There is a big cry for “Tolerance” in our society and in fact across the globe today. This term is especially used and brought out to parade around when the topic of discussion turns to spiritual matters. But when I hear the word and read the funny looking bumper stickers (you know the ones that spell out the word with all kinds of religious symbols), I find myself asking the following questions: Am I tolerant? Do I want or need to be more tolerant? Of what should I be tolerant? Do I really know what it means to be tolerant?
If you have ever asked yourself some of these same or similar questions, then perhaps you like me need to study the definition of what it means to be tolerant.
Tolerance means the acceptance of differing views and fairness towards the people who hold these different views, the act of putting up with somebody or something irritating or otherwise unpleasant, or even the ability to remain unaffected.
While on the surface this seems like quite a good definition and we may think on first blush “Oh I get it – enough said”. I believe we need to dig deeper to fully understand it because of a few words that stick out, at least to me, buried in its definition. These words are; acceptance, fairness, irritating and unaffected.
Acceptance is another sneaky way of saying you agree with or have a willingness to believe that something is true. It means that you are having a realization of a fact or truth and you are in the process of coming to terms with it.
Fairness means to be just or impartial and being impartial means that you have no direct involvement or interest in one side more than another.
To cause somebody to feel annoyance or exasperation is another way of saying that they are irritating you. However, irritating can also mean to cause a painful reaction.
Lastly the word unaffected is defined as to be not changed or influenced by something.
Wow – with those words explained, we can now move on to the heart of the issue associated with tolerance. When we dissect the word tolerance, we can put it into the form of what most people use it for when they lay claim to it. When someone says they are tolerant of other religions what they are truly saying for themselves is that they have no real religion of their own or that they don’t think enough of their own beliefs to stand up for them, therefore, they don’t truly have any. I know I said it; you might want to go back and read it again because I’m not going to change it!
If you’re still with me right now let me further explain it this way. First of all, religious tolerance is primarily relied upon to claim that each religion has some truth or truths to it. While that may be, I have been taught at least, as an American, to seek (and speak) the whole truth and nothing but the truth (so help me God).
Why is truth important? Well that really can only be answered by the individual because if truth is not important to you as an individual then nothing else matters. You can do whatever, whenever, wherever, to whomever you want. Given our society’s high violent crime rate and the world’s implosion on itself, you may agree with me that many today do not value truth. On the other hand if you do have a sense that truth is important, then it must be either all or nothing. Again, if it is only somewhat important, it’s easy to slide into the mindset previously described.
So then, if truth is important and truth by it’s definition is true and can not be altered why are we afraid to seek it, learn it, share it or even discuss or challenge it. If truth is truth, then throw it on the floor of the arena (the school auditorium, the court room, the military tribunal, the work place or any other venue of choice) and let it stand for itself. There is no need to argue for or against truth – it is what it is. For example, we know a truth here on earth called gravity. What goes up must come down. We do not have to argue the point, if you don’t agree with the truth just try to contradict it and suffer the consequences. Jump as high into the air as you can and defy gravity’s truth and you will soon see what I mean. Hence, those who live by truth have no need for argument or debate; they simply live it out as an example to others.
However, when one doesn’t know the truth but thinks that they do or they only know part of the truth and think perhaps that it’s the whole truth; they must fight for their point of view and hold their ground. It is this kind of thinking and argument that has given religion a bad name. Again, this is why many religious people end up fighting others or even against those of their own sect for their beliefs. Please understand that beliefs and truth are not always synonymous. Just because I may believe the earth is flat does not make it so.
If I do possess the truth, then when I encounter the counterfeit, what should be my obligation to it? Should I ignore it? Basically when someone taunts “tolerance” that is in effect what they are suggesting I do. They are in effect saying that I should be tolerant myself which according to the words we defined above would mean that I would be saying that I agree with the counterfeit or am at least willing to agree to it. Really? Why if I have the truth would I be willing to accept less than the truth? Doesn’t common sense cry out that I correct the situation and share (not force but also not deny) the truth. If I know about gravity and I see you attempting to defy it shouldn’t I at least warn you of the possible consequences of your getting hurt? Yes, I should warn you but in the end I must also realize your decision to jump is yours not mine to make.
Oh but then some will say that I’m not being fair in accepting the view of others even though it might not be true. Again, seriously? According to the definition of fairness, do I have to be impartial to the counterfeit when truth has been revealed? Shouldn’t my vested interest always reside in the truth? Should I give up my involvement in truth just so others don’t have to be affected by the truth? In other words, if we all deny the gravitational pull, will it just stop pulling on us?
By this time into the discussion you can usually tell when people no longer want to hear the truth or listen to reason because they claim that those with truth are irritating them. So they cry the louder for tolerance. What they truly desire is for the pain to be displaced back on the one with truth. For if the one with truth turns from it just to agree even in part with those who don’t will the consequences be any less? If I do give in to tolerance and agree with you that gravity may not be as important as I first thought, then suffer the bruise from falling does it hurt any less? I don’t think so!
Finally what those who cry for tolerance are really trying to say to those with truth is that they don’t want to be affected, they don’t want to change. They are truly afraid that truth will influence them to live in a different way and either they are just too comfortable to take the risk or just plain defiant because they want their own way so they retreat to the false cover of tolerance. However I believe it’s important for us to consider what scripture says:
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15 KJV)
“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38 KJV)
“Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” (Proverbs 23:23 KJV)
“For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.” (Proverbs 8:7 KJV)
“These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:” (Zechariah 8:16 KJV)
“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25 KJV)
“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16 KJV)
I would encourage you today not to be fooled by the guise of those who cry for tolerance. If tolerance is truly tolerance then those who cry for it should be the role model for it, which is typically not the case. I do agree strongly with the principle of treating people with love, respect and proper dignity, but I also believe it is important to share the truth with those who have need of it!