Challenge Number Four: “Why are you so intolerant?!”
(Fourth in a series of ten, from my new book Critical Conversations!)
Tolerance used to mean accepting other people’s right to be who they are and believe what they believe. Frequently now, though, it means considering their opinions and values to be just as valid, good, and true as our own. That’s impossible—not just for Christians, but for everybody.
Those of us who get accused of intolerance have trouble seeing how this isn’t obvious. If tolerance means letting other people live out their values and beliefs, then that’s what it means. It means letting people live out beliefs that differ from your own. That’s fine. We can all do that. But if it means honoring others’ values and beliefs as valid, you can’t do that with beliefs that are different than yours. If you thought the other belief was valid, it would be your belief. You wouldn’t tolerate it in that case, you would simply believe it.
Meanwhile what’s going on is a strong push to value and honor all beliefs except for traditional religious beliefs, especially Christian. That’s not whining, it’s fact. The data are there to demonstrate it. I mention it not by way of complaint but to point out that those who accuse us of intolerance are doing so intolerantly.
But tolerance is a lousy virtue, anyway. How do I “tolerate” what I disagree with? By shutting up about what I really think. By hiding part of myself, in other words: creating distance instead of open, connecting relationships. I’d rather go with the real virtues of mutual personal respect and unconditional love, both of which can be honest about differences. Tolerance in the old sense is great, too. In the new sense of trying to honor everyone’s beliefs as valid and true, it isn’t even worth calling a virtue.
There’s more in the book!
In Critical Conversations I develop and extend the answer to this and other challenges, and I share practical relational guidance on how to share the answers in conversation. For parents, pastors, and other Christian leaders wondering what to say to children in their vulnerable years up through high school or even college, the book clears away the awkwardness and confusion. It clears a path toward conversations that can strengthen not only your teens’ faith but also your relationship with them.
Image Credit(s): SwiftPublisher for Mac.