Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What does "Tolerance" Look Like?

This is what tolerance looks like.  If you follow the link you'll find an article written by Shane L. Windmeyer, the gay man who started the brouhaha about Chik-Fil-A being a supposedly anti-gay company that funded discriminatory organizations.  In the article, Windmeyer talks about the experience of having Dan Cathy reach out to him during the scandal so they could talk to one another and understand each other's position more thoroughly.  Windmeyer accepted the invitation, and the two became fast friends.  So much so, that Windmeyer was Cathy's guest at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta earlier this month.

Windmeyer is very complimentary of Cathy, explaining how, although they disagreed, each was heard and understood by the other, while still maintaining their views.  Their minds were not changed, but they were able to come to a mutual understanding of one another which led to some real progress in the relationship between the two groups, and hopefully, between the two agendas in the larger sphere.  It's a great story of what can be accomplished between two opposing points of view if they simply respect one another and engage in thoughtful, meaningful dialogue with each other.

What's even more interesting about this article, though, is that I think it flies in the face of everything the tolerance crowd stands for.  As I've said before on this blog (here, here, here, and here), typically those who cry for tolerance actually want nothing of the sort.  In reality, they just want those who disagree with them to either shut up, or abandon their values altogether and join them.  As you can probably tell, this is not tolerance.  It's bullying.

Tolerance is not possible unless people disagree.  After all, if we didn't disagree with one another, what would there be to tolerate?  You would agree with me and I would agree with you.  We wouldn't have to tolerate one another because we'd be on the same side.  So the modern mindset that defines tolerance as an acceptance of something that goes against my beliefs and values is absolutely backwards.  It's not tolerance at all - it's forced agreement.

Tolerance only exists in circumstances where people differ.  It's an acceptance of the reality that people see the world differently than you do, and being OK with that.  It doesn't mean you stop talking, nor does it mean you abandon your convictions.  It goes even further when different people sit down for their mutual edification through a dialogue of the issues that are disagreed upon.  When we can engage in civil discourse with people whom we have significant disagreements, tolerance is in full force.

When you look at tolerance like this, it doesn't seem to be such a hot topic as many in the culture make it out to be.  That's because when they cry tolerance, they want their political or social enemies to either shut up or adopt their own beliefs.  That's not tolerance at all.  In fact, that's the definition of intolerance.  How ironic: those who label others as being intolerant are actually guilty of the very thing they claim to hate.

Can a Christian practice tolerance?  Absolutely.  Not only can a Christian practice tolerance, but a Christian should practice tolerance.  This does not mean that we give up our beliefs or worldview, mind you. In fact, if you have to compromise your beliefs you're not practicing tolerance - you're giving in.  The real question is, can a Christian practice tolerance and still call the world to repentance and the truth of scripture?  Again, I would say absolutely.  We don't stop loving people with whom we disagree just because we call them to repentance - in fact, we call them to repentance and the truth of scripture out of a spirit of love and concern.  And even if the world doesn't respond to our call, we continue to listen, try to understand, and find new ways of effectively preaching the truth to all who would hear it.

Dan Cathy showed us a remarkable way that Christians can practice tolerance (engaging those with whom we disagree) while still standing up for biblical truth.  Kudos to him.  And Kudos to Shane Windmeyer for practicing tolerance as well.

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