Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Slippery Slope of Tolerance

When I was in middle school, the faculty installed big banners that promoted positive thinking on the beams above the common areas.  They had words like Integrity, Respect, and Tolerance.  I remember some teachers start discussing what each of those words meant in class, probably some all-school program that I wasn't fully aware of.

In class, one of my teachers defined tolerance as accepting everyone's beliefs, even if they disagreed with you.  I remember her stressing this point, and even at the young age, I sensed that this word was an issue.  At the time, I couldn't understand why anyone would have a problem being tolerant.  If someone disagreed that handball wasn't the best playground sport, I wasn't going to hate him for saying that (even though handball IS the best playground sport).  Simple enough, right?

Then, I began to understand what the world really meant.  Tolerance wasn't just agreeing to disagree.  It wasn't just respecting and celebrating our differences.  It wasn't just saying we were all entitled to our own beliefs.  It wasn't embracing diversity. 

Acceptance went further than just preventing acts of hatred or discrimination.  Acceptance went as far as saying we could all be right.  Like the Coexist bumper stickers, tolerance became the word you used if someone had an opinion that clashed with someone else.  Peace changed into agreement instead of getting along.

If you've followed my blog, you probably know that I am a Christian.  I believe in God; that Jesus Christ became a human, died and rose again to grant us redemption for our sins; and that Jesus is the only way to heaven. 

Does that mean I'm intolerant of others beliefs because I believe my way is the only way to eternal life?  According to what I thought tolerance was, no it shouldn't.  I respect other people's religions.  I'm not going around burning down synagogues and mosques.  Do I disagree with them?  Yes, I do.  But that doesn't make my beliefs hate speech.

The danger in saying that everyone is right is no one is right.  If every religion is the one and true way to God, then none of them are.  You cannot have two conflicting statements, and they both be true. 

I love and celebrate the diversity of the world.  The variety of cultures and traditions is both a beautiful and sacred thing.  But when it comes to what I believe, I have to put my foot down and say that while I respect other religions, I retain my belief that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.

The beauty of America is that we have the right to choose what we believe.  We also have the right to practice those beliefs.  We also have the right to disagree.  If you disagree with someone, you have every right to do so.  But telling someone to adhere to other's beliefs is an act of intolerance.  Forcing anyone to change or renounce their beliefs because they disagree with someone else's is being intolerant of the disagreeable belief.

I know this is a touchy topic, and I have no way covered all the bases.  I ask that you be kind and gracious if you choose to comment.  You are free to disagree with me.  However, I think that our culture needs to be careful of how we dilute our belief systems.  Because at this rate, there will be nothing to believe in at all.

Soli Deo Gloria.