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Monday, March 2, 2020

Why did the Chicken Change its Tune?

I have to admit—it hurt. From the late 1980s, I have been a real fan of Chick-fil-A. When they opened a new store in a mall in Arlington, Texas, I was invited to join in a dinner celebration and sat at the table with Dan Cathy, son of company founder Truett Cathy. Years later, I would have the privilege of spending around 45 minutes with the senior Cathy at the company headquarters near Atlanta.

When stories surfaced in 2019 about the change of giving strategy for the Chick-fil-A Foundation, it was shocking to many. Seemingly abandoning their giving relationship with the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes could not have been more of a surprise. Truett Cathy allowed his faith to dictate his business practices. And that included his attitude of generous giving.

Truett passed away in 2014. He was 93. His family still has the reins of the company. Certain changes were to be expected. And they came, including changes in where donations were made. At least one of the organizations where funds had been redirected had questionable policies that did not seem to align with the Cathy life philosophy.

Many spiritual leaders wondered if the company was a bit adrift. Franklin Graham reached out to Dan Cathy and was told their mooring was strong. Chick-fil-A devotees—including me—were not so sure.

Truett Cathy’s daughter, Trudy, recently had a new book published. It’s titled, A Quiet Strength, and pays tribute to Trudy’s mom, Jeannette Cathy. Jeanette passed away in 2015. She was 92.

In a recent interview with Christian Headlines, some honest admissions were made about the new giving strategy of Chick-fil-A. One notable statement Trudy made was that had her mother been alive, Mom would have told her children to pray about the change of strategy by the Chick-fil-A Foundation. Trudy believes the changes were costly.

She told Christian Headlines, “My mom was really good about telling us to always learn from our mistakes. And I think in these last few months with some of things we've walked through, we've realized that we've made some mistakes. We're trying to make some corrections in those. We discredited maybe some really outstanding organizations that needed recognition. And so we're learning from those things.”

Rarely do you hear such admissions in the corporate world. She added some thoughts that clearly indicate how Bible truth influences stewardship decisions. It certainly has impacted the way the company treats customers.

Said Trudy, “We're really wanting to make a difference in this world. We're wanting to sell good chicken, but the Lord is using that chicken sandwich as a tool to allow us to have a positive influence on our culture.” I have convictions that this commitment has seen much good fruit.

Hearing about the shift made in giving tainted my perception of Chick-fil-A. This has played out as I drive past their restaurants in recent months. It feels like a bit of a dark cloud has settled there. I know it hasn’t, but it feels that way. And as a consequence, I am less motivated to pay a bit extra for that chicken sandwich. Public trust has been a bit broken.

Regarding corporate trust, The Washington Times reported on a white paper shared at the recent World Economic Forum. It was co-authored by David W. Miller, director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative. The Times noted, “Public surveys show a precipitous drop in trust among Americans for public institutions ranging from government to the media to corporations, along with a decline in religious observance.”

Miller believes spiritual wisdom can have significant impact in helping institutions restore public trust. According to Miller, “religious traditions have amassed extraordinary wisdom and learning about human nature, brokenness, and healing.

That “extraordinary wisdom” has to come from somewhere. King Solomon wrote, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6 (NIV)

So why did the chicken company change its tune on giving? I’m sure it’s complicated. Hopefully, wisdom can get them back on pitch.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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