Tag Archives: intolerance

Tolerating Questions

If anyone had any doubts about Ben Affleck getting into the role of Batman, those fears can be allayed. He goes after what he views as justice like the Caped Crusader pursuing the Joker.

Too bad the real joke is his viewpoint.

What am I talking about?

It’s been my experience that we in the Right-wing Christian community love to see militant Islam called out for its sins.

Sometimes that makes people uncomfortable, as it may come across like we’re judging every Muslim by the bad apples… something we hate to see done to Christians. Comparisons might be made to Westboro Baptist Church, for example, or to the most recent televangelist or big name involved in a scandal. And we say, “But we’re not like that.”

What if the available data show that we are?

Recently I watched a portion of a Bill Maher show about Islam, and what (and to what extent) it motivates its adherents to do or support.

I’m not exactly a fan of Bill Maher or Sam Harris. But facts are facts, and statistical data are statistical data. We use these tools for a reason–they more accurately reflect reality than our biases and assumptions do.

For example, one person might be afraid of every Muslim that crosses their path, because “you never know.” Another might assume any Muslim encountered in the West is likely a moderate, friendly person willing to live peaceably with others, because why else would they be here?

But Bill Maher and Sam Harris address certain inclinations among a broad range of Muslims, based on surveys and poll data. And they get called out rather vehemently by Ben Affleck and Nicholas Kristof for their “racism” and their “bigotry.”

Here’s the video to that part of the show:

In a lengthy blog post, Sam Harris addresses his concerns. It’s worth a read. His overall point is: If one cannot discuss or question a belief or idea without being accused of judging an individual or espousing bigotry, then where is the room for discourse?

He states:

 My criticism of Islam is a criticism of beliefs and their consequences—but my fellow liberals reflexively view it as an expression of intolerance toward people.

He writes his concerns about how the discussion was framed as “racism” and “bigotry” as a question of whether Liberalism can be saved from itself.

I daresay the question applies to us in the Christian community just as much. I’ve seen honest questions about theology or discussions of how beliefs impact action descend into accusations of hatred, intolerance, bias, and willful ignorance–and these claims come from Christians towards non-believers.

Questions and discussions don’t weaken us; they make us stronger. Hiding from questions, shutting down discussion, eliminating any possibility of debate or dissension in the ranks–this just shows we have weaknesses to hide, vulnerabilities we dare not reveal to the world.

We read that we are to “always be ready to give a defense for the faith” (1 Pet 3:15). That means we have to be willing and open to hear questions people ask. We can’t take everything as a personal attack, a restriction on our freedom of religious expression, or an example of hateful intolerance.

When we hide behind name-calling and assumptions about the other person’s motivations, we’re doing ourselves no favors.

We may not have a perfect answer at the tip of our tongues. But do we at least have a listening ear?

A Chorus of Consensus

Every once in a while in my social media feeds, something pops up that falls far outside the nice, safe walls I’ve built to keep out all of those people.

You know the sort.

The ones that post all those obviously mistaken political views.

The Facebook evangelists filling your feed with combative sermons, whether they be Christian or atheist.

Unfriending or blocking are easy solutions. And cowardly ones.

Yesterday, I saw a group on social media posting about a “dress up in drag” event on a Pacific military base. The poster and the comments all spoke of how disgusting this event was, and how WW2 vets who fought to secure that particular land must be furious that such a thing is taking place.

I thought back to the lifestyles of my military counterparts when I was stationed there. About some of what is accepted as “the way it is” outside the gate on Friday or Saturday nights. And I thought, “Why are we so focused on this one topic when–if we’re honest–there are a slew of reasons to be concerned?”

Of course, I know, it’s because some sins are ewwy and super gross. And others, well, boys will be boys.

So I posted this comment:


Within minutes, after a snarky comment about sex scandals going on in the Air Force, the group blocked my ability to respond and kicked me from the page.

I didn’t even disagree with them; I just called their exclusive focus into question. And that was apparently too much.

