Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Visible Reign of Christ

Well Done

An issue which bubbles to the surface from time to time concerns the form and shape of Christendom.  What does a society look like when it becomes thoroughly Christianised?  More and more evangelical Christians appear to be thinking seriously about such a question.

One aspect of Christendom--the visible reign of Christ over a particular society or nation--is that Christianity has become culturally "thick" in the sense of pervading, influencing, controlling, and shaping everything.  It encompasses the small and the great, the least to the most significant, the weak and the powerful.  Because the Christian faith involves the regeneration of human souls and the progressive conformity of men, women, and children, and their families and households, to the image of Christ Himself, Christendom thereby encompasses the depth and breadth of human culture.

Every so often we are given a glimpse of what this might look like.  A recent obituary published in the Washington Post provided just such.  Probably few people have ever heard of Truett Cathy, who has just passed away, aged 93.  Millions of people, however, will be familiar with the business he founded--Chick-fil-A.  What is instructive in the life and ministry of Cathy--and in the business he founded--is the insight it provides into how Christendom takes shape.  Mr Cathy was a Christian and he wanted to build a Christian business.  What form did it take?

Truett Cathy died a billionaire.  Like everyone else, he left it all behind when he died.  Not that it would have worried Cathy.  He had deliberately not maximised his wealth because his principles and beliefs and love for the Lord Jesus Christ impeded such Gordon-Gecko behaviour. 
The prospect of an even bigger payday never persuaded Mr. Cathy, the longtime chairman and chief executive, to take his company public. Doing so, he said in a 1998 interview, would mean giving up family control of matters such as contributions to charity and remaining closed on Sundays.  “As a public company, I’m sure somebody would object to our generosity,” he said.
In recent years it has become fashionable for a company to have a "mission statement", a raison d'etre.  Cathy had one too:
In 1982, the company adopted a two-sentence corporate mission: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
The philanthropy of Chick-fil-A naturally was not bent towards the kinds of causes which pagans like Warren Buffet and George Soros have favoured.  It has given generously to causes and needs of individuals and groups seeking to promote the Kingdom of God in society--such as those advocating for Christian marriage.  Recently this has provoked the ire of homosexual "marriage" advocates and their legion of fellow-travellers.  The company's irenic, but firm response has been uplifting, encouraging, and honouring to the Lord:
Their donations to religious organizations active in the debate over the definition of marriage landed the family, and Chick-fil-A, in the middle of an uproar during the 2012 U.S. elections.  In response to reports about the family’s support for groups fighting legalization of gay marriage, Dan Cathy, who succeeded his father as chairman and chief executive, said: “Well, guilty as charged. We are very much supportive of the family, the biblical definition of the family unit,” according to the Biblical Recorder, a newspaper for North Carolina Baptists.

Gay rights groups, which for years had pointed out that Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm gives millions of dollars to Focus on the Family, the Eagle Forum, the Family Research Council and other organizations opposed to gay marriage, urged a boycott of the chain and kiss-ins at the restaurants. Former Boston mayor Thomas Menino sent a letter urging the company to back out of plans to locate in his city, and the Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids’ meals. . . . The company, responding to the outcry, issued a statement saying its policy is to “treat every person with honor, dignity, and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation, or gender.”
How about secrets for commercial success?
As the author of several books, his 2007 book “How Did You Do It, Truett?” outlined his strategy for success that included setting priorities, being courteous, cautiously expanding a business and not being burdened with debt.  “There’s really no secret for success,” he said then, according to the AP. “I hope it will open eyes for people. They don’t have to follow my recipe but this is what works for me.”
And what has it cost the company over all these years to be shut on Sunday?  Who knows, but that's not the point, according to Cathy:
People appreciate you being consistent with your faith. It’s a silent witness to the Lord when people go into shopping malls, and everyone is bustling, and you see that Chick-fil-A is closed.
And on the issue of whether Christian faith and business can ever mix, Cathy had this to say:

Sometimes people ask if they have to be a Christian to work at Chick-fil-A. I say, ‘Not at all, but we ask that you make your business decisions based on biblical principles.’ There seem to be no conflicts when we tell people of various faiths how important it is to stick to the Scriptures in business decisions. I see no conflict whatsoever between Christianity and good business practices. … People say you can’t mix business with religion. I say there’s no other way.
Truett Cathy has given us a glimpse into what an emerging Christendom looks like.   Well done, good and faithful servant. 

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