Are You Tossing Out the Word “Intolerant”?
“Dad!” called Chad. “Mike and I are leaving! See you later!”
Todd appeared at the door of his wood shop, a stained paint brush in one hand. “Hi, Mike,” he said, smiling warmly at the tall teen standing next to his son. “Where are you boys heading so fast?”
Mike smiled back. “We’re going to watch my brother run the relay in the International Gay Games today, Mr. Arnold.”
Todd’s smile disappeared. “My son isn’t going to any gay games, and that’s that,” he stated emphatically.
Mike ducked his head. “I can’t deal with this,” he muttered to Chad. “Meet you at the car?”
“Sure thing.” As Mike walked away, Chad glowered at his dad. “So you hate gays now, Dad?”
“Of course not! I just don’t like them pushing their lifestyle on society.”
“I can’t believe you, Dad!” choked Chad. He glanced at Mike, who was watching them from his Camaro. “Mike’s dad kicked his brother out for being gay, and now you’re being just as intolerant!”
“I’m not being intolerant, Chad. Attending a sporting event that celebrates a lifestyle that God tells us is wrong? It’s too much.”
“Do you hear yourself, Dad?” Chad didn’t wait for a response. Instead, he raced to Mike’s Camaro. “What’s too much is your hate, Dad!”
Todd’s heart sank as he watched his son drive off. “Lord, I really blew that one,” he muttered. “Please help me to do better in our next conversation.”
What’s the Real Issue Here?
If you know your parents to be sincere in following Jesus, then you know they work hard not to hate anyone. The issue here isn’t hate. Nor is it the typical generation gap between parents and kids. Rather, it’s a growing moral issue. At its core are differing views on the terms “love” and “truth” and “tolerance.”
The biggest criticism of Christianity is that it declares that God’s way is the only right way to live. Christians themselves are often criticized for their unloving actions toward others. That we don’t help people to see Jesus’ amazing love and grace (so they desire a relationship with him), but focus on pointing out sin. In a nutshell, we’re viewed as intolerant hypocrites.
Why do you think that is? Well, one reason is because Christians don’t get much guidance from the church in how to “love the sinner, despite the sin.” In fact, many churches and Christians now bend over backward to not offend anyone, so that attendees feel welcome. But if we get the message that we can’t be real, are our Christian beliefs really helping us to lead productive lives, or point people to having an authentic relationship with Jesus?
Think of a time that you tried to be loving, even though you definitely did not support something a friend said or did. Maybe a friend wanted to copy your take-home test. Or egged you on to shoplift the last time you were at the mall together. Or asked you to lie to your parents about a sleepover, so you could attend a party your parents would normally not let you step foot in.
How did you handle that? Did you go along, possibly to avoid being called “uncool,” “judgmental,” or “intolerant”? Or did you stand up for your beliefs and do what you know is right, despite the peer pressure?
Intolerant Works Both Ways
Ouch. Labels hurt. But they’re so easy to fling. Disrespecting people who hold views different from ours is sooooo easy to do. Especially when we’re 200 percent sure that we’re right and they’re wrong. If your parents are using God’s word as their foundation to define “truth,” what are you using for yours?
Is God a stuffy, mean ogre who wants us to have no fun? Of course not. God invented fun! But God also invented morality, and the standards he wishes us to live out are clearly identified in the Bible. Unfortunately, it’s really easy for people to distort what the Bible actually teaches. Some religious practices are based on a single verse of scripture!
According to one source, up to 90 percent of young Americans think “anti-homosexual” describes Christians today. This distorted view has been perpetuated by groups that call themselves Christian, yet act decidedly unchristian. You might have seen some of these “Christians” on the Net or television; they’re the ones holding up signs that shout “God Hates Fags” and “Gays Are Going to Hell.” Some of these people sincerely think they are helping God out.
Fortunately, their views represent only a tiny minority of Christians. Unfortunately, those are the images that the media loves to use, to “prove” how dangerous Christians are to those who think differently from them. These images have led certain gay-rights groups and government officials to view discrimination where it doesn’t exist. It’s why some city officials are trying to close down businesses, and jail pastors, who refuse to bake same-sex cakes or perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.
When this happens, the Christian community often counters that it is being viewed intolerantly, and its freedom of speech is being denied. Which is true. Have you noticed that Christians are increasingly being asked to tolerate behavior, yet the world is unwilling to tolerate Christian beliefs? If tolerance is only allowed one way, is it really tolerance? No.
Think on This: Your To-Do This Week
This week, focus on the issue of intolerance. Define the word “tolerance” from both a biblical view and a cultural view. As you live life this week, what are you asked to tolerate? What are you being told to be intolerant of? Who is doing the asking? Pick one issue, perhaps homosexuality, and determine your view on it, and why. Write a letter to yourself outlining your view. Put the letter in a drawer so you can open it in six months. It will be interesting to see if your view changes.
This blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell. To purchase a copy of this book, please visit our Store page.