The school counselor asked the Christian mother, “You don’t want your child to be an intolerant bigot do you?”
Our stunned friend was unsure how to respond.
It was spirit week at the public school. The students were encouraged to dress according to various themes each day of the week. The themes included things like 70’s day where you dress up in disco clothes, and transgender day where you were rainbow colors or dress up as something other than your usual gender preference. As a minority in her school, the Christian middle school student did not feel comfortable dressing up for transgender day so her mother called the school to see what options their family had. She was shocked to be told that her child could conform, or be considered an intolerant bigot.
If there was one objection to Christianity that exploded to prominence in our research, it was intolerance. More than half of the participants in our phone survey (55%) ranked it their number one issue, and the belief that “some Christian groups are too intolerant” reverberated through every focus group. Intolerance led the list for every demographic—women, men, people with no church background, and people who once attended church but have left.
Jerks for Jesus
When people cite intolerance as their top concern, I get where they are coming from. I flash back to an outing with my family to a State Fair, a two-week September blowout billed as the biggest party in the state and one of the largest fairs in the world. All seven of us were there for a day packed with “delicious food, wild rides, dazzling entertainment, and fun for the whole family.” On this occasion, some male Christian turn or burn street evangelists were pestering fairgoers outside the gate when they happened to recognize me. These sign-waving, sidewalk-blocking King James-yelling zealots surrounded my family. We were trapped by a wall of signs and bodies. They bullied us all the way to our car, screaming through bullhorns at my terrified young children.
As an outspoken Christian leader, I have often been accused of being intolerant. I regrettably agree with some of those charges. I have never hesitated to speak my mind, and I don’t always think before I speak. Fortunately, in my case, a little gray hair, taking a fair bit of pounding, and a little more wisdom seem to go together. I have also noticed that Christians are not the only intolerant people in the world. Try smoking on an airplane. Or go to a vegan restaurant and order a steak. I bet you find tolerance neither alive nor well. Moreover, sometimes people who brag the loudest about their own tolerance are in reality the most intolerant people you could ever meet. But let me start by reporting some key points people in focus groups said about us Christians.