Define Tolerance

Unless you just climbed out of a hole—In which case, welcome back!—you have probably seen the controversy swirling above cattle savior, Chick-Fil-A.

The company’s COO, Dan Cathy made statements regarding his opinion on the issue of same-sex marriage, thus inciting an all out war against intolerance. Chick-Fil-A, widely known as a “Christian” company, has funded organizations in support of heterosexual marriage for years. This is not the first time the chicken giant has been accused of pushing agenda.

However, Dan Cathy’s statements on June 16th have been translated as a battle cry and the company is taking shots from several gay rights groups and politicians who are calling for boycotts and protests of its restaurant locations.

And so a line has been drawn, dividing people into the tolerant or the outright intolerant.

But what in the world is tolerance?

From what I gather from Twitter, Facebook, and the internet, tolerance means, “agree with what I believe or forever be considered a jerk that needs to remain silent.”

Did I get that right?

Well, I did a little research, and according to my sources, or, tolerance is defined as:

  1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

If we allow this definition we must conclude that tolerance is about civility with room for disagreement. In other words, to tolerate does not always mean to agree.

I offer this admittedly simple illustration:

I don’t like Country music. I’m not ashamed to say it, but when my wife cleans the house to CMT I don’t threaten to put a shoe through the TV screen. I simply go to another room and crank up gangster rap, or Hillsong, depending on what mood I’m in. We are still currently married.

That’s tolerance.

Regarding intolerance and Chick-Fil-A, what does a COO’s opinion of marriage have to do with you or I eating a sandwich? Should Christians and Muslims boycott Target for using ad space to promote gay marriage? There seems to be a contradiction.

When I shop at a store, I don’t think about the political or religious opinions of the company owners. I don’t particularly care about the sexual orientation of the person who designed the shirt I am wearing. If he or she were a known criminal or advocate of inhumanity, that would be different.

Why don’t we boycott McDonald’s for making everybody fat?

I am a Christian. Tom Cruise is a Scientologist. Should I call for a national protest of his next film because he believes Jesus is nothing more than a holographic projection of my alien-plagued subconscious? Of course not. He has a right to believe that, along with a right to financially support the advancement of his religious persuasion, as bizarre as I think it is.

If Dan Cathy starts putting “No homo” on the sandwich wrappers then I will understand. I will boycott myself. If the company denies service to gay couples and their families, I will stand in opposition to the injustice and hatred. Otherwise, private companies should all share equal right in supporting the causes they believe in. To cripple an opponent’s right is to eventually cripple your own.

I do not support gay marriage, but if all 50 states legalize it I will not flee the country. I will not blame homosexual marriage for the destruction of traditional marriage; heterosexuals have been destroying it for years.

I will continue to promote what I believe while respecting others. I am not going to cross state lines and load up on chicken sandwiches to prove a point. To me, the issue has been trivialized by both sides of the debate. If Chick-Fil-A collapses tomorrow, what have we gained? If it overcomes adversity and shatters sales records, is Christ the more glorified?

One thing is certain, we all need to pull up a chair, open a dictionary and settle on a definition for tolerance.

I would love to hear what you think. Comment below.

Photo Credit: Amanky (Creative Commons)

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3 responses to “Define Tolerance”

  1. TimVan says :

    Dear Anthony,
    Excellent post. I am glad to see there are more people concerned about the tolerance issue of today’s society. I therefore started a be-tolerant blog this week, hoping to clarify some things about tolerance. It should not matter what belief system someone follows, as long as it does not infringes on the freedom and rights of other people. The Chick COO can belief that gay marriage is wrong, as long as he is not actively obstructing the actual marriage he can belief whatever he wants. I do not belief in Christ, nor Mohammed. But I do not obstruct anyone in believing whatever they want.
    I think it is the challenge of our generation to figure out how we can live peacefully in a global community. And we have yet a lot to learn.
    Tim Van

    • Anthony Garcia says :

      Thanks a lot, Tim. I love that we hold completely different beliefs, yet somehow we can agree on mutual respect for all. I truly appreciate your comment. Good luck with your blog this week.

  2. Glen says :

    Well said Mocha Face, well said.

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