Yesterday’s Chik-fil-A Appreciation Day—organized by Mike Huckabee to support the company amidst criticism from same-sex marriage activists and Democratic officials—created historic, record-breaking sales for the company. Good for them. I’m not one for expressing my politics through my dining (which is why I haven’t “dumped Starbucks”), but I’m glad to see people support corporations seen as dissenting from the mainstream. My hope is that some of those people who visited Dan Cathy’s chain yesterday actually disagreed with him, but wanted to support a more varied public conversation.
I didn’t dine at Chik-fil-A, by the way. Instead I met a friend at Murray’s Falafel, a small, family-owned restaurant on New York’s Lower East Side. We had brought a couple of beers to go with our meal, but the waiter we asked to open them apologetically expressed doubt over whether or not they were kosher by the standards of the restaurant’s supervising rabbi. We told him it was fine, that we were Christians and understood the claims made by faith.
A minute later, a waitress came out and, after we googled the beer, told us that she was sure it was kosher and that we could drink it. Which we promptly did, feeling grateful to the waitress and respectful of the conscientiousness of the waiter. You might say that we were toasting pluralism and particularity in the marketplace. We didn’t share the moral outlook of our servers, but we respected their ordering their lives according to certain commitments.
There is probably little hope of such respect emerging among liberals for the views of men like Dan Cathy. As I’ve argued before, in America liberals and conservatives, secularists and Christians, understand themselves as sharing a common moral inheritance. They are not members of two cultures who can come to respect, even if not quite accept, each others’ foreign ways. They are people contending over one and the same culture. Pluralism is the recognition that others have a seat at the table, but our various culture skirmishes are about two people fighting for the same seat—not incidentally, the one at the head.