America is becoming more intolerant and less free and only a few people are noticing. America’s increasingly toxic culture even threatens the free speech of large and profitable companies.
Fast food operator Chick-fil-A is ending charitable donations to two organizations because of criticism from gay rights activists. The groups; Chick-fil-A is cutting off, are the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, The Deseret News reports.
No sane person could consider either the Salvation Army nor the Fellowship of Christian Athletes a hate group. Yet Chick-fil-A is treating those organizations as hate groups to appease a tiny minority of extremists.
Those groups’ crime in activists’ eyes was to disagree with the popular consensus about gay marriage. As far as I know, neither the Salvation Army nor the Fellowship discriminates against gays, transgender people, or bisexuals. Instead, the organizations state an unpopular opinion that runs counter to a fashionable orthodoxy.
Chick-fil-A’s Surrender is a defeat for Free Speech
Hence, Chick-fil-A’s surrender is not only a defeat for social conservatives or Christians. Chick-fil-A’s surrender is a defeat for free speech.
The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher offers the best analysis of the Chick-fil-A saga in an 18 November 2019 column. Here is an insightful excerpt:
“Progressives and LGBT activists have every reason to gloat today,” Dreher writes. “By making Chick-fil-A surrender, they have demonstrated their power — and their illiberalism.”
“If you think compromise is possible with these progressives, you are lying to yourself,” Dreher observes. “They will not be happy until you and everyone like you are driven to the margins of public life — and even then, that won’t be enough for some of them.”
“Understand that the real currency here is not money; it’s middle-class respectability,” Dreher writes in bold. “That will be denied to Christians who remain faithful to Biblical teachings on sex and sexuality. You had better get that learned right now, Christian.”
“You aren’t going to be able to hide,” Dreher concludes. “You might be able to make a good living in your field — Chick-fil-A certainly has been — but you will always be an outsider.”
Americans will Have to Choose between Middle-Class Respectability and Freedom
Americans will have to choose between free speech and middle-class respectability, Dreher predicts. Ironically, America offers lots of freedom and success to those who do not care about middle class respectability.
Over-the-top individuals such as Donald J. Trump, Elon Musk, Dave Chappelle, Beyonce, Joe Rogan, Howard Stern, Madonna, Kanye West, Paris Hilton, and Kim Kardashian reap incredible rewards. Those celebrities; and many others, become wealthy and famous because they ignore or piss on middle-class respectability.
In fact, I view Trump’s political campaigns and publicity efforts as a war on middle-class respectability. For example, the infamous Trump rallies serve the same function as a rock concert; a place where middle-class; and working-class, people can safely violate social norms. Notably, a Trump rally is one of the few places where people can express racist opinions in public.
The Insidious Threat to Freedom
The danger is that not everybody can afford to live without middle-class respectability.
Dave Chappelle and Howard Stern can snub the woke entertainment industry, because they make their living by offending and shocking people. The average American, on the other hand, needs a job because she lives paycheck to paycheck.
For instance, CareerBuilder and the Harris Poll estimate 78% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck in 2017. Therefore, most Americans cannot afford to offend the boss, their customers, or anybody else. Those Americans need to eat and pay the mortgage.
Likewise, a large and profitable company; such as Chick-fil-A, cannot afford to offend anybody. Dreher correctly notes that Chick-fil-A’s wealth and success did not protect its free speech.
Chick-fil-A is enjoying incredible success, its same-store sales grew by 13% to 15% in 2018, Business Insider estimates. Moreover, Kalinowski Equity Research estimates that Chick-fil-A could become the third largest fast-food operator in America in 2018. Business Insider claims that Chick-fil-A’s sales could soon exceed those of Subway, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Taco Bell.
Money vs. Freedom
The privately held Chick-fil-A grew so large by being inoffensive and low key and adapting to the communities it operates in. Hence, bowing to Lesbian Gay Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) pressure is a logical business decision for Chick-fil-A.
The LGBTQ groups are an influential minority in the places Chick-fil-A needs to expand to if it wants to make more money. Large cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami, for instance.
Christians and social conservatives’ problem is that Chick-fil-A’s future is Austin, Texas, and Denver, not North Platte, Nebraska. Nobody who offends gay groups can do business in Austin or Denver.
