Monday, June 25, 2007

Intolerance

Intolerance: lack of tolerance, especially of others' opinions, beliefs, etc: bigotry.

What are the limits to tolerance? In a major way, this word is synonymous with homosexuality, and in a more minor way, religious rights as a whole (I'm thinking in regards to Muslims here, in the context of 9/11). Often times, those who promote tolerance are accused of hypocritical behavior for a lack of tolerance towards the "intolerant." (For example, those who profess the religious belief that homosexuality is a sin).

Here's the thing. Are we intolerant if we're against racism? Are we intolerant is we're against sexism? No. The point of tolerance is to fight against bigoted beliefs. So to pull out the 'you're a hypocrite' card wouldn't work in the case of racism and sexism. Does it work in terms of homosexuality?

But this also only works if anti-gay sentiments are lumped in with racist and sexist sentiments. For many, they are, because homosexuality, like race and gender, is a part of someone's identity. I know there are those who disagree, and I know that there are stories of people who have spent years as homosexuals, and then in their words, been "healed" of that and are now heterosexual. If those people have found a sense of peace previously lacking, then I am happy for them and wish them well.

However, for every story of someone who is healed, there are ten or twenty for people who have begged to become heterosexual, and received no answer. What do we do in that case? (In an ironic note, I often wonder if the reason used to explain those stories is that the person was never homosexual to begin with. I'm sure the counterpoint is that the homosexuals simply don't want to admit the truth, and the minority is willing to expose the lie of homosexuality being natural. That reasoning is dangerous to use, though, because what if it's reversed? Try applying that to someone who walks away from a faith, whether it be Christian, a Jew, or Muslim. Is the one who walks away actually telling the truth, and those still holding the faith deluded?).

Some might say they aren't willing to relinquish the sinful lifestyle. Others might say they don't have enough faith, or haven't prayed hard enough. But now we're getting into the matter of spiritual battles, and I feel it's the height of arrogance to judge another's spiritual battle, or any internal battle, period.

Picture back on the last major internal battle you've had. How long did it last? Days? Months? Maybe even years? Say it lasted ten years. If someone came to you within those ten years, and said that since you were still struggling, obviously you were still clinging to sin, how accurate would that person be? Would that person be interpreting you correctly, or even listening to you correctly? Or would the person be using an outside criteria to judge you?

From my understanding of science and just what I've heard from homosexuals, it's not something that comes with an on/off switch. Many have wished to be otherwise. Many have struggled to be otherwise, knowing the results if they come out.

Who am I to judge their lifestyle, or what they're going through? I'm heterosexual, so I'll have no difficulties fitting into society in this regard (Well, that would also depend on what portion of society. If it's the portion that has no problem with casual sex, then I still won't fit in). I don't know what it's like to fear this kind of ostracizing. I don't know what it's like to know so much of society hates you. I don't know what it's like to wonder, in my darker moments, if I might be the next Matthew Shepherd. I don't know what it's like to be in agony over something I had no control over in the first place.

So if someone criticizes a Bible verse that condemns homosexuality, or moderates comments in a blog when saying that s/he is pluralist, it has nothing to do with hypocrisy. It has to do with the people. Regardless of your stance on homosexuality, anyone who is/claims to be one is still a person. They're not a label, they're not a two-dimensional doll just sitting around waiting for you to glue the right set of clothes onto them. They're not lurking in the corner, gleefully counting down to their next same-sex encounter, or plotting to corrode the American family. They don't need another Bible verse rammed into their faces about a loving God who still hates a part of their identity. And if you truly, truly want the person to listen to you because you're afraid for their soul, then wouldn't the best solution be to listen to them, rather than using the Bible to tell them all about themself?

In all honesty, I don't care who someone sleeps with. We have bigger problems right now. The education in the US is sorely lacking. We have environmental problems. We're too dependent on oil. We've got horrible diseases that still need to be dealt with, and starvation to address. Slavery still occurs in the world. Women still lack rights in so many places. Could we maybe focus on those?

And I've got say, Christian-wise, based on the sheep/goats parable, sex won't be that high up on Jesus' list, either. He seemed more concerned with practical matters. Do you feed the hungry? Give drink to the thirsty? Give shelter to the strangers? Clothe the naked? Visit those in prison? Overall, do we see the people beneath the skin and respond?

13 comments:

Mystical Seeker said...

You said it well. It is ridiculous to suggest that someone who believes in tolerance should not criticize those who are intolerant. That would make the whole philosophy of tolerance self-contradictory and pointless. Criticism of intolerance does not make one intolerant, and it is patently absurd to suggest that it does.

jennypo said...

