Uber-tolerance?

In my early and mid twenties, having come from a conservative Christian background, there were times I envied the idea of uber-tolerance, “You can believe in anything–as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone–and go to Heaven.”

A quick look at the idea of uber-tolerance will immediately illuminate a self-detonating problem: uber-tolerance doesn’t tolerate everything.  It isn’t really uber.

If I look more closely at what those who make this claim believe, I see that uber-tolerance actually says, “You can believe in anything–as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone–and go to Heaven.”

That clause is fundamental.

It opens a whole can of monkeys.

What is hurting?  Who is anyone?  Who defines what these words mean?

If these words are defined individually by everyone, then they don’t really mean anything.  Everyone makes up their own reality, in which case everything is really fantasy.  One definition can be no more or less right than another.

If these words are defined by a particular group or society, then their meaning is positional.  That is, if I’m in England in the 18th century, they mean something different than if I’m in England today.  Or, if I’m in Brazil, they mean something different than if I’m in Greenland.  The words don’t really mean anything.  The significance isn’t on the words, but on the particular group who defines them.

If these words are defined by an absolute (authoritative) source of morality, the question is what is the morality?  What absolute authority is making the claim?  And if an absolute authority is making the claim . . then doesn’t everyone actually have to follow that absolute authority, which means you really can’t do anything you want?

Uber-tolerance is uber-fake.  Walk into an allegedly pro-everything congregation and wear a shirt that says I LOVE KILLING ENDANGERED WHALES and the pro-everything hoax is exposed.

That’s a silly example, but it’s not the only example.

  • Through an alleged uber-tolerance, members must exclude those who do not have the same tolerance levels.  For example, anyone who is pro-the-absolute-authority-of-the-Bible is certainly NOT tolerated.
  • But on the other hand, because the uber-tolerance is not actually all-inclusive, members must exclude those who take their idea to its logical conclusion.  For example, anyone who is pro-stealing-wallets is certainly NOT tolerated, either.

Uber-tolerance is only a name, it is not an actual idea.  If the group were honest, they would call themselves by what they truly believe, not what they claim to believe.  They might be pro-endangered-animals, pro-choice, pro-redefining-marriage, but they are NOT the opposites of these things at the same time.

Uber-tolerance doesn’t solve the problem of making an eternal choice.  You can’t go through two doors at the same time.  Ultimately, you must choose which door to walk through.  Since the consequences are eternal, the issue bears a lot of thought . . instead of a denial that the choice must be made.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 7:13-14, NIV)

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Beliefs aside?

I heard recently that people who are willing to put their beliefs aside to consider the beliefs of others are more creative thinkers and better listeners.

The idea that putting my beliefs aside can make me objective, or more creative, or a better listener, seems to work at first.

If I have to go before a judge who hates skinny people, I would definitely want him/her to set aside that prejudice before taking my case.

So it seems like setting my beliefs aside could be a good thing.

But can I say it is always good to set my beliefs aside?

I’ll look at an extreme example to see if it still works.

Suppose I am sitting next to a man in the plane terminal, and he asks me if I would consider putting my beliefs about terrorism aside to take a bomb onto the plane.  Should I even consider this?  Would it be creative thinking, or destructive thinking?  Would my willingness to accept that this belief might be plausible show that I’m a good listener–or a fool?

If a theory doesn’t work in even one fair example, it doesn’t work.  I’ve given one example of a breakdown, but we could all think of a bunch more: a white supremest asking me to consider lynching an African-American, a pyromaniac asking me to burn down a house, a rapper suggesting in his song that I go kill a police officer, and so on.

There are some things I’m just not willing to set my beliefs aside to consider.

I guess that makes me intolerant.  But I want to be intolerance to someone who’s trying to convince me to do something evil.  I don’t think this makes me less creative.  Maybe it makes me a worse listener, but maybe that’s a good thing.

So is it sometimes right for me to set aside my beliefs to entertain a notion and sometimes wrong?

Going back to the original example of the judge prejudiced against skinny people–why is it good for that judge to set his/her belief aside about skinny people?  Because it’s a bad belief.

What if the judge is “prejudiced” against murder, meaning (s)he believes murder is wrong?  A judge shouldn’t set that belief aside.  Why?  Because it’s a good belief.

About a month ago, I was at a gas station trying to get my hood open.  I hadn’t probably done that since about the time I bought the car, years ago, and I couldn’t remember how to open it.  A man came up and proposed to help me.  I welcomed with open arms his belief about how to open the hood, because I didn’t know what I was doing. In that case, it was a good idea to listen to him because he had the right answer.  That was a risk I took, because I was pretty near clueless.

