would you just like to be tolerated?

would you just like to be tolerated? March 27, 2013
tolerance is not acceptance cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

This is another cartoon addressing marriage equality and LGBTQ themes. Tolerance is not the same as acceptance. Equality is more than tolerance.

Tolerance means putting up with something, enduring it, allowing it to be present in your world. It’s something that’s done from a position of power, from a position of superiority to that which is tolerated. We are now realizing that this posture is very very problematic. You can observe a prime example of this problematic posture in Rick Warren’s position that tolerance does not mean approval. As if tolerance was the high road. It no longer is. Warren’s position exposes the difficulty: tolerance is not approval. Who wants to live under those conditions?

I will even venture that it won’t be too long before acceptance becomes problematic because it also suggests allowing something from a position of power and superiority. As in, “We will accept you into our world!” It might do for now as one world provides many of the freedoms, rights and privileges that the other doesn’t. But soon acceptance will be perceived as a lofty pronouncement from a position of dominance that is no longer held or even real.

If our vision is not large enough to include everyone on the same equal plain then our vision is too small.

(***I personally want to invite you to The Lasting Supper, an online community dedicated to providing a safe place to exercise your spirituality on equal footing with others. It is non-confrontational, open, informative and fun. This Friday night we are having a hangout where one of our members is talking about her escape from Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill church. I welcome you to join us.)

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  • Carol

    Agreed, tolerance is not acceptance, but it sure beats abuse!

  • pun excused 😉

  • Adam Julians

    I agree with the use of the word “tolerance”. In it’s use today it has become synonymous with putting up with something where one would really rather prefer not to have to put up with it. My understanding is that there will have been a time where the use of the word would have been helpful and have a different meaning to its common usage now and that there needs to be something different in the present to convey a healthy way of being.

    Sometimes there are things that are healthy to accept and embrace, sometimes it is healthy to judge some things as not acceptable and reject them. Sometimes it is easy to be objective about what is acceptable or unacceptable sometimes not. Sometimes there is a lot of subjectivity involved in perceptions made. If we are to have healthy communication as healthy communities these factors will be taken into consideration and applied appropriately.

  • Gary

    Terrific commentary David. I think you are spot on when you say tolerance, and even acceptance, are not the same as equality. Though I think the path from discriminatory prejudice to equality is not likely to bypass these points along the way.

  • Ciera

    On one hand, I’d rather be tolerated than ignored…because if they’re tolerating me, at least they’re acknowledging my existence! Lol

    I think the biggest problem with a certain breed of religious ppl…is that they forget that different cultures have different customs. Granted, this goes beyond same sex marriage but I think it applies. If we can’t accept ppl for who they are, regardless of their practices, just like Jesus did for us, then what is the point of our religion? Sigh.

  • Shary Hauber

    If acceptance to me means equal. Acceptance means you take me just as I am without demanding I change and I do the same for you. I will be sad if it no longer means that. We will have to define the word every time we use it. Unconditional acceptance, acceptance without strings attached. Interesting how language changes over years.

  • Caryn LeMur

    I lean towards the terms being important, yet I offer that both terms need to be abandoned.

    For example, I read of Jesus healing the special slave of the Roman Centurion. I ask myself, “Did Jesus tolerate slavery? hmmmmm… did Jesus tolerate military by-blood-and-sword conquest? Or, did Jesus accept slavery and military conquest?” and… with these questions, I ‘box in’ and constrain my solution set. What if they are the wrong questions?

    Sometimes, defining the ‘best’ question is where the work is found….

    When Paul wrote, “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matter, but only faith that works through love” – is it possible that Paul sensed the deeper and more important questions? Questions like, “Slave or free, Roman or Jew, male or female… these questions do not matter… does the person have faith, and is that faith showing its presence through love?”

