Tolerance for the Intolerant?
I found this post gathering dust in my drafts folder. I wrote it a while back, put it on the back burner, and eventually forgot about it, but better late than never, right?
If you aren’t reading Bye Bye Buy, why on earth not? “June” is really a hoot and a holler, and her commitment to no spending for a whole year puts my little three months of no “frivolous” spending to shame. (And, whew, boy. Am I glad THAT’S over!) So anyway, stop on over and check her out if you haven’t already.
When I was visiting her blog on my “Daily Rounds” a few weeks ago, I came across this sweet little tribute to Yours Truly. Besides being flattered and delighted with all the lovely things she had to say about me, it got me to, well, musing, if you will.
Particularly this part:
Most of the people around me are pretty liberal, and we all go around saying we should “embrace diversity,” yet it seems that by this, some people mean “embrace those who think a lot like we do.”
So many people say they are open-minded, but when you say the word “Christian,” they shut right down and get snarky. Well, guess what? You are now doing the VERY THING you accuse Christians of doing! You are judging, and you are assuming everyone in an organized religion is the same.
I admit, I was a bit surprised to hear a self-confessed liberal* making this observation. Because we conservative Christians* feel this way a lot of times, but I’ve never heard that sentiment expressed by someone in the other camp.
*I do hate labels, but they seem to be a necessary evil, at least when one desires some degree of brevity, which, believe it or not, I do attempt to attain on occasion.
All that to say, this made me start thinking about what a neat medium blogging is, because I see it bringing together some of us who might not ordinarily connect, as we do generally gravitate toward people who think a lot like us. And maybe, just maybe, we can gain a little more understanding about one another and where we are coming from.
I think the reason so many conservative Christians come off sounding “judgmental” and “intolerant” is because by its very definition, Christianity is exclusive. Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) And let’s face it, that just doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for accepting other philosophies and world views.
In fact, when you look at it that way, Jesus Christ could very well be the most intolerant person who ever lived. No where in Holy Scripture will you find anything along the lines of this very popular modern day philosophy: “Well, you know, this works for me; but whatever works for you is great.” As enticing as that philosophy is, it just isn’t compatible with biblical Christianity.
And yet, Christ’s offer of freedom from sin and death is given to ALL people. No one is excluded from this love offering. Of course, only those who accept the offer and give their lives over to Him have the right to be called children of God. (John 1:11-13)
But my point is, Christians will never be able to completely “embrace diversity” or be tolerant of every choice and lifestyle. That doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t be friends with those who believe differently than we do, because I definitely think we can. And should. But we simply can’t condone beliefs and behaviors which are incompatible with biblical principles.
And this is where I think we often get misunderstood. This is NOT because we think we are better or smarter or prettier or anything superior to anyone else. Quite the contrary. Christianity is for sinners It is only by seeing the very depths of our own sin and rebellion that we can realize our need for a holy God, but because we believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and the source of absolute truth, we just cannot compromise its precepts.
The other thing that “June” said that really jumped out at me is this:
…you are assuming everyone in an organized religion is the same.
Christians come in all shapes and sizes. There is a huge diversity among professing evangelicals, even. We aren’t all Jerry Falwell clones, although sometimes it seems to me the media would have you believe differently.
It’s so easy to put everyone into a box, isn’t it? We label people by a key belief or some other arbitrary criteria, and then we assume that everyone who fits into a certain category is the same before we even hear what they have to say. We do this from within our classifications as well. Christians do this to other Christians all the time.
No, we’re never going to see eye to eye with everyone. We’re never going to all get along, but hopefully as we get to know one another, we can break down some of the barriers between us and find a mutual respect.