WorldVision, Mozilla and the Death of Tolerance
During the mid-90s, I attended a large Baptist church in Washington, DC. The church was an odd mix, or at least it would be odd today. Evangelicals and liberal Christians were somehow able to worship together, along side a healthy dose of members from Latin America and Asia.
The church decided at some point to hire an associate pastor to the join the good-sized multi-pastor staff. The person chosen was a woman with great pastoral care skills. At the time, there was a bit of controversy because she was pro-gay and some of the evangelicals in the church weren’t crazy about that.
I was at a meeting where a member of the congregation stood up. She was one of the evangelical members of the congregation and she had what could be considered a “traditional” understanding on homosexuality, but she spoke in favor of calling the pastor. You see, the pastor had been involved with congregation for a few years and the two had gotten to know each other. “We don’t agree,” I recall this woman saying when talking about the issue they didn’t see eye-to-eye on. But this woman was a good friend and she saw her as the right person for the job.
What’s so interesting about this story is that it wouldn’t happen today. A group of evangelicals would scream bloody murder, actively opposing the pastor. The church leadership would probably be forced to back down and issue some statement about unity and all.
In the past week, we’ve seen two events happen that show how our culture has become a place low on tolerance and high on being offended. WorldViision, an evangelical relief and development organization decided to lift a ban on hiring persons in same sex marriages. This set off a firestorm. Angry contributors cancelled their sponsoring of children in the developing world because of the policy change. Two days later, WorldVision recanted, dropping its policy change.
This week, Mozilla, the group behind the Firefox browser dealt with its own firestorm after the selection of Brendan Eich as CEO. Eich gave money in support of the Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriage in California. A number of other tech startups protested, the most well known was the dating site OKCupid which urged people using the Firefox browser to not use it. Eich stepped down as CEO today amid calls that he was a bigot.
Something is happening in our culture that isn’t right. It’s leading us down a dangerous path. We are not willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, to listen to the other side, to judge people because of one action.
I wrote a rather pointed blog post expressing my anger at evangelicals who basically bullied WorldVision to rescind their policy. I still think it was rather unChristian; using poor children as fodder in the culture war. Was having someone work to feed the hungry less important to making sure the employees were all straight God-fearing, traditional marriage types?
Today’ action concerning Eich is also troubling. People were quick to judge the man on something he did six years ago; equating his actions with joining racist groups like the League of the South. The fact of the matter is that until very recently, people thought marriage was between a man and a woman. Even with all of the progress, there are still a sizable group of Americans that disagree with this view. There are probably a good number of folks who treat their gay neighbors with love, but disagree on this one area. Are we basically saying that if you don’t have the right views you can kiss your job goodbye? Is that really where we want to end up?
When I think back to those two women twenty years ago, I think the reason that they could remain friends despite their differences is because they had a friendship. That friendship caused them to see each other as a human being.
Those kind of cross-cultural friendships are few and far between now. We don’t know each other, especially those who have different views from you. Where there is no trust, where we segregate according to ideology, we start seeing the one who is different not as someone that has a different view, but as a monster ready to destroy all that is holy and good.
I was angered at what happened with WorldVision and I am bothered by how Mr. Eich was treated. How do we learn to live with each other? How do we go beyond making sure we follow religious tenets or political correctness to creating bonds with each other?
There are a number of folk who feel good about having beat back “evil.” I’m worried we aren’t looking at the darkness in our own hearts.
*the story of the two women was first used in a blog post I wrote in 2012.