America thread to which I point above, and the "answers" these folks offer us in the name of Christ.