Changing Times, Chicken, and the Blessings of Constancy

In 1946, S. Truett Cathy, took out a small loan and opened a restaurant in Hapeville, GA. The humble establishment had four tables and ten counter seats. Cathy named it, aptly, the Dwarf Grill. Full of optimism and ambition, if not experience, Cathy experimented with different ways to make flavorful chicken in short order, and his business steadily grew by serving up quality food in a friendly atmosphere – it wasn’t uncommon to find one of his three children mingling with the customers – 24 hours a day, six days a week.

Cathy refined his culinary skills, and by 1963, he’d developed the recipe for what would later become known as the Chick-fil-A sandwich. Chick-fil-A, Inc., was launched the following year and soon began to pioneer the in-mall fast food market where the Chick-fil-A sandwich became a favorite of hungry shoppers.

The restaurant chain thrived. By the late 1970s, annual sales topped $100 million. Chik-fil-A was a textbook American success story.

Crisis
Then came a crisis. The deep recession of the early 1980s brought a sharp drop in revenue, and that, combined with soaring chicken prices and heavy debt (with interest rates hovering around 21 percent), landed Chick-fil-A in economic dire straits.

In 1982, Cathy took his top managers on a retreat to strategize. At issue: whether to maintain Chick-fil-A’s lifelong practice of closing on Sundays or to consider opening up on Sundays to take advantage of weekend shopping traffic. The move would add an estimated 16 percent to current revenues, quite possibly the difference between corporate survival and bankruptcy. Furthermore, the policy had at times created difficulty securing mall contracts; the change could open up avenues that had previously been closed. As a matter of mere economics, the decision was a no-brainer.

But there had always been more to Cathy’s decision-making than the merely economic. Truett Cathy was a devout Christian. From the day he opened the Dwarf Grill, he had cared for his employees and their needs (and, not coincidentally, enjoyed the lowest turnover rate in the industry). He believed that he honored God by honoring his employees and customers. His commitment to Sunday closure had been instituted in keeping with the principle of honoring God first, both in personal life and in business. And it honored his employees by freeing them up to rest, to be with their families, and to attend worship services if they so chose.

At A Crossroads
Now the company was at a crossroads. Would it adjust to the times, do what most of its competition had been doing for years, and open for business on Sundays to get through the crisis? Or would it maintain the policy Cathy had always believed was the God-honoring course, knowing it very well could end in business failure?

At bottom, Cathy had to decide whether his organization’s culture would be directed by God’s compass or a by gauge of human making. He chose the former and decided to serve God first, letting the remaining chips fall where they may. On that retreat, Cathy rededicated the business to God and, in conjunction with his management team, crafted a new corporate mission statement:

“To Glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The company survived. Through the 1980s and 90s, it added innovative menu items, introduced three delightfully endearing, semi-literate cows that mutely invited us to “Eat Mor Chikin,” and sales grew sufficiently to maintain the Sunday closure and weather the crisis.

There’s an interesting twist at the end of this story too. Not only has Chick-fil-A faithfully served its employees and customers for over half a century now. It also, ironically, served its competitors in the malls during that steep recession. “Some of our competitors in the malls tell me,” Cathy said much later, “that they wouldn’t have made it if we didn’t close on Sundays.”

Well, whaddya know? Faithfulness and honoring God first serves everyone.

I think I’ll Eat Mor Chikin.

Yefemiya Goes to The Library

(Intern 2 points out the hopefully symbiotic relationship between public libraries and private discernment.)

Yesterday a Facebook Friend of mine posted a story about finding a library book that had undergone a little DIY expurgation. Someone who’d checked out the book previously had taped blank bits of paper over every description of a pretty girl character. The Friend posted one of the covered descriptions in its entirety. It said basically that the girl was slender and graceful, and mentioned the shades of her hair and skin. That was all.

Because this Friend is a homeschool grad who might have been in my church youth group had she not lived in another state, I’m going to go ahead and call her Yefemiya. And while I’ve known a number of Yefemiyas and McHaleys whose mothers or fathers might have censored their library books with blank pieces of paper (and not de-censored them upon return. No one, at least, seems to have been capable of breaking out a black Sharpie for this purpose), this Yefemiya and her parents found it hilarious. And silly.

I find this hilarious and silly, too. In fact, the thought of this story even now makes me break out into huge, heaving breaths of laughter that are the physical equivalent of sobs. In a moment Intern 1, who shares the office, is going to be looking at me strangely.

But there it is. Yefemiya found an innocuous book in the library that was censored by another library patron.

