Thursday, August 2, 2012

Kiss Mor Chiks

Thousands of supporters of fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A made their way to restaurants all over Alabama and the United States Wednesday to stand in long lines in support of the restaurant chain.   Customers packed dining rooms and found themselves wrapped in lines outside restaurants in Montgomery, Prattville, Auburn, Dothan and many other locations around the state and country. Cars snaked around the buildings all day and stretched great distances beyond parking lots.  By early evening, some of the restaurants reported they'd exhausted their food supply and were preparing to close.

The day was billed by conservatives, and credited to talk show host and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, as an unofficial "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" in support of the company. CFA said it had nothing to do with the event's organization.   CFA President, Dan Cathy, recently sparked a nationwide controversy following remarks that he does not support same-sex marriage. Cathy told a Baptist magazine that he believes in the Biblical definition of marriage, a union between a man and a woman. The family-owned company's 1,600+ outlets remain closed on Sundays for religious reasons. Cathy's remarks have made his company the target of multiple boycotts. The Jim Henson Company pulled its toys from the company's kids' meals. Mayors of several large cities, including Boston and Chicago, have also said the company isn't welcomed, although its unlikely the company's permits will be denied.

Protestors are planning a nationwide event, scheduled for Friday, at which point they're planning to show their public displays of affection at area restaurants by kissing as same-sex couples.  Opponents of Cathy's stance have planned "Kiss Mor Chiks" for Friday, asking people of the same sex to show up at Chick-fil-A locations and kiss each other.  Does anyone want to meet me at a Chick-fil-A for the kiss of a lifetime? Actually, I don't think that the "Kiss Mor Chiks" event is the best way to deal with the situation.  A complete and total boycott of Chick-fil-A is my plan. I've always liked Chick-fil-A's food, but I will not be supporting their restaurants. There are plenty of restaurants with better chicken.

I had not planned on blogging about this, but two things changed my mind. First, I heard my sister, who does not know I am gay, say that she would go to Chick-fil-A on Wednesday to show her support.  Before I could tell her that I would never go back to Chick-fil-A, she had already changed the subject, and I just let the comment slide (not something I am proud of).  The second thing was the massive amount of coverage about "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" on the local news.

As churches struggle with the issue of homosexuality, a long tradition of same sex marriage indicates that the Christian attitude toward same sex unions may not always have been as "straight" as is now suggested. A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine's monastery on Mt. Sinai.
It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman pronubus (best man) overseeing what in a standard Roman icon would be the wedding of a husband and wife. In the icon, Christ is the pronubus. Only one thing is unusual. The husband and wife are in fact two men.

The very idea seems initially shocking. The full answer comes from other sources about the two men featured, St. Serge and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who became Christian martyrs.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that "we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life." More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St. Serge is openly described as the "sweet companion and lover" of St. Bacchus.

In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies, that they were a homosexual couple who enjoyed a celebrated gay marriage. Their orientation and relationship was openly accepted by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image that to some modern Christian eyes might border on blasphemy, the icon has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing their gay marriage.

The very idea of a Christian gay marriage seems incredible. Yet after a twelve year search of Catholic and Orthodox church archives Yale history professor John Boswell, and author of Same Sex Unions In Pre-Modern Europe, has discovered that a type of Christian gay marriage did exist as late as the 18th century.

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has evolved as a concept and as a ritual.

Professor Boswell discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient church liturgical documents (and clearly separate from other types of non-marital blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among other titles, the "Office of Same Sex Union" (10th and 11th century Greek) or the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century). That certainly sounds like gay marriage.

Boswell found records of same sex unions in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, Istanbul, and in Sinai, covering a period from the 8th to 18th centuries. Nor is he the first to make such a discovery. The Dominican Jacques Goar (1601-1653) includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek prayer books.

It sounds to me that the so-called "traditional" definition of marriage as between one man and one woman is not so traditional.  It is based on verses in the Old Testament, which also states that King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. 


Chris said...

Wow, I did not know any of these things about the history of Christian gay marriage. It sounds like a very good argument base for future debates in our world today. I love how you always seem to find a nook that is out there, but perhaps not explored or present enough, and bring it to the blog. I am learning a lot, thank you.

naturgesetz said...

