Tolerance (again)

Perhaps the trouble with taking a week-plus off from blogging is that when I get back to it there are so many different things I want to blog about that I don’t know where to start!

The recent media frenzy over Chick-fil-A–specifically the company’s support of “traditional marriage”–and the resulting cries on the one side for boycotts and on the other for increased business and shows of support has served to bring a glaring spotlight once again onto the subject of tolerance.

As I have discussed here before, it is amazing how our country, or at least the majority of the mass media market and professional mouthpieces, seem to love talking about tolerance when doing so means supporting liberal, non-traditional, and even rebellious speech, beliefs or positions, yet those same folks seem to lose all sense of “tolerance” and even respect for the first amendment when the position being taken is in support of conservative, traditional, or so-called “fundamentalist religious” beliefs.

It is not news that Truett Cathy is a Christian, that his son and current Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy is a Christian, or that they built the Chick-fil-A business endeavoring to be true to biblical principles. It is not news that the Cathys support the biblical definition of marriage and family. It is not news that they therefore also oppose the movement to legalize homosexual marriage.

Not too long ago Chick-fil-A was receiving a lot of negative media attention for providing free food to a conference that supported the biblical definitions of marriage and family. That was ridiculous enough. Now, the uproar has resumes because Dan Cathy, in an interview with Baptist Press, reiterated that position. In his words, Chick-fil-A is, “guilty as charged.” Cathy went on to say that, “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

I for one am thankful for the Cathy’s consistent adherence to biblical principles and their willingness to take a public stand in defense of them.

Thanks to the freedoms that we have in this country, any person can believe as he or she wishes and can share his or her beliefs or positions freely. That is a huge part of what makes America America. I have the right to disagree with you, and you have the right to disagree with me. How sad that we cannot have respectful public discourse about such disagreements!

This atmosphere of toxic language is evident in the media, in politics, in entertainment… And I am well aware of the fact that it is not exclusively one-sided. While the media at large definitely has a tilt toward the left, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and others are plenty guilty of using over-the-top, insulting and ridiculous language at times in their attacks on the left/support of the right. I suppose hoping for rational, respectful, well-reasoned debates is asking a bit much. After all, looking back at American history reveals that propaganda and extreme rhetoric has been part of our culture from the very beginning.

In an article in the Washington Post, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (a group that supports homosexual marriage), said of Chick-fil-A, “While they may have been in neutral, kicking this fight into overdrive now allows fair-minded consumers to make up their own minds whether they want to support an openly discriminatory company. As the country moves toward inclusion, Chick-fil-A has staked out a decidedly stuck-in-the-past mentality.”

I disagree with Mr. Griffin politically and morally, but I appreciate his statement in that he clearly enunciates his position, explains that consumers have a choice of whether or not to support/eat at Chick-fil-A. That’s all quite true. The same is true regarding Target, JC Penney, General Mills, of the Muppets–all open supporters of homosexual marriage. I have a choice as to whether or not I wish to patronize those companies. I may disagree with their position on this issue (I do), but I do not see any good coming from calling them names. Mr. Griffin strayed a bit further than I would prefer; his use of the terms “openly discriminatory” and “stuck-in-the-past” are clearly intended to be condescending. But the truth is, we all discriminate. That word has a very negative connotation, for sure, but the act of discriminating is really nothing more than deciding between two things. When I had breakfast this morning, I discriminated against the orange juice and in favor of the coffee, against the cereal, in favor of the waffles. And I suspect that Chick-fil-A is more than happy to be “stuck in the past” when that means adherence to biblical principles and traditional definitions of marriage and family.

What troubles me more than anything is the outrageous name calling, threats, and wishes for harm. No surprise here, but Roseanne Barr has (once again) provided a clear example of the kind of rhetoric that adds absolutely nothing to the debate and serves, really, only to highlight her own bigotry and hatred for those who believe differently than she does. Yesterday Barr tweeted, “anyone who eats S— Fil-A deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating antibiotic filled tortured chickens 4Christ.” In a follow-up, after her comment received plenty of attention, Barr said, “christian liars: i never wished cancer on you at all-jesus will punish u 4 ur deceit-I said processed foods cause cancer- #chickfilA.” Did she say that the “antibiotic filled tortured chickens” cause cancer? Yes. She did not say that she wishes that Christians will get cancer. But the implication is also clear in her tweet that she thinks eating at Chick-fil-A will result in cancer, and she has no qualms about Christians getting cancer because they eat there. Her implication about cancer, and her insulting twist of the company’s name, not to mention her follow-up attack on Christians as liars, are unhelpful, silly, and, quite frankly, stupid. The debate has not been enhanced by her contribution.

Chick-fil-A issued a statement after the hoopla began, saying, “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.” There you have it, and I am sure that is true. I have never heard any mention of a Chick-fil-A refusing to serve anyone. Thus, the uproar is all about Truett and Dan Cathy having an opinion and a belief. (And Chick-fil-A is a privately-owned company, by the way!)

So here’s a thought, for Roseanne, for Rush, and for everyone in between: how about exercising some real tolerance? Why not have a fair and objective attitude “toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own”? Do I think we should all agree? No way. Do I think we should keep our opinions and beliefs to ourselves? Nope. But it would be pretty neat to see us all try to speak respectfully to and about those with whom we disagree. An intelligent, well-reasoned, and articulately-stated position might even prompt someone on the other side of the issue to…gasp!…listen to what we have to say. I think that’s what they used to call “civil discourse.”

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