Maybe it is debatable that the taped-over passages in the book were innocuous, but it is not debatable that the book, a public resource, was censored by one person, by an individual.

To be fair, this individual may have simply forgotten to remove the papers before returning the book. But it is not impossible that the individual left them in deliberately for the benefit of other patrons.

It’s not impossible that the papers were left in deliberately, because the attitude behind such an action is very much a present and living thing.

This is the attitude that the public library, a resource operated for the benefit of every single person in the community, should remove from availability any materials an individual deems problematic. And this is not what the library is for.

I am not saying that some materials are not objectively problematic, or that all materials should be of unquestionable access to all patrons. In fact, I am highly in favor of “issue” picture books being given their own shelf, separate and apart from the rest of the children’s section, so that I can set my future children loose to choose books without worrying that they’ll come back with “Lacey’s Uncle Was An Aunt.” But it is not within the library’s proper authority, or sphere, if you will, to remove “Lacey’s Uncle Was An Aunt” from circulation entirely.

This is not what the library is for. The library is there to provide the materials that suit its capacity and the demands of the community as a whole. Staff cannot and do not prevent patrons from using the whole library system to obtain materials that their library does not stock.

The public library exists to freely provide information and resources to the public.

We, as the public, are then free to choose what we take and what we do not take. We are free to be discerning.

We, not the library, are responsible for overseeing what our children are exposed to. We are free to help them be discerning.

These are our rights and responsibilities as individual library patrons. Or as library non-patrons (it’s a beautiful thing, our liberty to abstain).

The library, not us, makes materials available either remotely or immediately available to everyone. The library is not the gatekeeper.

We can be the gatekeepers for ourselves and those for whom we are responsible. We cannot make the library be the gatekeeper for others. And we cannot be the gatekeeper for others themselves.

It is well within a parent’s right to censor the library book their child borrowed in a way that does not permanently deface or damage the book, which is after all Continue reading

Some Girls, Part 2: What Words Mean

Continuing from Part 1, Intern 2 extrapolates on the consequences of vagueness in rhetoric

It is a little alarming that the following assertion should need to be made. It would be a relief it turned out to be unnecessary. But please bear with me a moment, as I’ll breathe easier knowing these words are out.

Women, like men, are creatures of God, and therefore are possessed of individual souls and unique vocations. Please trust me when I say that women do not function together as a vast hive intelligence. Women are not only not a vast hive intelligence, we are more specifically not a vast hive intelligence that, created for the sole or main purpose of serving the needs of men, was corrupted by the Fall into a vast hive intelligence that functions solely to drive men to sin. (Just like men do not and never have existed as a vast hive intelligence that functions solely to make women miserable, a viewpoint comfortingly less common than its vocal espousers make it appear.)

There is a distinction between what some women do as individuals and what all women do as a sex. There is also a distinction in how to approach the determination of what some individual women do and what women as a sex tend toward.

There is a distinction between making a statement about “some women” or “that woman who” and making a statement about, plainly, “women.”

One is an observation of something that individuals or an individual did or does.

The other is an observation of something that a whole half of the living population of humanity did or does.

Clearly these types of observation are not equivalent.

It is not accurate to state that “Women have been indoctrinated by feminism to think they enjoy working fourteen hours a day,” or “Women are naturally overjoyed to spend the whole of each day in their homes with three toddlers, two of whom are in diapers,” or “Women like to drive trucks” or “Men like to get exfoliation treatments” or “Ladies prefer salad” or “Gentlemen prefer steak.” While in some contexts the statement is clearly a generalization and not actually applicable to an entire sex, the actual meaning doesn’t change and the ambiguity can turn off-putting. And worse than off-putting, when discussing divorce, abortion, or abuse (or, as described in Part 1, false allegations thereof), this vague rhetoric becomes unjustly accusatory.

But put a “some” or a “many” in front of the sentence? Or the number from a reliably obtained statistic? Then it becomes true, if not empirically proven, and we can acknowledge that women, and men, are possessed of unique souls, and that no sin or virtue or struggle or preference can necessarily be attributed across the board.

Our nature as God’s image remains fundamentally the same; the good things we strive toward for joy and salvation are simple, few, and alike; but the details, and the means of striving, are richly varied.

We are given the means to express this in language, in rhetoric. Let’s use language carefully, for the fullness of truth.

(If you see an instance where this blog hasn’t used language carefully for the fullness of truth, please speak up.)

Sincerely yours,

Intern 2

Phillips on “The Rage Against God”

I’ve been meaning to read this book. In fact, the Salvo managing editor let me borrow it well over a month ago and, for various reasons, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. But after reading this short article by Robin Phillips about Peter Hitchens, i think it’s definitely time I got started on it. From Robin’s article “Transforming Evil into Good“:

. . .

