The Intolerance of Tolerance (I’m Really Not Making a Cultural Statement Every Time I Eat Chicken)

July 31, 2012 at 8:42 am

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you’re probably aware of the controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A. Even if you have been sleeping under a rock, you might have heard about this. Lots of people are upset because Chick-Fil-A’s owners support the traditional view of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Billy Graham has gotten involved. Philadelphia councilmen have urged the company to close shop in their town. They’ve even garnered the scorn of the Muppets for crying out loud. This has become a pretty big deal.

I don’t want to offer an opinion on this matter. Everyone knows we’ve had enough of that. Instead, watching this whole thing unfold has prompted some ancillary thoughts and observations that I’d like to share. It’s so easy to be so sure of your side that we lose the forest for the trees. Though we are dealing with immensely important cultural issues, we also need to step back and ask what the current webisode is telling us about our larger culture.

  • The “definition” of “tolerance” has changed.

The idea of “tolerance” was once understood along the lines of the quote often attributed to Voltaire: ”I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” After all, what is there to “tolerate” if you don’t respect differing opinions? It’s not tolerance when you won’t even entertain an alternate view, which is exactly what’s on display here. James Kenney, Philadelphia Councilman “At-Large” has told Chick-Fil-A that there’s no place for their type of “hate” in Philadelphia. Really? Have you ever felt condemned while your smiling Chick-Fil-A workers assured you that it was their pleasure to serve you (this is really the last observation – the two sides are not necessarily having the same conversation).

The real issue is that Chick-Fil-A’s leadership holds to a view of marriage that Councilman Kenney and others disagree with and Chick-Fil-A is being condemned as intolerant and even hateful in the process. But what does tolerance mean if it doesn’t mean defending differing opinions? Apparently now it means that we can no longer speak out against anything. We can’t say anything is wrong (except saying that something is wrong), which leads directly in to my next observation:

  • The “posture” towards Christian belief is changing.

We’ve already alluded to this, but there was a time when Christians were thought of as “goody two-shoes.” We’re now being presented as hateful bigots. We used to be the slightly annoying goody goodies who didn’t drink, didn’t chew and didn’t go with girls who do. Now we’re being called “hate-mongers.” This is profoundly important and will only be magnified as these issues are being pushed to the fore of our cultural context. Just as the idea of tolerance is being redefined, Christians must be aware that our claim to be a loving people will be disparaged the moment we identify any behavior as sin. Without tangible actions of love from the Christian community, this will not change any time soon. We cannot let groups like the Westboro picketers or Pat Robertson to be our public face.

  • Christians must learn from this and move forward differently. 

No one likes being bullied to change their beliefs. And yet, that’s so often how we Christians have tried to deal with the surrounding culture. In 1997, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to boycott Disney because of what they called Disney’s “anti-Christian and anti-family direction.” Christian leaders have called for the boycott of Starbucks over the issue of gay unions. And now it’s happened to a company led by Christians. I hope we see how silly it is to try and force other people to conform to our understanding, no matter how right we may be and certainly think we are. This type of cultural bullying does no one any good and only fosters bitterness and widens the divide between us so that conversation must become shouting. We Christians must humbly admit that we have been just as guilty of trying to bully others into conformity as we are now experiencing.

  • The two sides are not necessarily having the same conversation.

As I’ve tried to formulate a humble and loving but confident and bold response to this situation, I am continually confounded by the real divide between the two sides. Those supporting gay unions view this as a continuation of the civil rights movement’s fight for equal rights while those supporting traditional a traditional understanding of marriage view this as an issue of sin. Which leads us to another divide: traditional marriage supporters view “marriage” as a God-ordained and ordered covenant which means that God has the right to define its boundaries. Supporters of gay unions view marriage as a civil right which means that the government has the say over its boundaries, not the church.

Because we have redefined tolerance and promoted cultural bullying, neither side is actually talking with one another. We’re simply yelling at each other through culture’s megaphone, the media. In the meantime, real people with real stories are being cast into meta-categories of being either “tolerant and progressive” or “old-fashioned and bigoted.”

There is certainly much more to be said here and I look forward to your feedback.

  • Read why Barnabas Piper believes “Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day” is a bad idea.

Owen’s Shorter Toe And My Sinful Heart

July 30, 2012 at 8:59 am

Thank you everyone, for all your prayers and words of encouragement. It’s been a rough couple of days but we’re all home safe and sound, just with about a quarter of a toe less than we had in the family on Friday afternoon. If you’re unaware, my second son, Owen, lost part of his toe Friday evening (you can read about it here).

