On Tolerance

So, let’s see.  I mentioned that I wanted to talk about the intolerance of people toward Christians.  This post linking to another post written by a woman who was dismayed (horrified?  discomfited?) to be attending a barbecue with a bunch of Christians (who had the nerve not to serve alcohol) sparked my reaction.  That, and the Joan Rivers “Before Melissa Pulls the Plug” comedy special I paused on while channel-surfing the other night.  (Then again, Joan Rivers says outrageous things about everyone, so how can anyone be offended by that?) 

I understand about being uncomfortable around people who are different than you, so the woman who spent her afternoon at the barbecue feeling out of place gets my sympathy.  After all, I live in one of the states where more people do not attend church than do. 

“The idea that Seattle or this part of the country is a bastion of liberalism and tolerance and open-mindedness is baloney,” Gallant says. “It is just self-absorbed and trendy. These people are, in fact, very intolerant to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They want people of faith out here to be silent about their beliefs.”

The Rev. Bill Keeton, 48, pastor of the tiny, yellow-frame Chapel of Grace in Olympia, dubs secular Washington “downright anti-religious.”

“Charting the Unchurched in America,” (USA Today) says:

The majority of Americans, 81% according to ARIS, still do claim a religion. They represent a counterargument to the theory that the more developed a country — in education, occupations, science and technology — the more its people move away from religion, says Ronald Inglehart, who heads the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

Americans break the mold. Inglehart says, “Even if you look at the easiest measure of religiosity — church attendance — the USA has 30% to 32% per week depending on which poll you look at, but comparably wealthy countries in Northern Europe have 5% to 15%.”

So, eighty-some percent claim a religion (all religions, not just Christianity), but only thirty-some percent go to church.  (Far less than that in my region.)  I’m one of them.

I am accustomed to being mocked on television, on the internet, in print media.  Christians are accused of intolerance (and downright stupidity) by those who refuse to tolerate Christian belief systems.  It’s kind of funny, really, that those who claim to be tolerant of lifestyles and differing beliefs cannot tolerate Christians because of their perceived intolerance.

At least I find it funny.  And offensive on occasion.

However, I try not to take offense at the illogical meanderings of people who don’t realize how intolerant they are.  I assume those people have no idea what they are talking about, since most people are frighteningly ignorant of the overall message of the Bible and what a Christian is really like.  Joan Rivers wouldn’t know a beatitude if it hit her upside the head, after all, so we can overlook her insensitivity to Christians.  (Blessed are the meek.)

I really do believe actions speak louder than words, so I figure I don’t need to defend myself or other Christians.  But every once in awhile, my eyes roll so far back in my head that I have to say something lest my eyeballs get stuck in that position.  That explains this post.  My eyeballs were lodged way up under my eyelids.  This ought to shake them loose.

Some of you mentioned in comments that Christians are also very intolerant of other Christians.  That’s true, I suppose, though I think there’s probably a better word than “intolerance” to describe the differences between various Christian denominations and factions.  Sure, there are vast disagreements between Christian groups, but disagreeing with something doesn’t imply intolerance (“unwillingness to recognize and respect differences in opinions or beliefs”.) 

(Yes, I quibble about semantics quite often.  So?)  

I have been in Christian circles my whole life–my maternal grandfather was a preacher, my uncles are ministers, my mother met my father at Bible college–I attended church three times a week until adulthood . . . and seven times a week in college (mandatory chapel every weekday and mandatory attendance at church on weekends).  So, I have church-cred

And I’m telling you that the view from here, from the life of a pastor’s wife–who never, ever mentions that fact to strangers lest they suddenly begin to censor themselves and apologize for their language and start to look for an emergency exit–from here, it sure looks like those who champion tolerance can barely tolerate me.

Which, you have to admit, is irony at its finest.

You can accuse me of a lot things–setting back the feminist movement, for instance, by ironing my husband’s pants–but please don’t accuse me of intolerance or assume that because I’m a Christian I’m a party-pooper.  (I’m a party-pooper because I’m an introvert, which has nothing to do with my religion.) 

The tolerant among us should have no problem with my assertion that I am right because doesn’t tolerance demand that you tolerate me, even if you disagree with me?  Otherwise, that makes you intolerant, huh? 

I could go in circles forever, pointing out that people who cry “intolerant!” and point an accusing finger are intolerant of the intolerant . . . but it’s boring me.  So it must be boring you. 

The end.