But what if I knew just how to open the hood, and a man came up and proposed that if I hit the windshield with a sledgehammer, the hood would come open?  That would not be a good time to set aside my beliefs and consider his.

Of course, if I did set aside my beliefs and consider his, I would (hopefully) still go back to mine.  But–is that step really necessary?  Do I really need to evaluate whether I should break my windshield in an attempt to get my hood open?

We all have beliefs about a lot of things.  We have beliefs we’re unsure about (Can bacon really be bad for you?), beliefs we’re pretty sure about (The oil in my car probably does have to be replaced, even if I would rather use the money to buy sushi), and beliefs we’re really sure about (God is in control).

For most of these beliefs, I could set aside what I think for a while to hear someone else’s opinion, especially if my belief provably wrong, like when I thought drinking soda all day would make no difference to my health.

Polite debate can, in and of itself, be an interesting way to pass the time.  I’m fascinated by logic and argument strategies, and I might could spend a few quaint hours arguing whether the sky is blue or dogs are cats.

But then there’s the beliefs we’re not willing to part with.  Ever.

Some of them are extremely important beliefs that nearly everyone assumes, like It would be wrong to murder my friends and I must feed my children.

No one is usually accused of being intolerant for holding these beliefs.  But there are exceptions.  There are a few psychopathic people who would hold extremely important beliefs like It would be right to murder my friends or I must not feed my children.

Just because a belief is extremely important doesn’t make the belief right to hold.  It goes back to good and evil.  Good beliefs are good to hold onto, whether they’re little-bitty in their importance (like how to open the car’s hood) or super important (like how to treat human life).

How do I know when I should set my beliefs aside so I can be tolerant and intelligent and creative and when I shouldn’t?

I will have no way of answering that if I don’t believe in good and evil.

And I will have no way of answering that if I don’t know which is which.

I find the backstory to my natural belief in good and evil explained in Genesis 1-3.  And I find the ability to distinguish which is which on every page in God’s Word.  I might be intolerant for thinking so, but that doesn’t actually matter at all if God is right.

So although I might win popularity by setting my beliefs aside, and although I might be accused of intolerance or stupidity or poor listening for not doing so . . . I’d rather be with the God who is right.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You. (Psalm 89:14, NASB)

Allegiance

As an American, when I pledge allegiance to our flag, I don’t say, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and Mexico and China and France and Kenya and Canada and Germany and Australia and India and Japan and Brazil and Ghana . . .”

How could I do this?  The government and rules in each country are different.

Christians are accused sometimes of being intolerant when they pledge their allegiance only to the God of the Bible, but that’s like saying it’s intolerant to only pledge allegiance to the American flag.  Pledging to the American flag isn’t even really about intolerance, it’s about (or is meant to be about) true devotion.  With national devotion naturally comes “intolerance” to devotion to other countries.  Pledging allegiance to God–it’s the same way.

Yes, it’s “intolerant” to pledge allegiance to one God, if you believe that all religions are on equal playing ground–but who really believes that?  That in itself is it’s own religion.  That’s similar to believing I should pledge allegiance to the world, but not to any particular country.  In a way, this belief is actually “intolerant” too–because I would be refusing allegiance to any one country.

(Not to mention, I don’t think too many countries would be very accepting of that kind of devotion.  It wouldn’t be very popular in America, for example, to stand up at a baseball game and sing loudly, “O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er America and Iran, and Iraq and Egypt?”)

I really am devoted to God.  And with that really does come “undevotion” (a.k.a. “intolerance) towards other religions.  But that’s so natural!  Other religions have done nothing for me–why should I try to serve them equally?  And how could I, when all other religions are in complete disharmony with Christianity?

I want to serve the God who died for me.  That’s the God I’ve given my allegiance to.  Anybody else’s god . . . isn’t my god.  I can’t agree to serve that god, too–I don’t even believe there are other gods, because my Bible tells me there aren’t.  I would be a ridiculous fraud, and incredibly disloyal, to give any other religion my allegiance . . . or even my respect . . . when I have met the God who took away my sins because He wanted to remove the infinite punishment from my soul.

I’m okay with being intolerant, if that’s what serving one God devotedly means nowadays.  I’m committed to Jesus, and on Him I want to pour every offering of allegiance I have.  But there’s more than just that–I want people to be led away from false religions to the true God.  That makes me doubly intolerant, I guess, in some people’s books–but I’m not out to be good in some people’s books.  I’m out to serve the God who was willing to become human so He could die to save me.  I’m out to serve the God who can bring me into Heaven by His grace.