We were told that the surgery would be Saturday morning at 10:00am. around 9:35 or so, the nurses came in to get him and started wheeling him out of the room when another nurse came in and said: “STOP! We just got a call from the Operating Room.” All of the nurses filed out of the room for a couple of minutes and came back in saying: “We’re so sorry but his surgery has been re-scheduled for 7:00pm. But, hey, look on the bright side, he can have something to eat now.”

As parents, we were slightly perturbed. My cynical side thought something like: Oh sure, the surgeon’s tee-time was moved and now we’ve got to pay a ton more money to stay here that much longer and Owen’s already nervous and this just prolongs it!

So we passed the day in nervous waiting, playing iPad games, watching the Olympics and trying to focus on a sermon on the entire book of Leviticus. 7:00pm finally came and he went in to surgery. He was in surgery for about 15 minutes when the power went out and anxiety drowned my heart. As the generators immediately kicked on, I thought of something the surgeon told us as we met with him for the Pre-Op consultation. He said: “I’m so sorry you got rescheduled but we had a catastrophe in which a child lost an arm.” Oh man. I am such a jerk. I am (still) so sinful. I was angry. I was irritable. I was resentful. I didn’t believe the best. I didn’t hope the best (1 Corinthians 13). I didn’t cast my anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7).

Thinking about his words and the look of sorrow in that doctor’s face, repentance hit me like a ton of bricks as I listened to the hum of florescent lights. It put things into perspective. What we were going through disrupted our family and will be something we deal with in various ways for a while. But this little child lost an arm.

Moments of crisis, both large and small, are pivotal. They are spotlights on the soul. Prior to Friday, I had thought my soul was in a fairly good place. I was reading, I was praying, I was focusing on joy, humility and gratitude. But then I was reminded that, though I had been focusing on faith, it had been a while since I had truly repented. I had forgotten that faith and repentance always go hand in hand. I had focused on faith issues without searching my heart and walking in continual repentance.

Owen has already talked about how we can’t wait to forget this whole incident. We jokingly told him that every time he looks at his left foot, he’ll be reminded. He sighed and rolled his eyes. I understand why Owen might not wear flip flops for a while. But I want him to understand why, from now on, whenever I look at his one shorter toe, why I might get a little misty eyed, thinking of how God used a chopped-off toe to remind me of His pursuing love and unending grace.

I don’t normally use my blog to promote my sermons, but you might be interested in hearing the sermon I preached on what I learned from Owen’s Infamous Toe Incident. Listen here.

Owen’s Toe (Or Lack Thereof)

July 28, 2012 at 12:25 am

As many of you have heard, I am spending the night at Phoenix Children’s Hospital with Owen, our second son, who lost part of his toe today.

Owen and his brothers were looking for the TV remote so they stood our large, heavy leather ottoman on its side to look under it. One of Owen’s younger brothers pushed it over and the metal leg landed squarely on the third toe of his left foot, taking with it a decent chunk of toe which we put in a bag with ice. We went to Phoenix Children’s Urgent Care who send us to the main hospital where Owen and I are staying the night.

They determined that because some of the bone was severed, they would not re-attach the toe piece. Instead, he’ll go in to surgery tomorrow morning to clean up the area and close it up. In the meantime, his foot is wrapped and he’s on IV antibiotics and pain medicine.

They gave us the option of keeping the toe and Owen decided that he wanted to keep it and bury it in the backyard. He said that it will be cool when it gets all mushy. He also asked if he could take the piece of toe to school for show and tell. I told him no even though that would pretty much be the best fourth-grade show and tell ever, don’t you think?!

On the up-side, we were given a glimpse today of brotherly love. The younger brother who instigated the horrible accident feels horrible but it was his older brother who comforted Owen and stayed by his side as long as possible. It’s telling how children react in moments of crisis like this one. Even though they fight all of the time, we were able to see true brotherly love.

Please pray for Owen and our family. Owen is pretty nervous about the surgery. Please pray that God would be his comfort and strength (and the same for his Mommy too!). Please pray for a smooth operation, a speedy recovery and the finances involved in an overnight hospital stay.

Is It Really “Religious Discrimination”? (If It Walks Like A Church And Quacks Like A Church . . . )

July 11, 2012 at 10:14 am

We people are fickle creatures. We are quick to judgment; oftentimes without getting all sides of a story and oftentimes without thinking things through. There’s a reason we have clichés about jumping on the bandwagon. We really, really like to do it. And Christians are no different. Throw in the idea of “religious persecution” and Christians are all up in that proverbial bandwagon.