The notion that ideas have consequences is one of the themes in Peter Hitchens’ latest book, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. Published last year by Continuum, the book tells the fascinating story of Peter’s rejection of his boyhood faith, his pursuit of socialist utopianism, and finally his return to faith in later life.

Hitchens’ return to Christianity was a slow process involving many factors. One of these factors was the time he spent in the Soviet Union as a reporter during the 90’s. Living in Moscow during the twilight of the Soviet empire, Hitchens was able to witness firsthand what happens to a society that tries to structure itself on atheistic principles.

The brutal and dehumanizing aspects of the Soviet Union are common knowledge, as is the fact that the nation tried to structure itself on an atheistic worldview. While no one disputes these two facts, some people have doubted that there is a necessary connection between them. The value of Hitchens’ book is that he shows that there was an intimate causal link between the Soviets’ rejection of God and their dehumanized society. He establishes this by drawing on his own experiences, as well as primary source materials from Soviet archives.

One of the most chilling parts of the book is when Hitchens shows that many Soviet thinkers were prepared to reverse the moral continuum, believing that under certain circumstances evil could be transformed into good.

. . .

Some Girls, Part 1: Use Your Words


(In which Intern 2 raises the major moral implications of a minor rhetorical imprecision.)

The first time I heard the problematic phrasing was in a high school class. We were being educated about date rape.

A boy in my year, an athlete, commented, “Girls sleep with you at parties and then lie and say you raped them.”

We were very young, and most of us only beginning to consider the issues of sex and its abuse in much depth. The boy was expressing what was likely a very present and legitimate fear among his teammates. He’d probably picked it up from older boys on the team, and they’d have all been aware of the relevant stories of accused college and professional athletes. The boy was just relaying this fear to our class, in such words that occurred to him to use.

This was understandable. I understand it now. But all those years ago I didn’t think it through. All those years ago the comment was absolutely infuriating.

And it wasn’t so much the comment itself that was infuriating, though I did unjustly fail to what its context or cause or intended meaning might be (I was very young).

What got me, and what I got hung up on, was the phrasing.

Because the boy, who was very young as well and hadn’t thought this through, didn’t say, “Some girls sleep with you and then lie.”

And he didn’t say, “There’re girls who’ll sleep with you at parties and then lie.”

He said, in effect, “Girls sleep with you and then lie.”

Which my very young, very reactionary, very dramatic self interpreted as his saying, “All girls can and will sleep with athletes and then lie that they were raped, so they can get money or look innocent. All girls believe that gain for oneself is worth a lie that could destroy someone else. All girls, inlcuding Intern 2 and all her female friends and loved ones and all the girls and women she knows and has heard of, are capable of monstrous dishonesty. All girls are liars who hurt guys.” Which implied, conversely, (thought my brain that had only recently grasped the proof processes of logic), “Rape is not real. Girls, all girls, are just making it up.”

This cannot be what the boy wanted to say. One word, one “some,” would have made his real meaning clear. But he was a young boy making an impulsive comment in a high school class. I acknowledge that now: now I would like to discuss the same issue in a different context.

There is a tendency now, in the online conversation about the impact of feminism on our contemporary culture, to use such phrasing as the boy used. The discourse at hand happens occur mostly in written form, mostly among adults. “Rhetoric” is a more fitting term here than “phrasing,” because “rhetoric” implies the careful consideration of the meaning of words we choose and how they’re arranged.

This is not high school: this is the Internet.* We are not young teens grappling with the world’s troubles for the first time: we are maturing and continuing to gain degrees of perspective, experience, and understanding. We have the outward and inward resources to shape and perceive what our writing means to readers.

In short, we have no excuse not to try our hardest to say what we mean. Which includes employing the vital word “some” when we talk about women and feminism and all the ensuing issues we find relevant.

I forgive my classmate his statement, such as may be necessary to forgive. But I call us now to do better by our language.

Please see Part 2 for why.

Sincerely yours,

Intern 2

*Which, as a free public forum, is as good or bad as we make it.

On Listening: Intern 2 Tries to Communicate with the Guy Who Knows He’s Right (Even if He’s Wrong)

(This week, Intern 2, who is overly shy of face-to-face disagreement, springboards from current events to wax long on the subject of persuasion.)

We have a pink elephant here on the Salvo Blog whose presence we have yet to point out.

It’s called the Affordable Care Act, or whichever nickname you’d prefer to give it.

