Today we celebrate the life of Truett Cathy, founder of the Chick-fil-A fast food chain and more importantly, a devout follower of Christ. Cathy went home to be with the Lord Monday morning at age 93. He leaves behind his wife Jeannette and three children, the eldest of whom, Dan, continues his father’s legacy as Chick-fil-A president and COO.
Cathy began his career as a restaurateur in 1946, opening his first Chick-fil-A concept in 1967. But what distinguishes Truett’s life isn’t his business success, but his Christian witness in the midst of that success.
Of course the most famous example is the company policy that inspired one comedian to write a dirge for his disappointed after-church cravings: Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays. No exceptions. It’s a prerogative the privately-held company has guarded jealously for years.
But Truett Cathy’s commitment to, as Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose says, “glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted us,” went far beyond sacrificing a day’s profits every week.
Truett and Jeannette spent years touching thousands of lives and turning waffle fry sales into an eternal investment. Through their “WinShape” foundation, they’ve opened long-term foster homes throughout the Southern U.S., where hundreds of kids have grown up in loving, two-parent families, received the means to go to college, and even (at Truett’s insistence) matching funds for their first cars.
The Cathys have also opened summer camps for boys and girls, given away millions in scholarships, and started a marriage enrichment retreat at Berry College.
“Children,” said Truett, “will never believe in the covenant of marriage unless they see it with their own eyes.”
Of course, the Cathys’ commitment to traditional marriage landed their family and company in hot water with LGBT activists recently when word reached the press that they’d made large contributions to so-called “anti-gay” organizations.
Gay rights groups organized protests on college campuses and at several Chick-fil-A locations. The mayors of Chicago and Boston even threatened to block new Chick-fil-A franchises from opening in their cities—a move the American Civil Liberties Union shot down, reminding the mayors that free speech is still a thing.
Truett’s son, Dan, wasn’t absent during all of this. He was hard at work, quietly dispelling at least one gay activist’s misconceptions about his family and their Christian beliefs. Writing in The Huffington Post, Shane Windmeyer, national director of the gay rights group Campus Pride, “came out” as a friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A, and told fellow activists to stop having a cow about the Cathys’ chicken restaurant.
Dan Cathy, said Windmeyer, wasn’t the foaming, homophobic fundamentalist he’d expected. Instead, Cathy “expressed a sincere interest” in his life, and “genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-A.” He never wavered on traditional marriage, though, says Windmeyer, but loved and respected him as a person, despite their differences.
Dan Cathy’s willingness to reach out and befriend an opponent is undoubtedly a reflection of his father’s legacy. Truett spent his life putting others first, whether it was his family, his employees or the countless lives he touched through his generosity.
He will be missed greatly, and I pray he’ll be imitated, not just in the fast food world, but by Christians who want to know what vocation looks like. For Truett Cathy, it meant opening our hearts on more than just Sundays.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: September 10, 2014