I was bullied as a kid. Profoundly so in the worst years surrounding puberty. The reasons were varied and sometimes self-inflicted, but it came down to me being different. I got lucky and found a home in childhood friends I still count as my closest. But it could have gone differently. Suicide was not something I planned but I can’t say I didn’t contemplate it.
Interestingly though, even for the worst of my abusers I never envisioned taking anything from them. I just wanted what they had, which was the ability to blend and disappear. As it happened I was never meant to do those things and I’m happier for it. But that simple invisibility was what I wanted in the darkest times; it was infinitely preferable to the alternative.
Every gay couple I know craves no more than that same invisibility. The ability to be everyday, lawn-mowing homebodies, gently disgruntled spouses, fretful, scrambled parents of gloriously germy toddlers. I’ve yet to meet one gay person who wants to claw back or limit the rights of straight people. But if the Cathy brothers of Chik-Fil-A, with their $4.5 billion in net worth, get their way, that’s what will happen: The right of gay people to unite legally will be blocked. Their lives as couples will be less abundant and simply harder to live.
The Cathy’s put their money where their mouth is. To gay people, it feels like being bullied. Pushed around. Limited. That’s what bullies do after all, and have done for time immemorial. They limit where their victims can go and how they can live. They strip them of dignity and individuality. It hurts, badly. Trust me.
Hence the passion evoked by a sandwich.
If there’s a mitigating factor to the Cathy brother's efforts, it’s that Biblical principles- to them- compel them to act as they do. I remain in love with a woman who felt similarly compelled to believe and support causes that, in my mind, amounted to bullying. We were incompatible for a few reasons, but that was high among them. She is one of the most decent, loving and compassionate people I’ve ever known. She often didn’t like what she felt compelled to believe and support as a "Bible-believing" Christian, but she believed it was God’s command for her to do so. If the Cathy brothers are anything like she is, I assume they struggle similarly.
Alas, the Bible includes other admonitions, including one from Matthew which instructs Christians, if they want to be perfect, to sell their possessions, give the money to the poor, and them come follow Him. This was Jesus- the rabble-rousing Rabbi who also said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter His Kingdom. He had almost nothing to say about sexual morality. He had plenty to say about wealth redistribution and disparity. I’m well aware of theologians in every denomination who can provide comforting answers to the inconveniences posed by His commands to successful money makers. But they never fail to impress anything in me other than my gag reflex.
Regardless, to the Cathy brothers my plea is simple, and should be just as compatible with Biblical restraints as their efforts against homosexuals:
Sirs, if you would be perfect, liquidate your fortune, or perhaps a bit less. Over the next few weeks, myself and hopefully many friends in the business of eradicating violence against women and children will join forces and assist you in identifying areas where those billions could be spent. I know that the two of you and your corporation already give. Would you enlighten me as to how much, and how much remains? That should help us both to determine, perhaps, how much closer to perfection you might reach in this life with your considerable blessings.
For now, in the spirit of this message, I’ll suggest bullying as something you could help eradicate. It's a phenomenon that affects, conservatively, millions of children each year, driving some to suicide and truncating the lives of others. If you’d be so moved, there are great organizations (follow the link above for just one example) currently operating on shoe strings to make a difference.
The well of need, of course, is bottomless. But a multi-billion dollar fortune has remarkable potential to make a dent in the suffering that surrounds us all. If perfection is your aim, I can’t imagine you’d resist the opportunity.
Please, lets begin.
Roger Canaff is a former longtime special victims prosecutor, now legal expert, consultant, anti-violence advocate, and author and public speaker. He is a practicing Catholic with Deist tendencies and a love of justice, light, and truth. Mr. Canaff lives and works in New York City and Washington, D.C.