20 thoughts on “On Tolerance

  1. Mel, we deal with this every day. Even here in Texas, at the bottom of the so called “Bible belt”. (I am beginning to wonder if the US even has a belt anymore.) It’s easy as Christians to feel trampled on emotionally, but I just try to remember that the Bible says we will be persecuted for our beliefs. If we’re being persecuted, maybe we’re doing something right. So frusterating though.


  2. Ah there’s some good humour here — the reason why you’re a party-pooper, for example. They simply don’t understand and stereotype based on a few … hmm, stereotypes. But I don’t think either side understands the other.


  3. So interesting…Do you find it has changed in any direction since the lovely man that is our country’s president entered office and started throwing the word around in the midst of all of his policy making?

    I’m very guilty of this myself….And although I think it’s safe to say that Muslims have it even worse, I would never make the same assumptions and generalizations and comments about them as I do about fundamentalists–and via them–all Christians.


  4. I have to say that I disagree with HeartsDesire. We are still so pampered in this country that we have no idea what true persecution is. The intolerance irritates me; but if it’s the worst I ever suffer for the gospel, I have really led a luxorious life.


  5. I almost quit blogging a few months back after having a run-in with a “Christian” lady who took it upon herself to email me and tell me, as a fellow Christian, that I shouldn’t link to certain people or certain sites, that it’s basically my duty as a Christian to write about uplifting subjects, to be positive, yadda yadda yadda etc etc. On and On. Hmmmmmm. I try to love my fellow man as Christ instructed me to…to go out into ALL the world and “preach the gospel”. I come from a dysfunctional, non-religious background with many of my younger years deeply immersed in the occult and satanism. Excuse me, but I can’t live a cloistered life. I live in the REAL world. I try hard not to judge anyone. I wish everyone else would show me the same respect. You go, Mel…this entry is great. And try living in Portland, Oregon, one of the most diverse and liberal cities anywhere!!!


  6. I live in Portland, and while I’m not a Christian myself, I do see what MissKris is talking about. Generally speaking, if Christianity is discussed in non-Christian circles, you get a lot of wariness, hostility, and intolerance. I don’t kid myself on that score.
    As a group, non-Christians (in general… I exclude almost all of my Pagan and Buddhist friends from this, since they are almost all extremely loving and accepting folks) tend to bash on Christians for whatever reason they see fit.
    Now, stay with me, here… I personally am very wary when a person first introduces their faith to me. I don’t like being proselytized to, and so I am always guarded about it. BUT.
    But. I don’t dislike Christians as some amorphous, vague mob. I don’t dislike Christians at all. I am always moved when someone gives a devout and loving prayer in my presence. I respect your right to love and worship God. I admire your love for God.
    The only Christians you will ever hear me ‘diss’ are the rare few who come after me like a pit bull with tracts or doctrines aloft.
    So, basically, what I’m saying is that while Christians are lumped together and abused, so are many non-Christians (like myself); the thing is, not all Christians, or non-Christians, are alike.
    Take me as I am, and I will take you as you are. I love your blog, and I love your writing. Christian or non.


  7. Ah, Mel.

    You are my hero.

    I cannot tolerate rudeness, stupidity or meanness.

    So, I do struggle with Christians when they exhibit those qualities instead of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’.

    Hello, my name is Judy, and I am a Christian.


  8. Right on.

    I do get riled up over the Bible-slinging Christians who can’t wrap their minds around different. But I also get riled up over the Koran-slinging Muslims who do the same, know what I mean? Anyone who thinks they are the “it” completely turns me off and makes my eyeballs roll around in my skull.

    But, I have to admit, I like parties with wine and beer on offer!


  9. You are a sweet soul — and I see you as very tolerant and non-judgemental. And I am an atheist/democrat LOL!

    We believe different things — but we respect each other. I find harmony in that 🙂


  10. Mel,

    I am glad to took time to express this, and am hoping you got some release…and peace for having said it. As you know I am in a “struggle” over things related. Two missionary friends overnighted here at my house last night so they were ready to hear my heart (and I theirs about thier missions in China.) The overriding factor is LOVE! When a person answers a call to make their life in a culture very foreign to them (especially in a country that barely tolerates Christianity), they seem to be able to more clearly see through God’s eyes the need to LOVE people. Our culture here in America has an “attitude” that people need to make it on their own…or that there are social programs that meet the needs of people (“we can just volunteer when we have time”)…

    Is it any wonder that so many people continue to speak out against Christians when we talk about love…and yet in reality we get so busy with our Christian friends we neglect to love ALL “..our neighbors as ourselves” (loving our brothers and sisters in Christ IS good, but it should not be the end….it should be the beginning…one that build us up to love others)

    Well, that’s my heart.



