why tolerance should not be tolerated

I would generally consider myself a moderate person, Aristotelian in that I believe too much excess or deficit is harmful to the body and psyche.  I spend a lot of my time trying to get the right amounts of everything, whether it be food, drink, or the right amount of reverb on a particular song.  Usually, then, when it comes to morality and ethics, I can be pretty moderate, with some exceptions.

My brother has, once again, gotten into a religious discussion with my extended family.  He, a self-proclaimed “radical” liberal, responded to an e-mail a cousin of mine sent with pictures of a Muslim protest in England — your typical scare-tactic e-mail, designed to play the “terrorists are coming!” card and recall the moments of 9/11.  Russ responded to the e-mail by saying, “Those are religious extremists,” but, in typical Russ fashion, went one step further by counterattacking the Christian extremists who exist in our country and don’t in any way get the same kind of e-mail treatment.  While I agree with his views, I’m not entirely sure whether his point was made.  My entire extended family is very Christian, but they are also hard-working, family-oriented people with a lot of love for everyone, and thus can’t really be culled into the “Christian extreme.”
My cousin Scott, a youth pastor, replied and challenged Russ’s view of Christians, something I’m sure he has done multiple times.  And I stayed neutral, reading their replies.  But then I came to this paragraph, written by Scott:

Do I have friends who are gay?  I would have to say at this point in time no.  But my attitude about people who are gay is that they are still people.  I may disagree with their lifestyle choice, but I am still called to love them.  And for me I can’t get around that call to love, nor do I want to.

Bolding emphasis mine.  I was immediately struck by this statement, “called to love them,” because it is clearly a positive euphamism for tolerance.  If he had said, “but I still love them,” then there would be no problem.  But called to love?  That implies that you don’t want to love them, but are forced to, or guided to.  As though loving someone were a job instead of a genuine human response.

This is what bugs me about Christianity the most, more than the silly god-in-heaven stuff, more than the fanatical churches, more than the Crusades, the hypocrisy, the blatant errors in “God’s” Bible.  It’s this underlying feeling of superiority, and this idea of tolerance.
Everyone preaches tolerance.  If you hate ‘em, tolerate ‘em.  I think tolerance is a weak solution to a serious problem, the problem of love, or lack of love, to be more specific.  People don’t love each other anymore, they just tolerate each other.  You’re gay?  Well, I don’t like you, but I’ll tolerate you … until the Rapture comes and I go to Heaven and you go to Hell, because you’re a sinner in God’s eyes.  Muslim?  I’ll tolerate you … until you fly a plane into another one of our skyscrapers, you heathens.
The problem with tolerance is that it’s subversive, because it’s designed to be subversive.  No one is taught to love their fellow neighbor anymore.  Sure, it might be glossed over, but saying something and doing something are two completely different things.  People all around the world right now are telling their children, “Love thy neighbor,” as they lock their doors and deadbolts and secure the metal gate over their windows, as they avoid eye contact with the people living next door, as they poke fun at the gas station attendant behind their back.  Guess what, people?  Kids see this stuff.  They take it in like sponges.  They catch on to the truth of tolerance long before you know it.  And soon they’re either doing it themselves, or they’re becoming the brunt of “tolerant” children in school, who say hello to your face and make fun of you when you walk away.
We’ve become a nation of people terrified of each other, terrified of talking to people because we’re afraid of inciting anger.  We’re afraid of discussing religion because we don’t want to hurt feelings, but no one realizes that feelings are being hurt because we’re not talking about these things.  We just tolerate them, let them pass on by without serious consideration.
Tolerance is not the answer, plain and simple.  So what is the answer?  Simple: All you need is love.
Don’t tolerate your gay neighbor, love them!  Welcome them with open arms!  Treat them like they are an equal, because they are.  If God does exist, then surely he would not want you treating his creation like dirt, or even tolerating them.  Do you think God tolerates you?  Of course not!  He loves everyone, all the time, no matter what.
Remember, Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  And you would want people to love you, right?  Not just tolerate you?  So do the same!
I know lots of people who do things that drive me nuts, or people who just drive me nuts in general, even people whose lifestyle choices I don’t particularly agree with, but I don’t just tolerate them.  They are my friends, my family, my people, and I love and respect each one of them as they deserve to be loved and respected.  I don’t choose people to target because some god told me to.  I don’t have to target people.  I don’t have to tolerate anyone.  I just love them, that’s all.
I think I rambled a bit.

6 thoughts on “why tolerance should not be tolerated

  1. I don’t have anything particularly insightful to say, except that, I agree, and I think you got it spot on.

    I grew up in church, and the mindset that allows Christians to treat love as a chore has always bothered me, too.

    So yeah, good post.

  2. I’m sorry Josh, but you are way off in what you are saying. I am called to love my family. I am called to love my wife. I am called to love my enemies. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes not. It’s not that it is a chore. And it’s not that it is something I don’t want to do. But, yes, sometimes love takes a little more work than just falling into it. (Wait until you get married, if you choose to do so.) There are times in disagreement that it seems easier to walk away and just forget about the other person. But because I have made a commitment of love I stay and work it out. Deep down, even though there is conflict, there is still a deep caring for the other person and I know it is worth it to stick it out.

    Next time before you go off in a rant, you might ask me what I mean. Because honestly your supposing of what I meant by what I said couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  3. And just so there isn’t more misunderstanding, I want you to know what I mean by “called to love.” It is a positive euphemism of – to love, care for, and be committed to the other person.

  4. I just don’t understand why you don’t say love — why the need to add “called to” as a prefix? Especially if the term “called to love” means “to love”? I know I’m misinterpreting your definition, but that’s because semantically it looks like it means the opposite of what you intend — I don’t see “called to love” as a positive, valiant sort of thing, I see it as a parallel to being “called to work,” something a lot of people don’t necessarily enjoy, but do anyway because they have to. And I think loving someone should be natural, not forced.

    Anyway, you’re right, I should’ve asked you first, but I didn’t really want to get involved with that e-mail discussion, I just wanted to rant, and I usually rant here, because I assume no one reads it. :) Guess I was wrong!

  5. Danny came from states away to tell me about this Blog post, and I think his journey was worth it. I’m glad you chose to rant here, and you both, Josh and Scott, are right on in what you’re saying. I don’t see you as disagreeing.

    Perhaps I can suggest another idiom using “called” to help shine it in the positive light that seems to have been intended. I’m reminded of the joy of people who have “found their calling”. It’s something that brings them peace and happiness, and that just feels right. It doesn’t mean it’s always easy, and Scott I appreciate that additional note that love isn’t just for the happy mushy gushy times, but I see it as absolutely positive.

    I can also understand how some people would say not “I am called to love”, but “I am called to love”… so the focus becomes the one of egoic superiority you picked up on earlier, Josh. It’s a completely different intention under the same semantics.

    I really appreciate the clarity you’ve brought forward in this tolerance distinction. Who knew the genius behind the AK EP was capable of so much?

  6. Hmmm … either italicizing of that phrase you put forward, Heidi, makes me think the same thing. But yeah, in the end it’s semantics. And in a way I am making a sweeping generalization about Christians. I have thus separated Christians into three groups:

    1. Everyday Christians, who are just living life the best way that they can. Sometimes they mess up, but in the end they are striving toward a good life,
    2. Fundamentalist Christians, who are just crazy, and,
    3. My family, who are the nicest people I’ve ever met. And happen to be Christians. hehe. :D

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