A Civil Tolerance

Sunday night I tolerated a fairly poor episode of Miss Marple on PBS.  I don’t think of it as a big deal because I try to be a fairly tolerant person, especially when it comes to:

Adam Sandler,
That woman from the Progressive commercials,
Cat’s (both the animals and the musical),
The mispronunciation of Chi-po-tle
East Coast Bias“,
The proliferation of “energy drinks”,
Beets,
Colbie Callait,
Vampire themed entertainment,
And yet another self serve frozen yogurt store!

I believe that the tolerance of human beings is a great idea and it is commanded by God.  While I want everyone to be tolerant, I’m not naive enough to believe that tolerance is the beautiful thing that we want it to make it.

My friend Aaron says that we talk about tolerance like it’s a beautiful concept, but it isn’t.

Tolerance is putting up with something that you don’t agree with or believe.  Tolerance isn’t acceptance, it’s understanding.  Tolerance in action is understanding that people don’t, can’t, or won’t agree on everything, so you get over yourself and get on with the life that you are called to live.

Tolerance is doing the bare minimum for the sake of civility.

As a Pastor, I get on quite well with the majority of non Christians I meet because I have absolutely no expectation that they are going to live up to the standards that Jesus calls me to.

Why would they?  They aren’t Christians.

When you factor in that it’s a daily struggle for me to live the life of sacrifice that being a disciple of Jesus entails, it’s difficult to get worked up about other people… even when I don’t agree with them.

Probably the biggest disagreement I have with the average person is that I don’t believe that we can be anything we want to be, or do anything we want to do if we just:

Believe in ourselves,
Work hard,
Reach for the stars,
Have faith,
Never give up,
And believe that the greatest love of all is inside our hearts.

We each encounter limitations based on our mental and physical abilities, gender, and opportunity.  While it’s true that a positive attitude overcomes many of life’s limiting constraints, no amount of it can make a girl into a pony, a boy into a fire engine, or someone with an irregular heartbeat a professional athlete.

No matter how hard we believe or try, we can’t actually achieve all of our dreams.

This type of thinking is not well received nor well tolerated by my Star Search Generation.  While it’s usually branded as cynical, limited, and dull, wait till you see what happens when you try convincing people that they don’t have to be something they don’t want to be.

While it doesn’t seem rational, the same people who argue in favor of “being whatever you want to be” and “doing whatever you want to do” don’t like it when you apply that to not wanting to be homosexual.

I do not endorse political candidates and try not to be overly political (the average Christian and I would argue about politics more than agree) but this week conservative congresswoman, and presidential hopeful, Michele Bachmann came under fire for her husband’s insensitive remarks about homosexuality and his counseling clinic that aims to help people struggling with their sexual identity.

While anyone who actually claims that homosexuals are “barbarians” can rightly be labeled “barbaric”, the idea that someone can choose to not be a homosexual through the power of God’s Holy Spirit doesn’t seem like it should be so offensive… especially if we are all supposed to be at least tolerant of someone who wants to help others leave behind something that they don’t want.

“If someone is interested in talking to us about their homosexuality, we are open to talking about that. But if someone comes in a homosexual and they want to stay homosexual, I don’t have a problem with that,” – Marcus Bachmann

Which reminds me of a poignant story about Jesus.  In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 10, Jesus is approached by a young, wealthy, political leader.  He asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus responds by asking him to give up his wealth and to follow him as his disciple.  The young man walked away from Jesus.

Jesus let him go.

Because God will let you have what you want… even it it’s not him.

While the story contains elements of wealth and power, it isn’t a story about money or politics; it’s a story about identity.  The young, powerful, wealthy man defined who he was by his position and possessions.  Jesus asked him to give up what he loved most (where he found his identity) and to take on a new identity: A Disciple of Jesus.

The young man didn’t want to give up the identity he desired, and Jesus didn’t chase him down and force him to adopt a new one.  He let him keep the identity he desired and walk away from the kingdom… because tolerance wasn’t acceptance for either party involved.

Whatever you believe about “how” someone becomes homosexual, the idea that someone “has” to remain one flies in the face of the human desire, and the God-given desire, for existential freedom.  The Bachmann’s aren’t asking you to accept their beliefs about homosexuality… or big governmentor slavery… or creating jobs, they’re just asking you to tolerate them.

8 Responses to “A Civil Tolerance”

  1. Jonathan Thayer July 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Good thoughts. And I’m not just saying that to be tolerant;)

    • Jon July 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      You’ve always done a good job of tolerating me…

  2. Jesse July 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    It is interesting, there is a lot of debate about whether or not her Husband is a homosexual. I actually don’t really care if he is or not but I suspect that it is something he has struggled with. As Christians we are called to follow God, this is always difficult and everyone will have things they struggle with, be it alcohol, drugs, putting faith in things besides God, and Sexuality. People are constantly justifying their struggles with their sins and I think sexuality is one area that it is done a lot. As Christians we should try and become better Christians and we should not give in to our temptations.

    While I don’t agree with much that the Bachmans say and I don’t agree with the whole statement Marcus gave, this part of it is hard to dispute…

    “Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road. That’s what is called the sinful nature. We have a responsibility as parents and as authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps…”

    Just my two cents…

    • Jon July 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      So true, it’s rare that acting on impulse turns out positively for anyone involved. While I’m not high on everything they do, I do respect them for not backing down.

  3. Rodney July 14, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    Great message, Jon. I have actually been thinking increasingly along the same lines lately (not about the Bachmann’s (but only because I don’t even really know who they are…), but about the identity issue). In trying to get a better understanding of the world we live in and the way people live out their lives, God’s been teaching me that a big issue at the heart of homosexuality is just what you mentioned: the identity issue (which of course applies to more than just homosexuality, but that is the aspect I have been thinking more on lately).

    So much of the dilemma centers around the fact that we as people come to identify with our sin. Not always, but sometimes and, unfortunately (at least in these eyes), in the case of homosexuality this seems to apply across the board. Those who have conceded to their homosexual impulses and choose to live in that way (which could be called sinful) begin to identify with homosexuality – they make their whole self inseparable from the sin, essentially. That to me is the most tragic and problematic aspect of homosexuality: the fact that one can’t be convinced something is sin because it has become intrinsically bound to the self and the identity. To say homosexuality is rooted in sin to a proud homosexual is to say the person him/herself is sinful – they can’t separate themselves from the sin anymore. It’s just a troubling direction and really needs to be worked on.

    Anyway, just sharing my quarter’s worth. You definitely hit on some resonant notes with me, so I had to share. Thanks, Jon.

  4. Jon July 14, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    I agree wholeheartedly. For years my spiritual growth was severely hampered by my belief that I could find a true identity in something other that Christ… When I grasped it, I decided to get as offended by homosexuality as I did sports fandom, which is to say not very.

    Finding our identity in something other than Jesus is something we all struggle with, we just wrongly happen to think that being gay is more offensive to God than painting our bodies blue and worshipping the Dallas Cowboys.

  5. Mollie McAmis July 14, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    You just disapprove of those that paint themselves blue because they do it with blue pens :)

    • Jon July 15, 2011 at 9:08 am #

      Especially sharpies!

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