Heather,
This is a good summary of this issue. I think one of the big problems in talking about tolerance is how people define the word "tolerance". To hear a lot of right-wingers talk, it means accepting and agreeing with everything, which is why they feel justified in condemning it. I think that is a gross over-simplification.
To me, tolerance doesn't mean accepting everyone's view. It means accepting everyone's right and responsibility to make their own choices, whether or not I agree.
Why should anyone feel they need my stamp of approval on their choices? If God in a place to judge us all, I am not.
The way that our society has treated gay people is shameful. If we as Christians don't like the way things are going now, then we have to admit that we have been among those who allowed the pendulum to swing too far; that it is swinging back with renewed force has much more to do with our unwillingness to obey Biblical commands than that of the gay community.
As a matter of Biblical principle, I disagree with homosexual acts, just as I disagree with the condemning attitude shown towards gay people by Christians. Both are openly disallowed by the Bible.
Don't think I say this callously. I seldom say what I believe on this issue, because I don't want to rub salt on what is still a very raw wound for the gay community. Gay people have my full respect as fellow humans. I have numerous friends who are gay, who have no idea that I disagree with the actions they have chosen. They didn't ask me for my approval, and I don't consider it my business to tell them. (Incidentally, there are numerous points on which my heterosexual friends and I differ that I have also never pointed out.) The reason I mention my views at all is to point out that believing the Bible does not mean hating gay people.
I fully support the Gay Pride movement, for the reason that gay people, (whether by birth or by choice) have been treated as sub-human for far too long. They have been beaten and mocked. Anyone with a personality that doesn't fit our narrow ideas of gender appropriateness has come under fire. Gay Pride is a means of claiming human rights and respect. It is an assertion of the right and the responsibility of every human being to choose for our own lives.
The Bible doesn't command us to go about telling other people what they are doing wrong. It tells US what WE'RE doing wrong - whoever wants to listen. Everyone else is God's business.

MOI said...

Amen Heather!

One reason my hubby and I came out of the church is because we were being blamed for creating our gay son. Wow, what power we must have! You know the stereotype, aggressive mother, passive father. (Oh yeah? so why isn't our other son and daughter gay?)

Anyway, I realized that the only way to heal was to grab the Christian bull by the horns and make religion how I wanted it, not accept it whole hog on a platter as created by bigots. The bible's inerrancy was always in question for me long before this came up, but I'm sure now that the hatred toward homosexuals exhibited in the bible is cultural and "in context," is a personal bias of the writers themselves.

Good post!

Dan Marvin said...

We have to draw the line as Christians, I have said it before but we must be the thermostats not the thermometers of the world. Where does the tolerance end? Should we be tolerant of people who want to molest boys or animals? The Bible gave us the moral groundwork and to stray from it is dangerous.

Homosexuals often say they were born that way and I would agree, we are all born into sin.  Homosexuals are born with lusts of the flesh as the rest of us. This is why we must be born again for salvation, as Paul said in Ephesians 2:3 "Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."

How do I witness to a homosexual, I take them through the Ten Commandments like I would anyone else. Have you lied, stolen anything, lusted, or used God's name in vain? Yes? Well God views you as a liar and a thief, blasphemous adulterer at heart and you have to face him on judgement day, If God were to judge you based on his Ten Commandments would you be innocent or guilty? Guilty? right does that concern you? Yes, well it concerns me too. Do you know what God did so that you wouldn't end up in hell? Then I give them the Gospel without mentioning sexual preference.

Homosexuality is just a branch of the sin tree and there are plenty of other sins that you can mention to help them understand the need for Jesus and his Holy sacrifice for our sins. I can mention 1 Corinthians 6:8-10 if they are receptive but it is not necessary.

The point is to help save their soul not judge them. I am not here to judge anyone but to point out that Jesus will judge the world. I use the law as pointed out in Romans 3:19 "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;"

I love them enough to tell them about God's judgement and that just because they enjoy the pleasures of the flesh and they have sin for a season doesn't mean they won't be judged, without Christ they will be judged. I just plant the seed of salvation to anyone I meet and then I pray God will nurture them along and water that seed and give it light and they all become Christians. I am not here to judge and convert I am only hear to plant the seed, God will do the rest. Pray for the lost and go witness to everyone like it says in Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8, 2 Timothy 4:2.

For Him,
Dan

Heather said...

