I just read a fascinating article on Huffington Post. It’s written by Shane Windmeyer, a “Nationally recognized LGBT leader in higher education; bestselling author; executive director, Campus Pride,” and it details his contact and eventual friendship with Dan Cathy, of Chick-fil-A “Guilty as charged” fame. Shane discusses Campus Pride’s opposition to Chick-fil-A, the initial surprise phone call he received from Dan (and the hour-long personal conversation it preceded), the numerous in-person meetings he had with Dan, and the “respectful, enduring conversations” they had and the “kindness and openness” Dan constantly and consistently showed. The story culminates in Dan inviting Shane to the Chick-fil-A bowl, which was apparently quite a meaningful experience for Shane. It ends with a call for hope, for the respect, kindness, and “human decency” evident in this relationship to continue and grow between people on both sides of the issue.
Now I know what you’re thinking:
How dare Dan Cathy pretend to befriend a homosexual? Right? And how naive must Shane be to be taken in so completely by this idiotic bigot’s cunning and guile? The nerve of Dan, to claim to respect someone as a person and still believe that person is living a sinful lifestyle? How dare he?
At least, that’s the response of a significant portion of the comments. While the comments section seems to have mellowed over time, there are still many, many gems to be discovered: A quick skim of the comments during the writing of this post revealed these fine specimens.
- “D Cathy got what he wanted by giving you a feel good moment, and he got none of the downside. He got his pocket gay just as he wanted it. Smart.”
- “Please don’t use your Leadership and Influence to dupe others in the same way that Mr. Cathy has duped Shane. “
- “They’re using you, sir. They are still giving to anti LGBT groups. They still hate you. They’re worried about the impact to their bottom line. They aren’t your friend.”
And these are the mild ones. Let’s take a closer look at the article and see what could have sparked such a strong reaction. First, Dan Cathy takes it on himself to personally contact a high-profile LGBT activist to talk one-on-one with him, during which he comes across as “awkward at times but always genuine and kind.” Dan talks honestly with him, “listening intently” to Shane’s concerns and real-life accounts of the negative results of Chick-fil-A’s public stance. Dan even confesses naivete concerning the unintended consequences of his actions. Dan “embraced the opportunity to have dialogue and hear [Shane’s] perspective,” expresses “a sincere interest in [Shane’s] life,” and “expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-A.”
Now, I know this sounds a lot like what the LGBT community has been asking for: respect, understanding, a recognition of mutual humanity. But one single detail makes all of this meaningless: that Dan “offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.” This fact, seemingly a source of respect on the part of Shane, becomes incontrovertible proof to the HP community that Dan Cathy is a villain of absolutely epic proportions, unknown outside of bad books and worse movies: His out-dated beliefs and his obvious, hateful bigotry are outdone only by his sheer animal cunning in so completely hoodwinking a member of the LGBT community for the purposes of either damage control or increasing sales even further. (Ironically, Shane Windmeyer, by consequence, becomes the unwitting dupe, the naive chump who is taken in wholesale, who needs to be rescued from his delusion of mutual respect and friendship with the dastardly enemy.)
Let’s leave aside the fact that, sales-wise, there’s literally no damage to control. Let’s leave aside the fact that the easiest way to sell still more sandwiches would probably be to go progressive and adopt a catchy, universalist slogan. Let’s even leave aside the fact that conservatives are under fire for demonizing the LGBT comunity, and now a homosexual man is under fire by the same people for not demonizing Dan Cathy.
I’m not going to go into that, because at heart, this is yet another mixup of love and tolerance. Because Dan Cathy does not tolerate homosexuality, because he calls it wrong and sinful, it literally doesn’t matter at all what else he does. As long as that one fact remains true, the secular world will affirm that Dan cannot love a homosexual man, cannot even be friends with him. Because Dan does not tolerate homosexuality, he cannot truly befriend someone who engages in it, who identifies himself as a homosexual. Because Dan believes homosexuality sinful, any appearance of friendship or respect towards Shane is false, deceitful, and manipulative, using Shane as no more than a pawn.
This is because the world sees love and tolerance as one and the same thing. This is obviously false, however, and everyone, even the angriest HP commentator, can see the difference in day-to-day life. If a friend has a broken arm, it is tolerant of me to leave him be: However, it is loving of me to insist that he see a doctor, even if he doesn’t want to. If my grandmother has a mental disorder, it is tolerant of me to affirm her when she says she doesn’t need medication, that nothing’s wrong: But it is loving for me to see that she gets help. Now, love entails a lot more than just that, clearly: it entails care and compassion, a real, personal, and selfless investment in the beloved by the lover. My point is merely that in these cases, and countless others, love is not only distinct from tolerance, but actually diametrically opposed to it. The difference is obvious: Tolerance is apathetic and passive, willing to leave things be, while love is urgent and active, seeking always the good of the beloved. Tolerance is merely the world’s straight-to-VHS rip-off of love: The picture on the cover might be similar, but the content couldn’t be more different–or more disappointing.
The same holds for this situation. There is no doubt in my mind that Dan Cathy loves Shane Windmeyer. And his love is revealed exactly where the HP community sees it as ending: In affirming that Shane’s life is not right, and offering to show him what is. We Christians believe that sin–all sin–harms the sinner. We believe that homosexuality is a sin, and that it harms the one who engages in it. Dan Cathy’s love for Shane shows in the fact that he respects Shane as a person, values his friendship, and still does not tolerate his homosexuality–not out of fear, or bigotry, or hate, but out of love.