SOUDER: The intolerance of the tolerant: When Christianity became un-American

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Chik-fil-a owner's statement raises questions about what being tolerant means.

By Chuck Souder

No doubt you are aware of the recent brouhaha caused by the feverish reaction in the pro-gay rights community to comments made by Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy. In case you missed it, allow me to recap it for you.

In an interview with Baptist Press and in response to question about his company’s support of families, Cathy made this seemingly harmless statement:

“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business...our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families.”

If you don’t see the “controversy” in his statement, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to the politically correct group-think and Orwellian double-speak that has taken over much of our public discourse in the last few years.

Even though Cathy was articulating the beliefs of the majority of Americans, and even though he actually said nothing at all about homosexuality generally or gay marriage specifically, that didn’t stop the hysteria of those "tolerant" folks on the left from accusing Cathy of “hate speech.”

For example, in response to Cathy’s comments, the Philadelphia City Council was considering a resolution condemning Chick-fil-A for what one city leader called “anti-American” attitudes that promote “hatred, bigotry and discrimination.” City Councilman Jim Kenney sent a letter to Cathy telling him to “take a hike and take your intolerance with you.”

Very open-minded and tolerant, don’t you think? Have we really slid so far as nation that some people think espousing Christian views is “anti-American?” Sadly, the answer is “apparently so.”

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared, “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population.”

Maybe not, but as columnist Michael Brown at townhall.com commented, “It appears, however, that you can have a mayor in the city of Boston who discriminates against a population (namely, the scores of millions of Americans who do not want to redefine marriage) and against a business (namely Chick-fil-A, an exemplary company that has broken no laws, including laws of discrimination).”

Mayor Menino continued, “We’re an open city; we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” which, as Brown noted in his column, is a stunning example of unintended irony and Orwellian eloquence if ever there was one.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel – former chief of staff to President Obama – boldly stated, “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago’s values.”

And of course we all know what a virtuous city Chicago is known to be. Emmanuel defended Alderman Joe Moreno’s threat to deny Chick-fil-A permitting in Chicago because of Cathy’s support for traditional marriage and family.

Moreno attributed his attack on Chick-fil-A to “diversity,” explaining to ABCNews.com that his district is “a very diverse ward – economically, racially and diverse in sexual orientation” – but, as Brown points out, not so diverse that it can welcome a Christian-based company.

This is not a new phenomenon. Since March, students at New York University have been circulating a petition calling for Chick-fil-A to be removed from their campus for “human rights violations.” To again quote Brown, “In classic doublespeak, the petition states that the fast food company doesn’t belong there because ‘NYU prides itself on being a diverse, open and inclusive campus community....Unfortunately, maintaining a contract with an anti-gay vendor like Chick-fil-A undermines what makes this university so great.’ So, Chick-fil-A should be banned because NYU ‘prides itself on being a diverse, open and inclusive campus community.’”

In a similar example of unconscious doublespeak, New York City council speaker Christine Quinn, explained why she too wanted to kick Chick-fil-A off the NYU campus: “We are a city that believes our diversity is our greatest strength, and we will fight anything and anyone that runs counter to that.”

Brown concludes with his interpretation of Quinn’s comments: “That’s right, Chick-fil-A. We are so diverse that we will run you out of our city. And we are so open and inclusive that we have no room for a business like yours.”

Lost in all of the extreme rhetoric were a couple of simple truths. One, as far as I know, no one has ever been discriminated against at a Chick-fil-A because of his or her sexual orientation (or for any other reason). And, two, Cathy’s remarks were not “anti-gay.” they were simply “pro-marriage.”

In fact, while there are no doubt bigoted people who call themselves Christians, neither the Bible nor Jesus is “anti-gay.” Rather, both the Bible generally and Jesus specifically are “pro-life.”

God created the world and everything in it to work in a certain way, and when we disregard his design in any aspect of our lives – our sexual lives included – we open ourselves up to pain and heartache.

As John Stonestreet said in a recent Breakpoint commentary, “Any form of sexual brokenness is harmful precisely because it violates God’s good design [for sex and marriage], which Jesus said was ‘from the beginning.’ And because Scripture reflects the world as it actually is, the tragic results of sexual brokenness are evident not only in the Bible but throughout human history.”

And this is perhaps where we as Christians have left ourselves open to charges of hypocrisy and judgmentalism. When the church focuses only on the sin “out there” and doesn’t acknowledge the imperfections, we all share, and even the sexual brokenness that many of us carry from divorce, adultery, pornography, living together before marriage and even homosexuality –while we may be right on the particular issue of gay marriage – our voice is lost on the culture because of our blatant inconsistency.

So what is the proper response to the intolerance of the self-described tolerant? Silence, though easy, is not the correct option.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

However, how we act and how we speak is of utmost importance. If we speak as if we are on a lofty, holier-than-thou platform and act as if we are not just as broken and in need of God’s mercy and grace as anyone, the life-saving, life-affirming message of Jesus will be just so much noise in the cacophony of our day.

Rather, “speaking the truth in love,” we reach out to a lost and broken world as one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread – acknowledging that we aren’t perfect, but our savior is.

And if in the process of sharing Christ’s love you happen to get hungry, “eat mor Chikin.”


Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at csouder@shelbychristian.org. Find other columns by Souder at www.SentinelNews.com/columns