Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy's death at age 93 early Monday caused chicken sandwich fans and Christians alike to mourn the loss of a man whose faith was essential to the restaurant's business model.
"Cathy was much more than chicken and controversy, he was a man of Christ-like values who lived his life on mission, even when it was difficult," reflected Ed Stetzer for Christianity Today. "In a time when many in the business world ignore morality and character for the sake of success, (he) saw character as the key to business success."
"There is little doubt that Cathy will be remembered as someone who stuck to what he believed was important," wrote Jonathan Merritt for Religion News Service. "He has left behind more than a slew of fast food franchises; he has bequeathed a philosophy of faith in business that will doubtlessly live on."
This "philosophy of faith" is apparent in the company's purpose statement: "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."
The obituary, released by Chick-fil-A, noted Cathy's Southern Baptist faith inspired him to create the company's famous closed-on-Sunday policy. "Rare within the food service industry, this policy allows employees a day for family, worship fellowship or rest, and also underscores Cathy's desire to put principles and people ahead of profits," the obituary explained.
And the influence of his faith didn't stop there. Cathy also "launched foster homes and summer camps and scholarships for young people. And when employees needed a helping hand — (he) was there. Since 1973, Chick-fil-A has given more than $32 million in financial assistant to workers," Todd Starnes wrote in a column for Fox News.
Faith was also at the heart of the 2012 controversy over the restaurant's donations to anti-gay groups, which caused some same-sex marriage supporters to boycott the chain. Although Chick-fil-A ultimately decided "to stop making political donations to groups involved with the issue," the incident cemented the company's spot in the hearts of chicken sandwich lovers with conservative social values, The Atlantic reported.
"Under Cathy's leadership, Christianity became a fundamental part of the Chick-fil-A brand, shaping business decisions and helping the company differentiate itself from its chicken-cooking competitors, especially in the South," the article explained.
In a nod to Cathy's popularity, two public viewings and a public funeral service will be held at First Baptist Church Jonesboro in Georgia this week, an announcement posted to his personal website explained.
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