  11. Oh were to begin, except that it is ironic.

    Of course I get the anti-Christian attitude when what most people consider CHristian is Gerry Fallwell saying that 9/11 was god’s judgement on gay people. HAving been exposed to that kind of rhetoric my whole life, I may get the greater gist of his position, but I wouldn’t expect non-christians to be anything but offended. I was. We kind of bring it on ourselves, or have it brought on us by the vocal people who claim to represent us.

    Just like Muslims all get lumped in together with Al Quaeda and terrorists.


  12. As you might guess, I am in complete agreement with Eyes and jeana. Also, while I am a non-Christian, I do see intolerance in all groups.

    For my life, I believe that everyone has a path to a superior force of being. I don’t think that my path is yours, nor could your path be mine. I think that formal proselytizing by Christians has done more harm than good in the world, changing innocent paths. I think Christians do a lot of good, as do other people of faith, but proselytizing isn’t one of those “good things.” It says more about “MY way is better than yours – Neener! Neener! than anything else could say. It is insulting.

    All that being said, I respect each person’s views and beliefs held within themselves. I respect them enough that I allow them the dignity of what they feel to be right, even when at odds with my own beliefs. I must draw the line, however, when their beliefs are thrust upon me or my children.

    No drinks at a party? Trivial. Telling my children that they’re “bad” because they don’t hold a belief like their friends? Non-trivial, but forgivable. “They know not what they do.” My children are taught to respect others, even when the respect is not returned. It is still hard for them, but these are the tools of life in our culture.

    This is the essence of our lives.



  13. Oh, so much to say. I totally agree with your post. I am often embarrassed by how Christians are portrayed in the media, though. It seems like we do hear so many that are focused on the COMPLETELY wrong things. Let’s take a look at what Jesus focused on – loving each other and living righteously ourselves(not judging others).

    Freedom is such a difficult concept because so many of us want freedom to practice our religion and express our beliefs but do not want to afford others with opposing views that same right.


  14. *lol* that was one of the best posts i’ve ever read! (found you through crib ceiling. thought i was going to get to see an actual unretouched photo. i’m gullible.) i’ve OFTEN had those same thoughts but not the energy to write it down. aren’t intolerant people annoying? i seriously want to make a shirt that says “i hate intolerant people.” the sad thing is, most people wouldn’t get it…


  15. As A Muslim, I Must Say Mel That I Love You. I Think If You Like Someone There Is Nothing To Tolerate. I Pay Extra To Have The Internet Every Month Just To Look Forward To Reading Your Blog. I Don’t Believe In Tolerence I Believe In Friendship. Tolerence Is Fake.


  16. Great post Mel. Mutual respect is what it is all about. Tragically, what the world sees most is extremism. Extremism catches the general interest, and strongly influences the uneducated or sheltered of those amongst us. We cannot underestimate the media influence as to how people feel about religion, faith, and judgment of each other.
    That extremism can come in many forms, be it “Terrorism (ie instantly the word Muslim springs to mind)”, Fundamentalist Christianity, traditional bias (ie Protestant vs Catholics in Northern Ireland) etc.
    In relation to Christianity;- Some outspoken, media-hungry “Christians” have set themselved up for huge falls by doing the wrong thing. Sensationalist journalism then closes the case for some forms of Christianity. And so the bias will persist, as is the case with the last guy in the news, Ted Haggard.
    I’m going to be quite soul-searchingly honest here. I have an irrational bias against some forms of Christianity, because I despise being proselytized to. (What a great word – I stole it from a post above).
    I have never seen you proselytize in your blog, and I presume that you are the same in real life. I admire your strong faith and conviction, even envy it.
    Continue to be true to yourself.


  17. Jeana above said “We are still so pampered in this country that we have no idea what true persecution is. ”

    I also believe we are pampered — a modern day Babylon if you will. And if you are familiar with the culture of say Daniel’s day in the Bible, then you will know that it is extremely easy to fall away from God with so much pampering and temptations around. I sometimes think that while we aren’t “persecuted” as people in other countries per se, that we are definitely deeper in the pit of excess temptation.

    Thanks melodee for this blog entry — very perceptive and poignant. I’m glad I came across this in my google for “tolerance versus judgemental.” (Judgemental being another word I believe is both misused and overused.)


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