I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church, and while the vast majority of the people I interacted with have left an indelibly positive impression on my life, it became quite clear to me fairly early into high school (quasi adulthood) that there were things that the church as a whole stood for that I could not reconcile to the God I knew and loved.

First and foremost on this list was the way the church as a whole addressed homosexuality. I don’t particularly want to get into the theological debate on Christianity and homosexuality at this time, but I was forced to confront my own beliefs on this matter when several people I knew and loved, and whom I knew to love God themselves, came out as gay to me. The resulting crisis of faith is something that I still struggle with today, and something that I still can’t completely explain. I know I love God, and I know that I love the wonderful gay people in my life who I believe without a doubt were brought into my life by God to bless and enrich my life. I don’t believe that loving and respecting my God and my faith are mutually exclusive from loving and respecting my friends and their lives as LGBTQ people.

For me it all comes down to that love and respect. I have many moral and political disagreements with my friends on both side of the political spectrum as well as this particular issue, and that’s what brings me here today, that and fried chicken.

A few weeks ago it appeared as if the entire world was shocked that a company that has openly proclaimed a clear alignment with conservative Christian values, (to the point of having ALL of it’s stores closed on Sunday) openly and honestly explained that they support conservative Christian definition of heterosexual marriage. I think it is a little ridiculous that a company that is most famous for it’s chicken, and silly cow adds became the center of a political and cultural fire storm. However what I find MOST ridiculous is the firestorm itself.

I honestly felt at a loss standing in a tempest holding onto a bag of chicken, not because the company agreed or disagreed with my opinion, but because it tasted good. Major corporations spend their money supporting causes and candidates all the time. In fact if you looked in your pantry or on your credit card statement I am fairly certain you could find purchases from major corporations that spend money on something that you violently oppose without any trouble at all. It’s nothing new, it’s nothing shocking that a company run by conservative Christians would support related causes. Feel free to stop buying their product if you want, or to frequent their establishment more, but don’t mind me and the vast majority of other people as we choose to consume based on need, personal taste, and product quality. Honestly it doesn’t make us any better or worse of a person. I know my convictions don’t change depending on where I swipe my debit card and I doubt anyones do. Yet it sure felt like a few weeks ago many people seemed to think that they did.

I have friends who passionately believe that gay marriage is an essential human right and I also have friends who wholeheartedly believe that “traditional” heterosexual marriage is essential to maintaining a “moral” American culture. I’ve heard researched, reasoned and passionate arguments on both sides for the past several years of my life. I personally have very strong opinions on the matter, but honestly it isn’t the differences of opinion that shocked, frustrated and frankly down right pissed me off, it was the hate and vitriol with which they were expressed.

Many times I get on my soap box and explain that proclaiming beliefs in what the other side sees as hateful isn’t getting them anywhere and this week was a perfect example of that. I was shocked at the flames of hatred being spewed in every direction.

Perhaps it is because on this particular issue I tend to fall on the more “liberal” side my past experiences (no doubt influenced by what side I am on) has always seen the conservatives being more guilty of sensationalizing this issue to the point of vilification of the other side. Those proclaiming and thus fueling the “culture war” in my eyes have most frequently been conservative. In fact I myself have been called a bad Christian, chastised and attacked because of my particular stance. However for the past several weeks I have honestly been shocked at the level of hatred being spewed by the liberal side of this issue, “my camp” if you will.

I can not count the number of times I have heard, read or seen some status or other on Facebook proclaiming that anyone who dare consume “hate chicken” is a bigot, and in some instances a “perpetrator of human rights crimes”. For every well reasoned argument that I’ve read expressing an anti-chicken call to action, I read many more angry, mean spirited and down right insulting posts. Don’t get me wrong, I feel their frustration, I at many times feel their anger even, but I can in no way understand or support the HATE that came pouring out. That said some people that were organizing appreciation days and other vocal positions of support also frequently crossed the line, but over all the anger and frustration that I felt was at both sides for the escalation into propaganda and hatred.

Both sides of this issue claim that they are hated for their opinions, that they are standing on moral high ground being battered and eroded by the waves of ignorance from the opposition. In reality I think this week really proved to me that a great many people on both sides are in a pit flinging mud at one another as they both sink deeper into the mire. It is true that both sides of this issue can not inherently both be right, but this week to me they were both incredibly wrong.

In order to have any credibility in my eyes you have to recognize that there are intelligent people on both sides of this debate. There are people who passionately believe in their cause, who have strong reasons for their beliefs and who honestly want the best for the future generations in this country, and they are standing on both sides of this issue. Due to the nature of the debate both sides can not win, however that does not mean that we don’t all need to respect and love each other when we disagree. It’s ok to disagree, it is ok to passionately disagree, it is not ok to vilify one another. Propagating hate on either side and making people who you disagree with into villians will only lead to violence not to solving the issue or coming to terms that both sides can agree on. Let’s think about that next time that we are tempted to hyperbolize our frustrations (on either side) and ask ourselves if we are doing more harm to our cause than good.

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