Everyone knows that Chick-fil-A is the “Christian Fast Food Company”. They’re closed on Sundays, the employees are super friendly, the stores are very clean, and their sandwiches are product placement in recent Christian movies.

Recently, though, I had a conversation with a Hispanic college student that changed my entire perception.

Jose* spent the summer last year working for Chick-fil-A in his hometown. One day while hanging out on campus I asked him what it was like to work for the “christian fast food company”. His short laugh betrayed that he didn’t see the fast-food chain in the same light. He had two main issues:

  • It really bothered Jose that at the end of the day the left over food was thrown in the trash instead of given to the community. “There’s a lot of poor people who could really use the food and we were just throwing it away.”
  • While the customers were always well taken care of, Jose didn’t feel the same for the employees. It was a good work environment, but Chick-fil-A didn’t offer health benefits to their employees.

Because of these two things I don’t think Jose would classify Chick-fil-A as a Christian fast food company.

So who is right? Is Jose’s perception accurate? What about the millions of Southern Christians who do think that Chick-fil-A embodies Godly values?

A Difference in Cultural Values

This situation highlights the role culture plays in our expression of Christian values. Everything we do in life is influenced by culture, including the way we follow Christ. This is not a negative, it simply is reality. As believers it is important for us to recognize the way that our perception of Biblical values is shaped by culture, because it always is.

Generalizing the differences in this scenario illustrates this well:

  • Individualism. American culture is hyper-individualistic. Everything is about the person, not the group. In a positive way this could lead a company to care for the individual customers who come through the door. In this environment, being Christian means glorifying God by making each individual’s visit as pleasant as possible.
  • Communalism. Latinos like Jose tend to be more group oriented. His cultural background leads him to place a higher value on caring for the community than himself. For Jose, being Christian meant taking care of those who couldn’t take care of themselves.
  • Caring for Employees. Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays to allow their workers to gather or worship together with their families. Obviously this expression flows out of their Biblical values. Jose wanted to see them do more to care than providing a day off. He wanted to see them care for the physical and medical needs of the workers.

So who is right, Jose or Southern Christians? Is Chick-fil-A Christian?

The answer is: both.

Chick-fil-A does embody cultural expressions of Christian values. They do it well, as evidenced by the throngs of loyal customers. But Jose is right as well. A Christian from a more communal cultural looks at a corporation founded in a more individualistic society and sees things that need to change.

A person from one culture could look at a company and declare it “Christian” while another from a different culture would disagree. The point is not that one is right and another wrong. The teaching lesson from this example is to take a step back and see how our cultures influence the ways we try to live out the teachings of Jesus.

In reality, we need each other. Jose can learn a ton from Chick-fil-A on how to honor God through business practices. Chick-fil-A would be wise to listen to suggestions from an employee on ideas for caring for their employees and community (they already do this to a certain degree, I’m not denying that).

None of us lives out the Bible completely. God has given us diverse cultures that express different parts of Him in unique ways. We need to learn from each other. We need to give space to each other to express Christian values differently. If we force everyone to look like us, then we’ll never experience all of what God has for us.

What ways do you see your own cultural background influencing the way you express Biblical values?

photo courtesy: webel