For the record, North Platte had a population of 23,888 in 2017. In contrast, Austin had a population of 950,715 in 2017. Consequently, Chick-fil-A could open dozens of new locations in Austin and one or two in North Platte.
Why Corporate American snubs Christians
Thus the chilling message the Chick-fil-A incident sends to corporate America is: “have nothing to do with any religion. Ignore all faiths and support no religious groups or institutions.”
This puts Christians at a serious disadvantage because they have limited resources and a declining population. My analysis of Pew Research data shows America could have a post-Christian majority by 2039.
In detail, Pew estimates the percentage of Americans identifying as “Christian” fell from 78% in 2009 to 65% in 2018. Thus, the percentage of “Christians” in America fell by 13% in 10 years. If that continues for 20 years, only 39% of Americans could be “Christian” in 2039.
Nor are Evangelical Christians the huge segment of society some secularists fear. Barna polling estimates Evangelicals make up just 6% of the American population. If Barna is correct, Evangelicals are already a tiny minority.
Christians’ Market Share is Shrinking
I have to wonder if somebody at Chick-fil-A has seen Barna’s The Brand of Evangelicals research. Perhaps, Chick-fil-A’s management thinks Christians are a tiny minority who will need to adapt majority American culture to survive.
Thus, corporate America snubs and ignores Christians because their “market share” is falling. I think Chick-fil-A’s executives realize that Christians are a shrinking market.
However, Chick-fil-A management realizes that nonchristians eat chicken sandwiches. Hence, Chick-fil-A adjusts its corporate image to please secularists.
Moreover, Chick-fil-A is wisely trying to avoid becoming a target in the increasingly bloody and meaningless culture wars. Remember, Chick-fil-A’s average customer is a middle-class female office worker who does not care about the culture wars.
She just wants a cheap and tasty low-calorie lunch with a soft-drink fast. Additionally, that office worker does not care what charities Chick-fil-A donates to.
No Corporate America will not Protect Your Freedom
Chick-fil-A’s surrender shows we cannot rely on corporate America to defend our freedom.
Thus, the movement conservative and Republican Party line that corporate America is a defender of freedom is untrue. If you need more detail, Jake Meador does a great job of ripping the “corporate America protects freedom” thesis apart over at First Things.
In addition, I think asking a fast-food outlet to defend First Amendment rights is preposterous and unfair. Defending First Amendment rights is the duty of citizens and government. Chick-fil-A’s “job” is to sell chicken sandwiches, not fight for our freedoms.
Therefore, Christians will need to rethink their political loyalties. Big business is not automatically Christians’ friend or defender. Chick-fil-A shows that even supposedly “Christian” companies will throw the faithful under the bus for profit.
Moreover, Chick-fil-A’s surrender casts doubt on one of Dreher’s proposed defenses of Christian rights: supporting President Donald J. Trump (R-New York). Since Trump’s election, the Social Justice Warriors; the leftwing extremists Dreher fears, have become louder, more active, more aggressive, bolder, and more obnoxious.
How Trump Helps Social Justice Warriors
In addition, the Chick-fil-A surrender shows the Social Justice Warriors are more successful than ever. There is little Trump can do about the Chick-fil-A incident beyond sending out obnoxious Tweets.
Conversely, I think Trump empowers Social Justice Warriors by making their intolerance socially acceptable and politically popular. I think Trump and his handlers at the Republican Party want Social Justice Warriors running wild.
To explain, Social Justice Warrior outrages distract voters from the miserable economy and encourage popular political activity that does not threaten Wall Street’s profits. To elaborate, Trump understands that Christians mad about Chick-fil-A will ignore income inequality, growing poverty, Global Warming, the retirement crisis, and technological unemployment.
Thus, Trump needs the Social Justice Warriors and the Social Justice Warriors need Trump. As a result, Trump will do nothing to stop Social Justice Warriors or limit their power.
Freedom Under Threat
All Americans’ basic freedoms are under threat from a growing intolerance on both sides of the political aisle.
Every American needs to ask himself or herself, “do I want to live in a country where you must surrender your freedom for middle-class respectability and economic survival?” That is where is America is heading, and a battle over a chicken sandwich shows how fragile some of our freedoms are.