Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Intolerance of the Tolerant

"We must acknowledge them for who they are in all their integrity, with their conscientiously held beliefs; we must welcome them and respect them as who they are and walk reverently on what is their holy ground, taking off our shoes, metaphorically and literally. We must hold to our particular and peculiar beliefs tenaciously, not pretending that all religions are the same, for they are patently not the same. We must be ready to learn from one another, not claiming that we alone possess all truth and that somehow we have a corner on God." - Desmond Tutu

I respect all efforts of inclusivity and tolerance. But something I've noticed is that some of the most exclusive and intolerant people are the ones who are also the most vocal about tolerance and inclusivity.

I remember watching an old episode of Oprah in my "apologetics" class with Dr. Dennis Okholm. The topic of the episode was religion and spirituality. There were some pretty strange things being said on the show, I don't remember all of it, but I do remember that a woman from the audience stood up and declared her position as an atheist. Oprah, without missing a beat, asked "well, do you believe in love?" The woman replied, "yes." And Oprah triumphantly said, "well, then you're not an atheist... love is God." At another point in the episode a Christian stood up to argue her position saying that Jesus is God and not some other vague notion of spirituality. The woman was immediately attacked by Oprah and her buddies on stage for being too "closed minded." Oprah, in her proclaimed inclusivity and openness, wouldn't let an atheist be an atheist and judged a Christian for being a Christian... all this in the name of tolerance. The incredible irony of that episode has stuck with me over the years.

When we try to make everyone agree, we have a tendency to disagree in unhealthy ways. When we try to force all religions to say the same thing, when we try to say that all of them are right, we actually take none of them seriously in their own integrity. Sure, we've definitely got things in common, and it's nice to focus on those, but the fact is that every religion is particular and distinct from the others in fundamentally important ways. We've all got different things to say, some which conflict, and we're all making different claims about the world and about the divine. If we are really going to be inclusive and tolerant, we've got to come to terms with this reality and conduct ourselves accordingly.

We should not be afraid of difference. I fear that we've become quite cynical about difference, perhaps because we've seen so much division and violence over it. But we must not fear our neighbors in all their particularity. As Desmond Tutu puts it, "We must be ready to learn from one another, not claiming that we alone possess all truth and that somehow we have a corner on God."

I believe that my opinion is correct, if I didn't I'd just get a new one. But I also believe that we can learn a lot from one another. Christians can learn from Muslims, Buddhists can learn from Hindus, Jewish people can learn from atheists. But first we've got to take each other seriously for what we are actually saying without trying to force all to fit the same mold.

3 comments:

Agent X said...

I have not commented here in a while... Of course I once let 5 years go by without commenting! Ha!

Anyway, just wanna say that I care.

I do not see everything the same as you, but I care.

As for the Chick fil A thing, I do not follow the story that closely. I like the chicken there... I like that they close on Sundays... I like that somehow that is meant to honor Jesus...

I do not like that the food there is a bunch of processed food that largely is not healthy. I do not like that my eating there suggests any kind of solidarity with someone's politics or even faith. I would rather it just meant I was hungry. But I am not so naive either.

I am unclear about the exact comment the CEO/owner ... whoever... made. I am unclear on the circumstance of it. However, my limited understanding is that he simply stated his personal belief and then drew fire from several city officials in various cities for it. It sounds to me like they are the ones with the knee jerk reactions.

My limited understanding is that the Chick fil A guy holds to what he believes is a biblical view of marriage between one man and one woman, and would like to see that be the law of the land. My limited understanding is that he in no way attacked another's views, but simply stated his own, which are of a limiting nature to be sure.

My understanding is that after the unfortunate backlash from city officials, some conservative politicians and/or promoters (Mike Huckabee?) jumped on the bandwagon with a backlash against the backlash. My thought is that the first backlash was a mistake, and the second one shows how shallow it gets. Two wrongs dont make a right, but they show how stupid you can get.

My limited understanding is that the Chick fil A guy is not really in the fray, though his combustible comment sparked the thing.

Notice where I claim limited understanding. I recognize that any (though probably not all) of my understanding could be mistaken. Esp, those points where I actually claimed limitatiion.

I do not need to support homosexuals or a homosexual political (or religious) agenda to be against hurting homosexuals. I want gays to be protected from violence and marginalization too. But I am not a pro gay agenda kind.

But then I do not see a need to protect "traditional marriage" either. At least not in the way Chick fil A guy or Huckabee see fit. I would rather see straight people honor their commitments to their wives and husbands for a start.

Basically, I could dance around the issue all day long before it hit what I see as the heart of the matter.

Let me phrase it this way:

If Chick fil A guy and friends want to protect "traditional marriage" so much, the defense/offense against gays is not the place to start. And going to the political arena with loaded comments will not achieve anything either. I actually suspect our society is too far gone for that. We are at a place now where we would rather destroy opposition than have harmony. We are not "one" in church, at home, or as America anymore... if we ever were.

So, there is little sympathy from me for the political agendas of either side, and yet I care about people on both sides. I care about traditional marriage as well, but not like those who espouse it do.

I will spend time in prayer about the issues of marriage, tolerance, and chicken sandwiches tomorrow on the big day. I will commit to that. I hope it helps.

Keep preachin!

Wesley Ellis said...

Agent X,
So good to hear from you again. I appreciate your comments and your sensitivity to the issue. I respect the balance you exhibit. I think your care for folks on both sides is very Christ-like.
-WES

Agent X said...

Wes,

Thanks. I am praying today about this....

KIT