Such is the case with the case of Michael Salman, a Phoenix man now serving 60 days in jail for zoning offenses. Christians of all stripes have rallied around Mr. Salman and decried the “discrimination” that has put him in jail. After all, can’t we gather for religious purposes in our own private homes without government intrusion!? This is a travesty, right? We should rally around this man and fight the power! But what if there is more than one side to a story (which there always is)?

I could be wrong about how I’ve come to understand the situation and I’m sure many of you will disagree with me. But, if I am wrong, please show me from the facts and printed materials. But, after having read as many articles from as many different sources on this case as I could possibly find, I really don’t think this is a case of religious discrimination and I want to urge Christians to stop framing it as such. In fact, I’m not sure Mr. Salman doesn’t deserve his jail time.

As this piece points out, there is much more going on here than someone simply holding private bible studies with a few friends when the government swept in carrying off an innocent bible study leader to jail. For starters, there was a cross and a marquee in the front yard, a pulpit inside, along with up to 40 folding chairs. But here are some other facts (borrowed from here):

  • Salman purchased a 3,000 square foot house at 7601 N 31st Ave. in Phoenix for $705,000 in December, 2005.
  • It sits on 1.4 acres–not almost five, as many reports say. Aerial photos at Google Maps show neighbors close on both sides.
  • In 2007, Salman began registering the Harvest Christian Fellowship Community Church with the State of Arizona at that address as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization.
  • On the church website, he represents himself as being an ordained pastor.
  • His front yard holds two large crosses and a reader board similar to what you might see in front of many church buildings
  • In 2009, he built a second 2,000 square foot building right behind his house.
  • On his permit applications, he listed the building as a game room.
  • He has in fact been using it for weekly religious meetings.
  • The city asked him to bring his church building up to code. They want 67 things fixed–lighted exit signs installed, exits on more than one side of the building in case of fire, and so on.

As the owner of two restaurants, Mr. Salman certainly knows how to comply with building and zoning codes. As an ordained pastor, he is certainly familiar with Romans 13:1 which admonishes Christians to obey their governing authorities, or 1 Peter 2:13-20 which urges the same thing. Why then, at least on the surface, does it seem like he continually fought the zoning requirements here? It appears to me that the government has not told him he can’t have religious gatherings, just that he should comply with zoning requirements. That’s discrimination?

If you are an ordained pastor who has incorporated a named entity then it’s more than just a home bible study and pretending otherwise does no one any good.

I realize that I have a tendency to be overly cynical and it’s something I often pray about, so if that’s the case here, please help me see it. But this just doesn’t seem like religious discrimination to me. In fact, it seems like a guy playing that card when he has been given multiple opportunities to comply. If that’s the case then we should be more quick to listen and research before we cry foul. My heart goes out to the Salman family. I can only imagine what a stressful time this is, but I also can’t help but wonder if this entire situation could have been avoided.

What do you think?

Habañero Collective House Shows Past And Future

July 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I used to do a podcast with a great friend of mine. It was called the Habañero Hour and we played a lot of music we liked and interviewed some of the people who made that music. We focused a lot on the relationship between Christian faith and artistic expression.

Then we stopped doing the podcast and started hosting house shows. If you’re not sure what a “house show” is; it’s exactly what it sounds like: we host concerts in homes. We’ve been able to meet lots of those people whose music we played and interviewed for the podcast but since then, the focus has become much broader. We want to help promote the arts in suburban Arizona. Good luck, right? Actually, we’ve been tremendously blessed to host some tremendous house shows (and we want to start partnering with all kinds of other artists as well but we’re not there yet).

In fact, we’re working on scheduling house shows for the Fall right now. We’ve already announced the return of David Ramirez and watch for more announcements soon. In the meantime, here are some great moments from past house shows:

Here is Seryn performing “So Within”


Shawn Skinner: “Charlie and William”



Chris Bathgate: “Big Ghost”


Aaron Spiro: “Are You Coming?”

What have been your favorite Habañero Collective house show moments?

This Just Happened: Tom Waits on Letterman

July 9, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Tom Waits performs “Chicago,” the lead-off track from his latest album Bad As Me and talks about 1800′s rat traps with David Letterman.






July 9, 2012 at 8:47 am

What music would you bring with you?