I am far from a legal, or economic, or medical expert. You do not want me to analyze the bill itself, its implications, or the details or outcomes of last week’s ruling by the Supreme Court. There are experts who have already provided that analysis, or at least such an analysis as is possible at this early stage.

Many, many analyses have been made and opinions been stated.

Obviously, they have not all arrived at the same conclusions. Chances are, right now you’re dealing with someone whose conclusions are not the same as yours.

So this is Harrison, your colleague of whatever philosophical persuasion who is one-hundred percent sure he’s come down on the right side of the issue, and isn’t afraid to tell you about it.

It could be that Harrison’s convinced that the health care decision represents a key triumph for the social virtue of the United States. He knows a few cases personally who have had trouble paying for medical care under the current system, or he’s had trouble himself (and comments that he simply won’t pay the bills he can’t afford—he says that eventually, they’ll stop coming). He knows, and he’ll tell you, that there’s no way the eventual enactment of the ACA as law could possibly be problematic, and if you suggest otherwise, he’ll assume you must necessarily be looking at the issue from a perspective of privilege. In other words, you’re a lost cause.

And how do you, or more accurately, we, answer Harrison effectively?

To start with, we have to listen to him.

It could also be that Harrison’s convinced that the health care decision represents the cataclysmic end of the American Experiment. He sees the infringements on personal liberties that the ACA contains within itself and could open the door to in the future. He knows, and he’ll tell you, that this has placed us on the brink of an inevitable disastrous threat to our autonomy of conscience, and if you see reason for hope in the details of the Supreme Court’s decision or the relative unpopularity of the Act’s most objectionable sections, he’ll assume your reason has been already been decayed by the regressive force of a Progressive culture. In other words, you’re a lost cause.

And how do we answer Harrison effectively?

To start with, we have to listen to him.

Harrison is a fellow human with a heart and a brain, with a mind and a soul. He has a story. He has some form of reason for believing what he has come to believe. As humans, we are given the capacity to understand and empathize with other humans. It fulfills a basic principle for us to work toward understanding and empathizing with Harrison.

Of course, as is the case with fulfilling other basic principles, this is easier said than done. It would be extremely challenging for me personally if Harrison told me that, as a woman, it behooved me not to post my thoughts and opinions in a public forum. I’m working on it. Harrison is like me a creature of God.

Also, knowing how someone got to where they got to is the first and most vital step in honestly and compassionately helping them get somewhere else.

So we listen to Harrison. We learn about him, and, in turn, Harrison will be more likely to listen and learn about us.

I have a story about my own Harrison, who happened to be female. I was relating a story to Girl Harrison about an acquaintance who, right on the verge of finishing a professional degree, had accepted a job in her field and was planning to marry her fiancé the following year. I happened to run into the acquaintance very shortly, possibly immediately, after she discovered she was pregnant (she was visibly shaken when I spoke with her. It ought to go without saying that the fiancé was the father.)

“She was really stressed,” I told Girl Harrison, “Because now she was planning the wedding for, like, the next month, and then they were moving out of state. So everything would have to happen at once.”

“So?” Girl Harrison said. “Just get an abortion.”

I hadn’t expected that response at all. The option in this instance hadn’t occurred to me. It hadn’t occurred to the acquaintance.

“But they already had everything together,” I said. “It was just going to be rough for a few months.”

“I’d just get an abortion,” Girl Harrison said.

I’ve since come to regret how quickly I changed the subject.

I didn’t have the courage to listen to Girl Harrison, as would be necessary to engage in a discussion with her. I knew her well enough to understand where some of her other points of view might have come from. But this assertion I left at the surface. I didn’t think I had the emotional energy or intellectual capacity to grapple with Girl Harrison on the subject of abortion, so I left it alone.

I didn’t get the chance to respond as I would have liked, as might have been effective. I didn’t get to say, “But it was the first child, by the man she was planning to have her children with. The unique and only first child. The DNA codes were all there. It was worth a few rough months.”

I think Girl Harrison would have listened to that answer. But if I was afraid to listen to her beyond her first declaration, why would I expect she would listen to me?

From now on, let’s listen. Let’s listen first. Then we can take a deep breath and give an answer that responds to what we listened to. We might be surprised. We might discover new dimensions of an issue that we hadn’t been aware were there. Harrison might prove to be as right as he thinks, or he might be only .001% sure he’s right at all. And while our own assurances may be altered through their questioning, the true assurances will be strengthened by it.

It is worthwhile to listen to Harrison, and worthwhile to answer him as well.

So thank you for listening to me.

Your answers are welcome.

Sincerely Yours,

Intern 2