Forced Tolerance

It’s no secret that Western countries are in a period of transition. Overall religious participation in those countries are falling, and many are adopting stances unthinkable some fifty years ago, in some cases for better, in some for worse. The latest debate is over gay unions being called “marriage.” There’s been a whole set of ugly things done on both sides of the issue. Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church has been a disgrace to Christianity, and on the other side the supporters of same sex unions have not been shy about using their political and public clout to silence any and all opposition.

There have been many examples of this before. A celebrity was chastened by the movement for saying that she made a choice to be a lesbian. A pastor in Canada who wrote a letter to his local paper was dragged before a human rights court and forced to recant, apologize and refrain from talking further about the issue or face a hefty fine of $7000. Thankfully this decision has since been overturned. Religious organizations have been sued for not renting their halls for same sex weddings, fined and ordered to undergo sensitivity training, a Christian printer has been fined in Toronto for refusing to print same sex pamphlets, bakeries in the US have gotten in trouble for not baking cakes… many things have happened that show the current debate is less about freedom then the implementation of a new publicly approved view of marriage that all must accept or face as many consequences as they can legally be given. There are a lot more than those mentioned here.

The latest is Chick-fil-A, a restaurant chain in the USA. Unusually for a business, it closes every Sunday for a day of rest. The owners are open about their Christian beliefs, and that includes a belief in marriage as the lifetime union of a man and a woman. They didn’t splash this across their Facebook page until it became headline news (unlike Oreo’s Pride Cookie) it was just a personal interview in the Biblical Recorder, a small publication for Christians. It’s since been relayed across a lot of major news outlets. Now, the cat is out of the bag and important figures across the city are lining up to either support or bash Chick-fil-A.

Some of the opposition is perplexing. The mayor of Boston (along with two other mayors) figures that since his city is so open and inclusive to all, he has to exclude Chick-fil-A. GLAAD figures that in order to get people to stay out of the bedroom/personal – essentially the private– lives of homosexuals, they ought to publicly flaunt their homosexual behavior at Chick-fil-A with a national kissing day on August 3. That makes no sense. The premises are inconsistent with the proposed actions.

Others make sense. There are numerous individuals who have decided not to eat at Chick-fil-A, and others who have decided they ought to start eating there. That makes sense. Supporting a company these days is a tricky business, because many companies spend some of their profits on campaigning for various social ideas. If you don’t support what a company believes or does, by all means, don’t eat there and spread the word. That’s consistent.

But along with all this discussion, there seems to be a conviction that Christians are not entitled to believe what they believe or express it because its “discrimination” and so that legitimizes discrimination and legal assaults against Christians.

At least we Christians are honest – we don’t believe that all beliefs are equal, and that everything ought to be tolerated. Some things are just plain wrong, and Christians ought not to do those things or partake in them – even if their role is as simple as baking a cake. We want to bring about a heart change, a conversion, in people who pursue these wrong pursuits. That’s done by following in the footsteps of Jesus; by praying often, serving others, loving our enemies and standing up for the truth. We don’t pretend to be on a crusade to tolerate all things, when really we’re just trying to get everyone to come around to our point of view.

I don’t begrudge others the chance to speak their mind or live their own lives – but I’m not overly keen on having that put me at risk of being fined, fired, re-educated or boycotted in the name of “tolerance.” It’s also, ironically enough, a stance that might embrace the current status quo but is remarkably short sighted. In Western countries, evangelical Christian groups are growing, as are the numbers of Muslim immigrants…

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