This got me thinking. If we’re going to discuss religion or politics, why silence a dissenting voice? What purpose does it serve to insulate and isolate ourselves into safe little bubbles of like thought?
Why not engage those who disagree? If a particular case or point of view is so good, then make it, and let it be compelling on its own.

When all I hear are voices of agreement, I lose sight of the bigger picture. I become blinded to problems and flaws that are easily glossed over in the chorus of consensus. Vision and creativity are stifled; there’s no need to think outside the box because everything is just fine inside it.

That’s why it’s so crucial to be willing to listen to another point of view, even if–especially if–the message isn’t what I want to hear.

This shortsightedness can happen in business, in the workplace, or in any social group. But most often, I’ve seen it take place among the religious and the political. We can be so invested in the truth and the rightness of our cause that we sometimes become willing to overlook the flaws in our logic, the missing facts in oversensationalized stories, and the nuances of navigating a stormy sea of religious and political debates.

It’s human nature to find refuge and security by surrounding ourselves with those who see things the same way. That’s the basis for societies.
But we have to be open enough to consider the views of an outsider, or to allow a second thought about whether we’re entirely correct in our viewpoint.

This is especially true of the church. While I’m not advocating picking theological positions by polling data, I’m saying we need to be aware of what is taking place outside the safe world of all things labelled ‘Christian.’

Hiding behind walls to keep out the opposition doesn’t make us right. It makes us childish. Kids holding our hands tightly over our ears, yelling, “I can’t hear you! La la la la la!”

If we only listen to those who agree with us, we’re on a path to ignorance and irrelevance, stagnant water in a swamp instead of living water flowing out to the world.

Die a Log

There’s a tactic of discussion that drives me nuts. Take any social topic, and start out with name-calling against your opposition.

“So and so is a bigot.”

“She’s a racist.”

“He’s a misogynist.”

Because clearly any difference of opinion is exactly the same thing as hatred (animosity, hostility) and intolerance (an unwillingness to endure without repugnance the existence of something).

It’s an incredibly lazy way to approach social issues. It’s judgmental, it’s making assumptions about the motivations and the thoughts of another person – something we cannot accurately and objectively determine – and treating those assumptions as fact. It’s the pot calling the kettle black.

When you call folks out on this disparity, they love to declare “I won’t be tolerant of intolerance.” It’s ok to judge the judgmental. Disregard the fact that almost all virtues are revealed when we demonstrate them toward others, and especially regardless of how the other party behaves. Compassion is no virtue if I’m only concerned about those who are concerned about me. Integrity is useless if I’m only honest with those who have been faithfully honest. If you love only those who love you, what’s special about that?

Call these folks out (or just wait a minute while they sputter in self-righteous rage) and then you’ll hear “I don’t want to debate beliefs. Everyone can feel the way they feel. I just wish people wouldn’t shove their beliefs in other people’s faces.”  (Right, like when you claimed anyone who disagrees with you is a bigot/racist/misogynist/ignoramus.)

So in other words, don’t discuss ideas. Even though these differences of opinion form the foundation of multiple debates on social and political policy in our country, let’s not “shove our beliefs in anyone’s face” or discuss our differing perspectives.

Just close off in your little bubble, surrounded by the comfort of assenting voices, hearing only the praises of those who would have you conform to their view. Never let an outside opinion challenge your ideal world, and advocate the value of standing up for nothing, since apparently there’s no topic worth discussing, no argument worth making or defending, no person worth persuading to your cause.

People today — not all, but far too many — are content to live in a cozy little isolated fortress of solitude. Let not some strange concept or disagreeable thought intrude upon this idyllic fantasy! There is no need for dialogue! It would be a shame to have to think.

Not Welcome

“Your values aren’t our values. We know about your plans to open doors in our city, and we want you to know you’re not welcome here.”

Sound familiar?

Maybe… but I’m not talking about Chick-Fil-A and Boston (or Chicago… or probably a list of cities that will want to jump on this bandwagon to show how progressive and tolerant they are…)

The “threat” to America

I’m talking about Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and the unremarkable but apparently controversial mosque being built there.

