Back to Top

Chick-fil-A Consumption

“We always look for a Chick-fil-A when we’re traveling south. Their food is so good, and they’re a Christian company.” My friend said this last part almost as an aside. A definitive statement of absolute fact. It was more of a reminder, to herself and to the rest of us, both of the existence of these Christian companies in our midst and of our duty to patronize them as often as possible. Now I’m all for economic solidarity with my brothers and sisters in the business world, but her statement got me wondering, “How do we know they are Christians? Is it because they self-identify as such? Is it because they are closed on Sundays?” Unfortunately, my friend’s comment didn’t exactly beg to be engaged, so I sat pondering in silence. I haven’t forgotten the conversation, though, and it’s got me wondering: What makes a company “Christian”?

Chick-fil-A, along with other companies like Hobby Lobby and Mary Kay, is famous for its religious convictions. Its decision to close on Sundays, with roots all the way back to founder Truett Cathy in 1946, has become a hallmark of the company. The ownership makes no effort to hide its religious convictions, and often references it in its advertising and marketing campaigns. But it is these very marketing campaigns that make me wonder about what, exactly, makes for a “Christian” company.

In their most recent marketing campaigns, Chick-fil-A features a group of anthropomorphized cows lugging around signs, urging people to “Eat Mor Chikin”. The obvious assumption at work in this campaign is that if people begin to “eat mor chikin”, then Chick-fil-A is the place to go! But there appears to be another, deeper, assumption present: That cows, if given the choice, would prefer that chickens endure the horrors of industrial agriculture and eventual death in order to satiate the appetites of the American public. Chick-fil-A’s feigned corporate “support” of the “fearless cows, acting in enlightened self-interest” only serves to deepen the campaign’s cynicism. But if this assumption is to be granted, then it begs the question: Wouldn’t chickens prefer the same if given the choice? Chick-fil-A’s marketing campaign, while on the surface cute and quirky, actually betrays the fact that it participates in an economic sector--i.e. industrial agriculture--which is fraught with environmental, public health, and moral injustices. Chick-fil-A, however, appears either oblivious to this fact, or simply uninterested by it.

In a similar way, Mary Kay professes to be a Christian company, yet makes its millions by perpetuating the patriarchal lie that a woman’s self-worth comes primarily from her physical appearance. Forever 21, a company started by a member of the CRC, participates in all of the industry practices of its non-religious peers: selling sex, manufacturing desire for its products, participating in opaque and suspect supply chains.

So what does make a company “Christian”? Is it John 3:16 stamped on all of its carry-out bags? Is it shuttered doors on the Sabbath? Is it self-identification on its website? All of these things can certainly be pieces of it, but I for one hope that there’s more. Does a company speak prophetically within its particular industry for issues of justice and equity? Does a company treat its employees fairly, offering them adequate healthcare and a living wage? Does a company reinvest its profits in the communities in which it is embedded (which many companies, including Chick-fil-A, already do)? In other words: Does a company’s profession of Christian faith make it past its marketing campaigns and into its very structures, working toward redemption and Kingdom-living in the marketplace?

These are some of the questions I am going to start asking myself as I consider which businesses to support, and I invite you to join me. Admittedly, it means more research and discernment, but as Christians, I’m convinced that it is exactly this type of consumption that we are called to. Thoughtful and informed consumption must become the norm for Christians. Otherwise, we risk blindly propping up the very systems of injustice and oppression from which our Savior proclaimed to set his creation free.

[Image: Flickr user Esther Simpson]


The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

In order to steward ministry shares well, commenting isn’t available on Do Justice itself because we engage with comments and dialogue in other spaces. To comment on this post, please visit the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page (for Canada-specific articles) or the Office of Social Justice’s Facebook page. Alternatively, please email us. We want to hear from you!

Read more about our comment policy.