Mystical,

I think part of the problem comes from the fact that some see tolerance as equal to 'anything goes.'

Moi,

**One reason my hubby and I came out of the church is because we were being blamed for creating our gay son. Wow, what power we must have!** Isn't it great how humanity is always "blamed" for the bad stuff, and never for the good?

**not accept it whole hog on a platter as created by bigots. ** Now there's a mental image. I tend to judge religions, and people, by how they treat others. If it makes someone treat another as a second-class citizen due to the "sinful" nature of the person, then it's a bad religion. Spirituality is supposed to make one better, not sprinkle diamonds on the mud.

Heather said...

Jenny,

**The reason I mention my views at all is to point out that believing the Bible does not mean hating gay people. ** And I do know people who hold this, and are very kind to everyone they meet, regardless of differences.

For much of the right-wing, it seems to come down to being judgemental and controlling. This gives them "permission" to treat the 'other' horribly, because the Bible gives them permission, and they know the BIble is never wrong (but as we both agree, even if one holds that the Bible is inerrant, that doesn't mean one always reads it inerrantly). But at the same time, because they are Christian, they can always shout about how loving they are, and how God forgives them. It's like having the best of both worlds.

You, on the other hand, seem to be fully in the Christian world. While you may disagree with a lifestyle, you also never forgot that we are all people, and should be treated as such.

**The Bible doesn't command us to go about telling other people what they are doing wrong. It tells US what WE'RE doing wrong** Very much agreed. It always cautions people to make sure they're acting straight before they go "helping" everyone else.

SocietyVs said...

Thw whole tolerance issue is quite the thing - I agree with your position on it. But even tolerance has it's limits and can lend itself to true evil - ex: people in the certain neighborhoods (or even families) won't tell the police about a murder they witnessed for tolerance of their friend...but it doesn;t have to be murder - ot could also be child abuse, domestic abuse, or some other form of abuse - some people just close their eyes for sake of the offender to not get caught.

The gay issue is one that we all have talked about on the Net - fact is there is no good reason to care about them and love them less than anyone else - I like Jenny's stance on the issue - it is similar to mine.

That being said - I truly appreciate your blog!

Heather said...

Society,

**ot could also be child abuse, domestic abuse, or some other form of abuse - some people just close their eyes for sake of the offender to not get caught. **

I think, in many ways, this goes under the category of tolerance getting merged with 'Whatever works for you' or 'Anything goes.' But a big portion of tolerance is the right for one to live in peace, as long as that person does no harm.

**fact is there is no good reason to care about them and love them less than anyone else - ** Exactly. I'm just troubled by how some define love as trying to bulldoze them into heterosexualness, and when that fails, treating them like dirt. Regardless of sexual orientation, they are people, made in the image of God. And we can't judge their spiritual state, because we don't know what that's like. We also can't just say, "Pray and you'll be healed" because how often have prayers taken time? Some struggles can last for years. So it goes as you say: love them and care for them and ask what we would want to see from another in their situation.

Ultimately, it comes down to while a person may be following an absolute and inerrant truth, in no way does that guarentee that one interpets it absolutely and inerrantly. I think there was a quote somewhere along the lines of how coincidental it is that those who are always so certain they know what God wants find that what God wants perfectly corresponds with what they want.

And you are always welcome to comment an opposing viewpoint -- that's what makes us all think, and just generate good discussion. :)

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.

John Shuck said...

I agree with Rodrigo. What'd he say?

Good post, Heather. Thanks for bringing up the issue!

Dan Marvin said...

Translation from Rodrigo who wrote in Portuguese:

"Oi, I found yours blog for google tá well interesting I liked this post. When to give gives passed for mine blog, is on personalized t-shirts, shows step by step as to create a well personalized t-shirt way. Until more."

SPAM MAYBE?

Cragar said...

Hi Heather, sorry but you have been tagged. Bet you thought you avoided it didn't you? Yeah, me too....

http://cragar.wordpress.com/2007/06/28/tagged/

Brian said...

For those who still hold to this antiquated notion that the Bible says anything about homosexuality as we know it today (it does not --it speaks to the issues of temple prostitution of young boys and the act of male rape by conquering armies), I invite you to consider the fact that Jesus is depicted in scripture as saying nothing on this topic. Yet, he speaks many times on the issue of divorce, going so far as equating it with the sin of adultery, including even those who marry a person who is divorced. When the religious right and others who call homosexuality "sinful" spend as much time trying to legislate and condemn the "sin" of divorce, then I might listen to what they have to say on homosexuality.