Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chik-Fil-A and the Art of Marriage

The LGBT blogosphere has been abuzz about Chik-Fil-A's role in a marriage workshop being sponsored by the right-wing Pennsylvania Family Institute. Chik-Fil-A is an openly Christian fast food franchise, and the Pennsylvania Family Institute is a conservative organization promoting "traditional" marriage and family. On January 3rd, Good As You reported that Chik-Fil-A and the Pennsylvania Family Institute were co-sponsoring an event called "The Art of Marriage" in Camp Hill and Reading, PA. Several progressive blogs and news websites weighed in, including, Lez Get Real, and the Advocate. The following day, Joe.My.God noted that the Pennsylvania Family Institute's website no longer listed Chik-Fil-A as a sponsor, although the fast food chain is still listed as a source of food for the event.

In an article at the Christian Post, Pennsylvania Family Institute president Michael Geer stated that Chik-Fil-A is not sponsoring "The Art of Marriage," insisting that local Chik-Fil-A restaurants were simply trying to be "good neighbors" by providing food for the event. (Hat tip to Towleroad.)

Now that the controversy surrounding Chik-Fil-A is calming down, I'd like to focus on "The Art of Marriage" itself. Since "The Art of Marriage" will be held in my neck of the woods, I plan to listen in and blog afterwards about the workshop's themes, barring any bad weather.

"The Art of Marriage" is a marriage workshop designed by FamilyLife, an Arkansas-based Christian organization that provides events and materials on family life. The website describes the workshop as a video event intended to help couples built godly marriages. While I have yet to partake of the workshop, the names and organizations involved may foreshadow its content.

FamilyLife's values are decidedly conservative (and familiar to those who observe the Religious Right). According to the FamilyLife's manifesto, moral values are supposedly crumbling in America, the result of "moral tolerance" run amok. The manifesto lambastes the media, politicians, and educators for allegedly "attacking and redefining the family" and thereby creating confusion over the true definition of family. FamilyLife insists that marriage is an institution created by God for heterosexual couples, but never for same-sex couples.

FamilyLife's manifesto contains contradictory statements on gender roles within marriage. On one hand, it exhorts the husband to treat his wife "as the equal partner she is in Christ" and to refrain from dominating her. On the other hand, charges the husband to be head of the household and resist the impulse to "abdicate his responsibilities to lead his wife." Well, is the wife an equal partner or a subordinate? Which is it? Conversely, the manifesto urges the wife to submit to her husband as "leader" of the relationship, warning her against assuming "the leadership responsibilities of her husband."

In short, FamilyLife embraces homophobic and patriarchal values with regard to marriage, which may foreshadow the content of "The Art of Marriage." The list of marriage experts who will be featured in the workshop also give me pause, since it include Religious Right voices with very conservative views on gender and marriage. For example, the list includes Wayne Grudem, former president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (a Christian organization that advocates for patriarchal gender roles). The list also features Mary Kassian, author of the anti-feminist book The Feminist Mistake, and Al Molher, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a board member of Focus on the Family and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Why am I getting a bad feeling about this workshop?

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