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By Luke Moon

Last Monday night was Chick-fil-A’s annual Daddy Daughter Date Night. I took my 7 year old daughter to enjoy the chicken, waffle fries, and time together. When we arrived at our local Chick-fil-A, the tables were set with fresh flowers, pink and blue place mats, pink table cloths, and red heart-shaped balloons. The place mats were printed with conversation starters such as, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and “Describe your favorite family vacation.” Chick-fil-A’s desire to promote strong families as one of its core values is unusual in a day of what seems to be “profits at all cost” and shows how corporations can influence culture by promoting important values.

Many corporations choose to avoid issues which might be considered even slightly offensive.  Most of the Fortune 500 corporations spend a large amount of energy showing how inoffensively “green” they are or describe their committed support for the non-controversial Habitat for Humanity.  Occasionally, corporations are bold enough to take a position on issues that might cost them support.  This is where corporations show leadership in the culture. Of course corporations don’t always lead in the right direction. Playboy’s support for legalized abortion has led to the death of millions of unborn babies. Hobby Lobby has chosen to fight for religious liberty rather than accept the HHS mandate requiring them to cover abortion-drugs to their employees. Chick-fil-A has chosen to use its resources and influence to support strong marriages and strong families. One might take that as non-controversial, but as we saw several months ago, making a statement about the limitations of marriage being established by God can earn you the label of bigot.

Promoting strong marriages and fatherhood should be favored by individuals and businesses alike who are interested in addressing the issue of poverty. According to a recent report by Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation, the principle cause of child poverty is the absence of married fathers in the home. The report notes,

“Marriage remains America’s strongest anti-poverty weapon, yet it continues to decline. As husbands disappear from the home, poverty and welfare dependence will increase, and children and parents will suffer as a result. Since marital decline drives up child poverty and welfare dependence, and since the poor aspire to healthy marriage but lack the norms, understanding, and skills to achieve it, it is reasonable for government to take active steps to strengthen marriage.”

For those who prefer a more visual approach, check out this chart.

Marriage Drops the Probability of Child Poverty by 82 percent

It is clear from this report that not only do active and engaged married fathers reduce the likelihood of child poverty on many other issues from the rates of teen pregnancy and abortion to performance in school and self-esteem are all influenced by the role of the father in the home. Here is a bit more from the Heritage report,

“The effect of married fathers on child outcomes can be quite pronounced. For example, examination of families with the same race and same parental education shows that, when compared to intact married families, children from single-parent homes are:

  • More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime;
  • Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems;
  • Roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school; and
  • A third more likely to drop out before completing high school.
  • Girls…are more than twice as likely to have a child without being married, thereby repeating the negative cycle for another generation.”

In light of the obvious benefits of strong families one might ask why organizations like left-leaning Christian activist Sojourners and food stamp lobbyists Bread for the World are not doing more to promote strong families as a means of reducing child poverty.  At this point I will avoid my cynical conclusions about the true intent of these two groups.  Instead, I think one of the main reasons is that our current culture has been trained to understand if I am for something it automatically means that I hate the other. For example, I am for children being born and raised in a home with one man and one woman who are married to each other.  In our current public discourse, that means I hate single moms.  Similarly as one who advocates that the civil society rather that government should be the primary agent in alleviating poverty, I am often asked, Why do you hate poor people?  Of course, I don’t hate the poor or single moms.  I live amongst the poor and help my neighbors all the time.  Sadly, this discourse impacts the willingness of both government and civil society from speaking out more in defense of strong families.

In spite of the potential offense, Chick-fil-A chooses to be closed on Sunday so that its workers can spend time with their families and as a result likely does more to help end poverty than sending yet another petition to congress telling them to increase support for food stamps. By dedicating an evening to promoting father and daughter relationships, Chick-fil-A challenges the culture of low expectations for fathers to be strong advocates and protectors of their daughters.

It should not be a surprise that these values being promoted by Chick-fil-A are Christian values and further evidence that Christian values don’t simply benefit Christians, but the whole community as well. In the trade off between family time and more profits, Chick-fil-A has chosen to side with family time. It is unlikely that they will be able to monetize the benefits of advocating strong families, but then not all benefits can be monetized. Seeing the smile on my daughters face as I handed her a pink carnation and feeling her reaching for my hand as we walked back to the car is worth more than all the money in the world. Thanks Chick-fil-A.

Luke Moon is Business Manager for the IRD and regular blogger for Juicy Ecumenism. Follow him on Twitter @lukemoon1 and @theIRD.