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.”

Taking a Stand

Actor and former teen-heart throb Kirk Cameron has been in the news a lot lately, and most of it has been in the form of attacks on Cameron for his stand on the issue of homosexuality.

Cameron has a new documentary, Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure, in which Cameron addresses the founding of America and the decline of the nation, which he directly attributes to a turning away from those founding principles. I have not seen the film, so I am going by what I have read about it in articles and reviews. Apparently, though, the film has nothing to do with those issues for which he has been in the news, and according to Cameron himself, “never alludes to such hot-button topics.” The controversy stems from Cameron’s appearance on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight in early March.

Morgan asked Cameron about homosexuality, abortion and other so-called social issues during the interview rather than talking much about the documentary. Morgan’s approach, in my opinion, was a result of Rick Santorum’s prominence in the GOP presidential race at the time and his focus on such issues, combined with the general tendency of the liberal media to seek out opportunities to attack Christian beliefs that are consistent with Scripture.

When asked about homosexuality, Cameron told Morgan, that homosexuality is “unnatural” and that it is “ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.” That should not come as any surprise to anyone who (1) is familiar with biblical teaching, or (2) expects a Christian to stand by his beliefs. Cameron made the point in the aftermath of the interview and resulting frenzy that there should have been nothing surprising about his answers. Rather, he said, “the only thing that would have been surprising is if I had not answered the way I did. That would have been more newsworthy than what I said” (WORLD, April 7, 2012, p. 61).

Initially Morgan said that Cameron had been “brave” and “honest to what he believed,” according to the Huffington Post. But when Cameron expressed during an interview on FOX that he was blindsided by Morgan’s questions since he had been told that the interview would be about his new documentary, Morgan took offense and retaliated through Twitter, tweeting that Cameron was “moaning” and “whining” and accusing Morgan of “stitching him up” on the issue. One tweet said, “So I’ll let others decide if he was stitched up…or just a bigot.” That was followed by Morgan’s final tweet on the issue: “I respect his religious beliefs – just don’t respect his use of bigoted, inflammatory language re homosexuality.”

Hmmmm… Let’s see. There seems to be a contradiction there somewhere. Piers Morgan respects Kirk Cameron for speaking out for his religious beliefs, and for staying true to them, but he thinks that in so doing Cameron was bigoted and inflammatory? I don’t see how it could be both ways. After all, there is not really any less-direct or less-offensive way to say what Cameron said, is there? I suppose he could have simply said that he believes it is a sin and left it at that, but that would not really change the message. And I think that it is relevant to point out that Cameron did not launch into an attack on homosexuals or use the platform of Morgan’s international audience to advance his convictions; he merely answered Morgan’s question.

What we have here is yet another prime example of the intolerance of those who so loudly preach tolerance. Apparently tolerance means tolerating just about any position, belief or idea other than those held by Christians and taught by the Bible. After all, there were no loud cries of inflammatory language against those who spoke out against Cameron after his interview. Herndon Graddick, spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), said that Cameron’s comments cause “gay youth and victims of bullying” to “truly suffer,” and said that Cameron said that homosexuals were detrimental to civilization. (What he said, of course, is that homosexual behavior is detrimental to civilization). Roseanne Barr went much further, tweeting, “Kirk or Kurt or whatever Cameron is an accomplice to murder with his hate speech.” GLAAD launched a petition called, “Tell Kirk Cameron It’s Time to Finally Grow Up.” Notice the implication–having a conviction that is contrary to what the media or the noisy masses say is okay is considered juvenile and immature.

This issue also serves to highlight the growing tendency of liberal churches and liberal Christians (and I do not mean “liberal” in the left-wing political sense) to compromise on, and even ignore, biblical teaching. Entire denominations have, of course, now sanctioned homosexual marriage and allow homosexual clergy. Outspoken individuals professing to be Christians are lauded for saying that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality and that God created homosexuals that way. The problem is, the Bible clearly does not teach that. Why would our culture embrace those who claim to believe something and then deny part of what it is that they claim to believe? It is easy-believism. Believe the parts we like, leave out the parts we don’t. That way we can feel good about ourselves and still do what makes us feel good.

A case in point, unfortunately, is actress and singer Kristen Chenoweth. She is a professing Christian, but is also a support of gay and lesbian rights, and she says there is no contradiction between those two things. How does she explain that? By claiming that homosexuality is not a choice, but is actually how God makes some people. “If it was a sin to be short, what would I do? Well I’d be right on the hell bus,” she has said (Chenoweth stands 4’11”). “I don’t believe God makes mistakes, and that includes a person’s sexuality.” I have addressed this issue in previous posts so I will not elaborate other than to point out again that there is a definite and important difference between physical attributes over which people have no choice and they cannot change (height or race, for example) and behaviors over which people do have a choice, even if you believe they were born with a predisposition toward such behavior.

Here is a comment from Chenoweth, posted on Flordia Agenda’s web site (Florida Agenda is an LGBT newspaper): “Even as a young child, I thought, ‘Why is being gay bad?’ I didn’t understand it. So I asked my grandma, who is the best Christian I ever knew. I’d say, ‘what about my friend Denny: he’s gay, is he going to hell?’ She told me, ‘I read the Bible like I eat fish. I take the meat that serves me well but I don’t choke on the bone.'”

The problem is, the hard teachings of Scripture, those that are contrary to what we may like or want them to say, are not bones in the sense that Chenoweth’s grandmother used that analogy. Fish bones are not intended to be eaten. The Scripture, however, is intended to be read and understood–eaten and digested, if you will–in it’s entirety. Not just the parts that taste good.

2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” That little three-letter word at the beginning makes all the difference. Not some…but ALL.