Several years ago, contoversy erupted in South Carolina over the Confederate flag that flew over the State House. Some people decided to boycott the state, not taking vacations there or stopping for gas when driving through.
Eventually, officials moved the flag to a location in a less visible place. The boycotters must have congratulated themselves for a job well done, even though the actual racism in the state remains as strong as ever.
In most areas of the state, whites and blacks have done little to no integration of their neighborhoods; blacks still comprise a much greater percentage of the poor; blacks face much harsher criminal penalties for crimes similar to what whites commit; the public education system still grossly underfunds schools in majority black districts; and the attitudes of many of the white residents are still openly racist.
The flag boycott did nothing to improve any of these situations. It merely made the people who went to Panama City instead of Myrtle Beach, or who waited to stop for lunch until they reached Georgia - it merely made these folks feel as if they were fighting racism, when in fact they were not. A flag flying on top of the State House might be an offensive symbol to some, but it is a red herring in the long and difficult struggle for racial justice in the South.
Which brings us to Chik-Fil-A. Is this boycott and its backlash similar to the protest over the South Carolina flag? Whether one eats at Chik-Fil-A, or goes acrosss the street to Wendy's, does it really make a difference in the debate over gay marriage? Or is it a red herring that makes people feel like they are doing something significant, when in fact they are avoiding the real work and the real sacrifices being made by those on the front lines of this issue?
Those on the pro-gay marriage side will contend that the owners of Chik-Fil-A have chosen to be vocal on this issue, and give a lot of money to anti-gay causes - warranting a public protest. Those on the other side do not wish to see business leaders that they admire taking a public drubbing. Others simply don't like activists telling them what they should do.
Either way, I can't see how the Chik-Fil-A episode will bring our country closer to resolution on this very divisive issue. In a week or two, it will fade from national headlines. And in a few months, it will be forgotten by all but the hardcore activists on either side.
My hope is that more people can resist the temptation to bite at the red herrings like the "Battle of Chik-Fil-A," and can dedicate themselves long-term to a cause that requires more hard work, more sacrifice, and more perseverance than the decision of what to eat for lunch.