Skip to main content

Bringing "Tolerance" Back

A few years ago, "tolerance" fell out of favor. It was during excitement about marriage equality and the feeling that we were on a progressive, inclusive arc. Who wants to be tolerated? we said. We want to be welcomed, cherished, honored.

Sure, if the alternative to "tolerance" is "welcomed, affirmed," I'll take the latter, please. But what about when the alternative is intolerance? Or worse?

It is a a bit odd that in the corners where I hear the most resistance to binary thinking, I also often hear the most resistance to allowing a common ground with those whom we have disagreement with.

I am not talking about tolerating intolerance. True tolerance must be a shared ground. An agreement that we can be in the same space together, while holding different beliefs.

And that ground, along with being shared, must be agreed upon. I am in an interfaith group. I know that we differ on many things, but we are in agreement that treating each other with love holds the top priority.

But that, frankly, is still too nice of a picture of tolerance. Because with my interfaith group, love is involved. I am all for love, but I want to narrow this down, to the idea of tolerance as an alternative to hateful intolerance, not as its equal counterbalance.

So let's start right there, with what it's not.

Tolerance is not the counterbalance to intolerance. It's the mushy middle between intolerance and acceptance.

Tolerance is NOT:
* a safe space
* a place where you're comfortable being vulnerable
* a place of love (not necessarily, anyway)

If you tolerate me, we can still work together. We can repair homes together, dish out food at a soup kitchen together. But I may not be inviting you to dinner on Friday night, you know? 

Now, depending on the area in which the other person is merely tolerant of me or my beliefs ... actually, I may indeed invite them to dinner. Because I may see so much other good in them, and it has been my experience that helping someone move from tolerance to acceptance lies in more contact, more time together. 

(I do still believe in love, y'all. And I still see it making transformations happen all the time.)

The side of intolerance is growing, and getting louder and bolder. 

Along with love and acceptance, we still need room for tolerance. 


Popular posts from this blog

Whole Church Worship

TL;dr -- Our church does "Whole Church Worship," or "All Ages Are Together for the Whole Service, Every Service, Every Week." I've been getting a lot of questions about this. Here are some answers. Preface: For some reason, I occasionally run into people from other churches who want to explain to me all the reasons this won't work at their church. Sure. I'm not trying to talk you into this. You do you, Bub. Whole Church Worship is working at our church, at this time. Live Oak is pretty special, and I don't know that there are many things we do that would work any other place, including our Chili, Chocolate, and Karaoke Party. But that's a post for another day.  Okay, then. So, I first got involved in Whole Church Worship as a result of a fit of pique - my own. This was before I was a minister. At my home congregation, we had "Children's Chapel," and we had reached the point where we couldn't get anyone signed up to coordin

Post-Pandemic and the Expectations of Others

  We have the hope that the covid-19 pandemic's end is in sight ... and it's bringing up a lot of feelings. Not all of them happy .  Many of us are feeling some level of anticipatory anxiety.  The anxiety is rooted in a fear that almost all of us have, in some form or another. The fear that others will make us do something we don't want to do. Whether it is through what can feel like the aggression of "your job depends on this," or the polite friendliness of social obligations, we pre-emptively worry about being dominated.  Look, the pandemic made saying "No" to in-person events super easy. So easy, in fact, that we didn't even have to say no, because no invitations were forthcoming. We didn't have to send regrets, we were all living in a world where responsible people didn't get together. Heck, those of us who before might feel we were being antisocial could now feel self-righteous! A win/win!  I kid, but only a little.  We anticipate that p

"I Don't Know Who I Am Now" or The Importance of Not Assuming for a While

The next 5 months are probably going to be kinda weird. Uncertainty and anxiety flying all over the place. Duck! And then after that ... it's also going to be kinda weird, but a different kind of weird, as we move into the After Times, and figure out what exactly they're going to be like, and what exactly WE are going to be like.  It is in times like these, that I like to turn to art to help make sense of it all.  I refer, of course, to the art known as the television series Doctor Who. I mean, if we know things are going to be weird, we probably should look at some art that deals with the weird, right? Now's the time to examine Hieronymous Bosch and Marc Chagall. And Doctor Who, that time-traveling, face-shifting hero.  Part of the Doctor Who story (and why it's been able to keep going so long) is that rather than die, the Doctor regenerates, retaining who they are, but with a different face, body, and to a certain extent, a different personality.  Immediately after t