    What a change that would make in our approach…. really. I would then be practically ignoring questions like “is he gay? straight? hetero? bi-sexual? right genetics? bad parents? illegal immigrant or descendant of the 1776 revolution? dove or hawk? Republican or Democrat? baptized by water or immersion? believes in the sacrements as literal or as emblems? divorced? in second marriage? co-habitating with girlfriend? poly or monogamous? belives in literal hell or believes all are saved?” And all the other wickets….. I would discount them all to the level of my discussions on types of espresso coffee that are best with cinnamon rolls….

    Instead, I would ask the key question, “Does he have faith? Does his faith work through a frame of love?” If yes, then he is a mature brother in Christ that ‘matters’.

    As of late, by using this key scripture, “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matter, but only faith that works through love”, I have been able to better understand the life of Jesus on this earth. I offer that He was not focused on the espresso of ‘tolerance’ or the cinnamon rolls of ‘acceptance’… He was focused on the meat of ‘faith, and a faith that works through love’.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Bobbye

    David, by mentioning Rick Warren are you suggesting that approval is the only “right” choice? That would seem to me to be a very intolerant and unaccepting community for those who cannot violate their conscience to approve. I think tolerence and acceptance is the best any society can do given the imperfection of our nature. I like what and how Caryn said very much. If Christians could just get there they would not easily leave their wounded on the steets to die.

  • Hi Bobbye… thanks for your comment. I was hoping to point out the problem with that position. Of course in my mind full equalities and freedoms should be afforded to all, including same-sex couples. Warren’s position is problematic because it allows for tolerance without any change in policy, which in my mind is useless. So as long as policy reflects total fairness towards all, tolerance will have to do for some. But tolerance instead of equalizing policies is bankrupt.

  • Bobbye

    Thanks for answering David. I assumed( yeah I know) that acceptence was when equalizing policies were in place??

  • John Hester

    People today think that loving the sinner but hating the sin is the proper way to address the issue. The problem is they’re still focused on the sin in the life of the individual instead of merely loving the individual.

  • Carol

    The Gospel cannot be rightly understood when we begin our theological/spiritual formation with Original Sin rather than with the biblical narrative of Original Blessing, our being created in the Image of God with the potential to acquire godlikeness.*

    Since God is without sin, a sin-centered belief system will always be Law/man-centered rather than grace/God-centered.

    *In Orthodox theology, the two words “image” and “likeness” are not used interchangeably as they are for Roman Catholics and Protestants. For Orthodox Christians, “image” denotes the powers and faculties with which every human being is endowed by God from the first moment of his existence. “Likeness” is the assimilation, the growth process to God through virtue and grace. We call this growth process “theosis.” For Western theology, man was created perfect in the absolute sense and therefore, when he fell, he fell completely away from God. For Orthodox theology, man was created perfect in the potential sense.–Fr. George Nicozisin

    “A moral theology built on the authentic Gospel will be a far cry from a stoical morality built on duty and obligation, both deduced from some cosmic law of nature.” –Fr. Joseph Oppitz, C.Ss.R

    “The typical moralist sees grace as a means to fulfill a commandment. He puts the commandment in the first place and sees the difference of Old and New Testaments in the observance of the Decalogue. In the Old Testament they did not have the grace to keep the commandments; now in the New Testament they have sufficient grace if they use all the means, the sacraments, and so on. This is an anthropocentric, moralistic approach which makes the grace of Christ and finally Christ Himself only the means for the law, for the commandments . But primacy is not the law, the commandments “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”; the primacy is our Lord, who in his grace, his tremendous love, comes to encounter us.” –Bernard Haering, C.Ss.R., Redemptorist Moral Theologian

    “Core moral concepts, such as freedom, conscience, obedience, and fidelity, can have very different meanings and importance. These differing meanings depend on if our concern is with conformity, fulfilling norms, and subordination, or instead if our focus is radical thinking infused with the spirit of God blowing as it wills and marked by grown-up, freely affirmed responsibility.” –Bernard Haering, C.Ss.R, The Virtues of an Authentic Life