I've gotten some traffic here already looking for commentary on this controversy.The problem is over a children's-programming-all-star-team promoting tolerance. The video doesn't seem to be the problem as much as the web site of the sponcers.
The video is a remake of the 1979 hit song "We Are Family" using the voices and images of SpongeBob, Barney, Winnie the Pooh, Bob the Builder, the Rugrats and other TV cartoon characters. It was made by a foundation set up by songwriter Nile Rodgers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in an effort to promote healing.
Christian groups however have taken exception to the tolerance pledge on the foundation's Web site, which asks people to respect the sexual identity of others along with their abilities, beliefs, culture and race.
I've got that song title in my permalink section as the subheader for my best blog buddies well before this video came out, thus I've gotten some traffic before I've even blogged on the subject.
There are two levels of tolerance that get intermingled. The first is of civility, of being nice and polite to people of different backgrounds, even if you don't agree with them. That's sorely lacking in our modern culture; from the Fred Phelps true-blue gay-bashers on the right to the lefties who are intolerant of anything conservative while preaching tolerance, we've got a lot of folks who's discourse requires demeaning and demonizing their ideological enemies.
You'd better be on good spiritual footing to be impolite and uncivil. There's a place for a good jeremiad against someone, but it shouldn't be your everyday stock in trade unless you have some super-special prophet anointing; most of us aren't called to that and should strive to be polite where possible.
In addition, a lot of the intolerance is just plain wrong. Racism, sexism and ethnocentrism are sinful by and large, thus most lower tolerance is godly.
That first level, or lower tolerance for lack of a better phrase, doesn't require agreeing with the other person, just basic politeness. My mind goes back to an old Tom Lehrer song, National Brotherhood Week-"Step up and shake the hand of someone you can't stand; you can tolerate him if you try." Lehrer was ragging on the hypocrisy of folks who act nice for a week and are grateful that it doesn't last all year, but it's that civility-form of tolerance that people were after forty years ago.
The problem that has cropped up in the last few decades is that tolerance has morphed into a different gear, going beyond being civil to the other but agreeing with the other. It essentially requires a universalist and antinomian worldview.
This higher tolerance requires us to be universalist. Otherwise, people of other religions are wrong and (gasp) likely headed for Hell if they don't eventually see things your way. "Who are you to say that? That's not tolerant of other people's faith if you think they're heading to Hell, is it?" That's going to get orthodox Christians in trouble, as well as any other faith that thinks that there is a block of people in God's good graces and a block that ain't.
The higher tolerance also requires us to be antinomian. That's a five-dollar word for being against all standards of morality. Nothing's wrong, it's merely different or alternative. Higher tolerance not only defines deviancy down, it all but abolishes it; the only deviancy to be disparaged is a deviancy from antinomianism. Such anti-antinomian folks are judgmental and not exhibiting higher tolerance (a.k.a intolerant).
The issue isn't just homosexuality. It extends to extramarital sex, unmarried couples, drugs, euthanasia, cheating, crime and any number of other intersections of morality and society. If, as the old Doobie Brothers album put it, what once were vices have become habits, the antinomians have carried the day and our society is the worse for it.
The big problem comes with most folks in the muddled middle of society, who are old-school enough to not be on board the antinomian bandwagon, but aren't interested in casting their lot with the Bible-thumpers, either. Given that lower tolerance is a good thing by and large and a core part of American civil philosophy (as well as that of most of the western world), the muddled middle will lean towards the antinomians. Given a choice of being tolerant or intolerant, they'll choose tolerance, even though they don't fully buy into higher tolerance.
The muddled middle is universalist in practice; even if their faith has a Hell in it, it's impolite to mention that, and look for some theological fudge factor to grant grace to other folks. That's going to make higher tolerance tolerable to them.
However, they aren't antinomian, and that's where the political and social fight is going on over a variety of moral issues. If the secular activists can equate antinomian universalism with tolerance, they'll have won a key battle.
It's hard to win this battle, since the rhetorical deck is stack against the defender of traditional morality, and a lot of the people leading the charge against the antinomians are in tactless-prophet mode most of the time. However, that doesn't mean that the rest of us anti-antinomians can't politely make the case for "lower" tolerance while resisting the equation of the word tolerance with antinomianism.