Can New York City survive Chick-fil-A invasion? Let's look at Manhattan history!


On a personal note: I just finished one of my two-week sojourns teaching journalism at The King's College in New York. As I have mentioned before, if you add up my various duties here I live in lower Manhattan just over two months a year.

I'm not a New Yorker, but I hang out with them a lot -- even in local diners and fast-food joints.

Anyway, at the end of my final seminar session last night one of the students gave me a thank-you card and the perfect gift to sum up life in this neighborhood right now.

It was, of course, a Chick-fil-A gift card.

Don't worry, I will be able to use that card in Oak Ridge, Tenn., even though our town has only one Chick-fil-A sanctuary, compared to New York City's three (with more on the way as part of the much-discussed Bible Belt invasion of the Big Apple).

The bottom line: If was the perfect end to the week. And you will not be surprised that we also talked about the now infamous New Yorker sermon about Chick-fil-A -- "Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City" -- during this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.

In my GetReligion post about this whole kerfuffle ("The New Yorker stirs up a storm with analysis of Chick-fil-A evangelism in the Big Apple"), I tried to avoid -- for the most part -- some of the most common themes in the Twitter madness about this piece. Here are three of the more low-key, constructive tweets from that amazing storm:

That sure ain't me. This Tennessee guy loves New York City, as long as I stay away from Midtown.

Yeah, I have to admit that I thought of that angle myself and include a one-liner about that.

Now, that's kind of a cheap shot -- but it does touch on the main theme of my conversation with host Todd Wilken in the podcast.

You see, New York City really is a diverse place, to say the least. As I wrote in my GetReligion post, concerning the New Yorker commentary:

Yes, this piece was commentary, as opposed to news. But that raises an interesting point, one heard often here at GetReligion: Why settle for commentary? If New Yorkers are angry or upset about a Bible Belt company selling chicken sandwiches, shouldn't there be a way to write a hard-news story about this fact?
Another question: Did the author of this piece simply assume that HIS New York is one big monolithic place, that it is one unified city where everyone thinks and feels the same way? Did he make the same mistake as millions of New York-haters?

That rang home with a GetReligion reader in New York City named Max, who left us this comment:

As a life long resident of New York City, I commend Terry on his description of New Yorkers in the recent Get Religion/Issues, Etc. podcast. The views and attitudes expressed in the New Yorker article belong only to a small segment of NYC's population, including our mayor, who encouraged a boycott back of Chik-fil-A in May 2016.

There has been a lot of writing about this chicken wars episode. I would recommend, for example, the Ed Stetzer piece that ran at the Christianity Today website. It probed one of the angles of the Chick-fil-A worldview that seems to have angered The New Yorker team the most -- the food chain's stress on involvement in the life of host communities.

Let us attend:

... Chick-fil-A isn’t just all fun and fried food. They’re committed to serving people -- their employees and guests -- well, and with integrity. As founder S. Truett Cathy famously said, “We should be about more than just selling chicken. We should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities in which we serve.” And, I know they are committed to their Christian faith—I’ve done the small group leader training where some of the family serve as, well, small group leaders.
Their corporate purpose, as The New Yorker breathlessly writes, is to “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.”
Oh no.
Not that.
Not in New York.

Well, yes. In New York City -- a big, diverse, complex place in which layer after layer of religious history can easily been seen and explored by those with the eyes to see.

Along those lines, I really appreciated this passage in a Weekly Standard essay by Barton Swaim, which took readers into the streets near the Wall Street area Chick-fil-A.

Next time I'm in town, I need to check this out.

The franchise ... is on almost the very spot of a much earlier infiltration by evangelical Christianity. Just a block to the east on Fulton Street -- you can walk there in a minute or two -- was once the site of the North Dutch Church. Jeremiah Calvin Lanphier was sent to the church as a lay missionary in 1857. Then as now, the area was dominated by the financial industry and inhabited mainly by bankers and stock traders, very few of whom were interested in church attendance. Lanphier made the counter-intuitive decision to announce a lunch-hour prayer meeting: From 12:00 to 1:00 there would be prayer. He distributed announcements and told as many people as he spoke to.
On the first day, September 23, 1857, no one came for the first half-hour; then six people trickled in, and they prayed. The following week, 20 people came and prayed. On October 7 Lanphier recorded in his journal: “Prepared for the prayer-meeting today, at noon. Called to invite a number of persons to be present. Spoke to men as I met them in the street, as my custom is, if I can get their attention. I prayed that the Lord would incline many to come to the place of prayer. Went to the meeting at noon. Present between thirty and forty.” Lanphier and his fellow supplicants decided to meet every day. A week later he recorded: “Attended the noon-day prayer meeting. Over one hundred present, many of them not professors of religion, but under conviction of sin, and seeking an interest in Christ; inquiring what they shall do to be saved.”
By the spring of 1858 there were thousands attending, so many that the North Dutch Church couldn’t contain them, and other churches were opened during the noon hour. The Fulton Street Revival, as it became known, spread to other parts of Manhattan and Jersey City and eventually to Philadelphia and parts of the Midwest. The movement wasn’t sectarian and seems to have involved nothing more than people praying aloud in the extemporaneous manner of evangelical Christianity.

Imagine that! And New York City survived! To this very day.

Enjoy the podcast.

MAIN IMAGE: From the Babylon Bee "news" report: "‘Eaaaat Moooore Chikiiiiin!’ Roars Giant Chick-Fil-A Cow Rampaging Through New York City."

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