Christianity and Tolerance

These days, it seems that there's a rather hostile attitude towards christians. And in some cases, perhaps this is warranted. Roald Dahl, in his auto-biography, 'Boy', recalls when at boarding school a young student was punished severely for a minor issue. The principal handing out the unjust punishment talked at school assemblies about mercy and love but turned around and showed no mercy towards a young student who had committed a misdemeanor. Roald Dahl goes on to say that the principal at his boarding school went on to become the Archbishop of Canterbury - the head of the Anglican church.

That principal was bestowed with the most wonderful gift. No, it wasn't the ability to teach well. Obviously. Not his upright teachings or moral standards. It wasn't his wife or family or his money. He was given the gift of free will, given to him by the Creator - God. This principal took God's gift of free will - that is the right to choose - and decided somehow that administering that cruel punishment was somehow just and fair. HE decided that, from his own experiences, knowledge and conviction.

God did not tell him to flog that young boy until he was bleeding. God was not sitting up in heaven having a good laugh at that little boy's expense. He wasn't absent. He saw it all happen. So, where was He?

I'd say He was with that little boy as he cried to sleep that night away from his mum and dad, stinging with the injustice of it all. We don't know in the story if that little boy knew Jesus or not, but I'd say that God was longing to comfort him and walk with him through the shame and pain of the whole sad story.

I'd say God was saddened that His gift, bestowed on one of His children, was used to hurt and punish another weaker one unfairly. I'd say God was even more saddened that one of His other children, Roald Dahl, decided that church, christians and therefore God, were hypocritical.

We are all given this gift of free will. We can choose for ourselves to do the right thing, or the wrong thing. It's God's gift to us. He could have made us all robots with no mind, personality or differences. But He chose to give us free will and He will not recall it - if there's one thing about God, He keeps His promises.

It is with this free will that some people choose to hate God, spit in His face and turn their backs on Him without ever knowing what He's really like. Imagine if you had a wayward sibling who stole, cheated and lied. They were so bad that other people looked at your sibling and decided that you must be just like your sibling! Sadly, that's what it's like for so many people with God.

God is misrepresented by people who should know better and have inflicted terrible pain with sometimes horrific consequences. It is sad that some people who have bad things happen to them believe it is God who's just having a bit of fun with their life, watching them suffer. But God is not like that.

So many people hate God, but He's done nothing to deserve it. This, in turn, leads some people to hate christians. The common catch-cry nowadays is christians are 'intolerant' of others. Really?

Bill Muehlenberg writes about tolerance: "Of course the old understanding of tolerance had to do with respecting a person while disagreeing with his views, beliefs, behaviours, actions, and so on. But the perverted understanding today of tolerance is to embrace and accept everything, and never disagree with anything. Thus we are told to be tolerant of all things. But if you prefer to act in a more rational and moral manner, using instead the older and correct understanding of tolerance, you will quickly discover how much you will not be tolerated for doing so."

Or, as further discussed by Bill Muehlenberg: 'As J. Budziszewski wrote in his important 2009 volume, The Line Through the Heart, “If you really believe that the meaning of tolerance is tolerating, then you ought to tolerate even intolerance. If you really believe that the best foundation for toleration is to avoid having strong convictions about good and evil, then you should not try to harbor the strong conviction that intolerance is bad.” '

So, if someone says I'm intolerant because I'd like to sing a christian song or read a story about Jesus in it or mention in my general conversation that I went to church or I read my Bible, then it's actually them who's being intolerant. Not me.

Everyone on this earth has a 'religion' or a 'world view'. Everyone. There is no neutral belief. One is either agnostic, secular humanist or atheist or buddhist, moral relativist, jewish.......the list goes on. No one person can say to the other, "Don't push your views on me!" because we ALL have a point of view. It is better to engage and discuss the world views of others openly and with respect, rather than closing down debate with pointless and childish labels like 'intolerant' or 'bigot'. It merely shows the insecurities of one who resorts to labels and insults when confronted by another world view.

For example, as a christian, I don't think having sex before marriage is healthy or beneficial. But do I go around telling other cohabiting couples not to say that they're living with and sleeping with their partners to protect my children so they're not influenced? Nope, I certainly do not. If asked, I'm certainly prepared to share my views - respectfully, of course. But I educate my children at home about the risks of pre-marital sex and talk about the wonderful benefits of sex within a stable, loving marriage. I don't label others or refuse to be friends because of differing beliefs. I'm secure in my own views on the issue that I don't need to resort to labels to shut down even talking about the issue.

The issue of christians and tolerance is a big one and I certainly don't claim to be an expert on the issue. But I would urge everyone of a certain world view to engage respectfully with each other's beliefs rather than attempting to shut others down based on insecurities and misinformation.

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