The fact that the "Office of Same Sex Union" (10th and 11th century Greek) or the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century)" existed does not prove that the Churches regarded them as the same thing as the marriage of a man and a woman. Indeed, the very fact that there is a separate office or oder for two men means that it was not considered a marriage.

Clearly, there was something there. If we had the text in front of us, we could get some idea of what they had in mind (although cultural differences may hinder complete comprehension.) But I don't see how what you have presented can be considered to prove that Christianity has until recently approved and blessed same-sex unions as marriages in the sense in which contemporary gay rights advocates use the term: univocally with heterosexual marriage. Nor — although this is tangential to your point in the post — does it say anything about the sexual morality which was expected of men in those unions. The blessing could have been for a committed friendship which was not expected to include sexual activity.

JoeBlow said...

Chris, you're welcome and thanks for the comment.

Naturgesetz, I am not trying to state that same sex unions and heterosexual marriage were equal in the eyes of the church. However, I am saying that Christianity has not always been diametrically opposed to same sex unions. As Writer wrote on his blog today, "[The Bible] never refers to marriage as being between one man and one woman. In the Old Testament it is one man and as many women as you can afford. In the New Testament it is something you do to keep yourself from the sin of fornication, and actually Jesus preferred you to stay single." ( And just to add one more thing, it cannot be proven that Christianity has until recently approved and blessed same-sex unions as marriages in the sense in which contemporary gay rights advocates use the term, because the contemporary understanding of homosexuality was unknown to the writers of the Bible. I understand it is a flawed argument presented above, but it was meant to get us thinking about how Christianity has dealt with same-sex couples in the past. I personally think that it has more to do with the influences of the Roman Empire which was not as open to same-sex relationships as the Greeks and other ancient cultures had been.

Anonymous said...

Totally informative, and I appreciate naturgesetz's comments, too.

Thanks as always for illumination!

Peace <3

Coop said...

Oy vey! The debates about how anyone who defends Dan Cathy's right to speak his mind is supporting hatred and hiding behind the first amendment. A friend of mine threatned to "de-friend" people on social media for that. He's been called on it several times and refuses to back down. I said that maybe my 'being wrong is not illegal' point of view is not good enough. That was diplomatic on my part.
There's like two resteraunts in Massachusetts and I now wish I never heard of the crucified place.

I have heard about the icon and the rebuttal. Marriages in the eyes of the state (judge justice of the peace, city clerk etc. etc. etc.) don't require religious recognition.
I wouldn't begrudge anyone a religious ceremony but the churches can't be forced.

JoeBlow said...

Thanks, Jay.

Coop, I actually agree with you, and I think people have made too much out of the whole thing. I also think that Cathy has the right to say what he pleases, but those same rights apply to me to voice my opinion and to not go to his restaurants.

JoeBlow said...

As one additional comment, I think that all marriages should be recognized civilly if they are to get the benefits. Whether a church recognizes it or not is up to the church in question.

Anonymous said...

Coop brings up a good point. Long ago, civil authorities conscripted the word "marriage". You can't be legally married in the US without going to a civil authority and getting a marriage license. It doesn't matter if a priest, pastor, minister, witch is going to perform a ceremony to marry you. Remember, too, that a civil authority - a justice of the peace (or whatever other states call this person) can marry two people in most states - totally non-religious, but 100% bestowing the rights and privileges of "marriage" can marry you, too. If you want LEGAL recognition of your marriage, be it to a man, woman, or (gasp, according to the worst bigots) a dog(!), you have to have the license no matter what. So what the whole Christianist group is arguing does not hold water. Marriage is NOT just a Christian tradition. It is a governmental item, that takes on many more meanings when it comes to many, many items in a couple's life. Therefore, any civil law that prevents, discriminates against, or otherwise outlaws same sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say that I went to eat at CFA yesterday, not because of their views, but because of the courage to share his view-right or wrong. GLAAD is practicing the very same intolerance that they accuse CFA of practicing, because they are attacking CFA just for having a different opinion. I don't understand why it has become that everyone must be politically correct or be accussed of hate. This problem doesn't solely apply to this issue either.

Coop said...

I don't blame you, Joe. There ought to be a boycott.
It's hard to track what/who corporations give to. Wasn't there an issue with Target (pro equality stance versus which politician they gave to)?