Based on the estimate in the July 19th news story in the link, the worshipers might have already had their grand opening. I sure hope so. I hope they’re having the best Ramadan ever.

And I hope their opponents are choking on bile as they see it happening.

There’s a thing called the First Amendment in the Constitution. It goes something like this:

These apply to everyone,
Not just people we like.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In this case, no one’s worried about Congress. The Federal government is (to my knowledge) not involved at all. But what the folks in Tennessee seem to be forgetting is that the amendment that lets us freely step into our churches on Sunday wherever we’d like is the same amendment that permits Muslims to build a place for worship wherever they’d like.

Intolerance and fear are clearly a part of the issue. One resident talked about the Buddhist place of worship in town and how no one seems to pay those guys any mind.

“Well, with 9/11 and the whole terrorism thing, people are just a bit nervous about having a mosque in town.”

That’s a paraphrase, but you can read the sentiment in the article for yourself.

To that I’d say,

“With the vandalism and arson on private property, and the open hostility, maybe the Muslims are a bit more frightened of you than you are of them.”

I’d say that, but I’m afraid that (were they ever to read my pointless rant in this corner of the Web) the perpetrators of this fear-mongering would feel proud at the thought. “Look at how we stood up to those Muslims! We sure let them know they’re not wanted here.”

Yeah, good job. Way to go against one of the key reasons America was founded. Way to stand up against one of the freedoms men and women have fought and died to protect for the last 226 years. Take that, religious expression!

Regrettably, our freedom of speech (see First Amendment quote above) doesn’t create any hindrance or safeguard concerning spewing ignorance. Anyone can say pretty much whatever they want.

I approve that. I applaud that. I don’t want the government telling us what is approved speech and what is not. And I know the vast majority of Americans feel the same.

But that allows for voices of thinly-veiled hatred to speak terribly insensitive and frightening thoughts.

Horrible thoughts like the North Carolina preacher a few months back with his “I got an idea… we build an electric fence, and we take all the gays an’ put ’em behind it.”

Horrible thoughts like the mindless venom pouring out of the mouths of Westboro Baptist Church members. I won’t even quote their signs. You’ve seen them on the news, or you can google them and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Horrible thoughts like that of one of the leading opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque. “I know we weren’t going to win the legal battle… I just wanted to show ’em they’re not welcome here. And I plan to keep up the fight.”

What fight? Once the mosque is built, as is permitted by local, state, and federal government, and by our fundamental freedoms in America, what fight is there? 

I have several friends and coworkers who are gay. Some have made the point that they have come out in public because they don’t want to give anyone the impression that they will sit quietly while people malign or threaten them. They’re all sensible, thoughtful people who would love to leave that part of their lives off the radar. It’s such a minor thing to them, and it’s so not anyone else’s business. But oftentimes the terrible treatment they receive from others necessitates a harsh response, so they stand up and are counted. They stand up and say, “This mistreatment will not stand,” because they know there’s probably someone else sitting in quiet fear, too afraid to speak out in their own defense.

To my fellow Christians, I’ll say, how long are we going to sit in peace and quiet, shaking our heads, muttering a little tsk-tsk in shame, looking at stories like Murfreesboro or Westboro or the electric fence guy? I’ve often heard people ask, “Where are all the moderate Muslims to denounce what the radicals are doing?”

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Maybe we think it goes without saying. “Everybody knows” that Westboro Baptist Church is a bunch of nutjobs that have nothing to do with Christianity. “Everybody knows” that what that NC preacher is saying is horrific and wrong. “Everybody knows” that the First Amendment protects the rights of these Muslims in Tennessee.

Apparently everybody doesn’t know.

Welcome to America.
Check your hate at the door.


It’s time we stand up and be counted. Make sure that those who would wrap themselves in the American flag while clutching a Bible to their chest properly understand the significance of both of those symbols.

Make sure we speak out to those who would spread hate and fear in the name of Christ, and let them clearly understand:

“Your values aren’t our values. We want you to know you’re not welcome here.”