I don’t believe in alternate Heavens or that all paths lead to Heaven’s gates.  It’s an impossibility.  Jesus says,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (from John 14:6, NIV)

Now there are only two options: either He was right, or He was wrong.  If He was right, there is no other way to God except Jesus.  And if He was wrong, it is impossible that all ways could be right because He would be wrong.  Believing all paths lead to Heaven is a self-refuting idea.

Because I don’t believe all paths lead to God, but only the way of Jesus Christ, it’s only natural that I would want people to follow Jesus.  I don’t want to see my friends or family go to Hell.  I don’t want to see anybody go to Hell.

Here’s where the allegiance to the flag analogy kinda breaks down.  There are other countries that I wouldn’t mind people committing themselves to–like Australia, for example.  But if there was only one country that was run justly, and all other countries were tyrannical and abusive and tortured their citizens, I would long for everyone to be a citizen of the country I knew to be safe.

It’s that way with God: I long for everyone to know the true God, the living God, so that they can live eternally in His Kingdom.

I want to live my life, not in such a way that others are proud of my tolerance, but in such a way that others are curious of my devotion.  All tolerance is, really, is accepting things as okay when they aren’t. I can be tolerant of the abuse happening to women in countries run by tyrannical governments, for example, but I don’t find anything admirable in that tolerance.  In the same way, I don’t find any beauty in pretending to stand in harmony with any religion that drops people off in Hell.

I pledge allegiance to the God who sent His Son to suffer and die for my sins, and to be raised up to defeat the power of sin once and for all.  That’s my God, and He holds all my allegiance.

There can’t be any allegiance left over to give to any other “god”.  Not if I really understand the cross.

Who would have believed what we now report?
Who could have seen the Lord’s hand in this?
It was the will of the Lord that his servant
grow like a plant taking root in dry ground.
He had no dignity or beauty
to make us take notice of him.
There was nothing attractive about him,
 nothing that would draw us to him.
We despised him and rejected him;
 he endured suffering and pain.
 No one would even look at him—
 we ignored him as if he were nothing.

But he endured the suffering that should have been ours,
the pain that we should have borne.
All the while we thought that his suffering
was punishment sent by God.
But because of our sins he was wounded,
beaten because of the evil we did.
We are healed by the punishment he suffered,
made whole by the blows he received.
All of us were like sheep that were lost,
each of us going his own way.
But the Lord made the punishment fall on him,
the punishment all of us deserved.

He was treated harshly, but endured it humbly;
he never said a word.
Like a lamb about to be slaughtered,
like a sheep about to be sheared,
he never said a word.
He was arrested and sentenced and led off to die,
and no one cared about his fate.
He was put to death for the sins of our people.
He was placed in a grave with those who are evil,
he was buried with the rich,
even though he had never committed a crime
or ever told a lie.

The Lord says,
It was my will that he should suffer;
his death was a sacrifice to bring forgiveness.
And so he will see his descendants;
he will live a long life,
and through him my purpose will succeed.
After a life of suffering, he will again have joy;
he will know that he did not suffer in vain.
My devoted servant, with whom I am pleased,
will bear the punishment of many
and for his sake I will forgive them.
And so I will give him a place of honor,
a place among the great and powerful.
He willingly gave his life
and shared the fate of evil men.
He took the place of many sinners
and prayed that they might be forgiven. (Isaiah 53:1b-12, GNT)

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Good News Translation: Scripture taken from the Good News Translation in Today’s English Version- Second Edition Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Coexist

There are really stupid reasons to refuse to coexist, like “racial” differences, for example.  I put “racial” in quotes because there is only one race of people: Adam’s[1].  We all came from the same family, and so no skin color or other attributes are “superior” to others.  God tells us about Himself,

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b, NIV)

Another terrible reason to refuse to coexist is because of someone’s past.  Jesus made it clear during His time on earth and He continues to make it clear:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

Many of Jesus’ followers were the outcasts—and outright reprobates!—of His day.  He brings the repentant thief on the cross next to Him to eternal life with Him.  He forgives a prostitute, a crook, and a man who runs around tombstones all day cutting himself.  Jesus lived among sinners, but He did not sin.

We are called to coexist with people from all cultural heritages, with all different backgrounds, and even with problems.

But there is something we cannot coexist with: evil.

Because that is no existence at all.

Coexist with evil . . . be devoured by evil.

I could say, “Coexist!” and lovingly toss a hawk and a pigeon in a cage together, but one would be happy and the other wouldn’t.

And I could say, “Coexist!” and tolerantly lock up a sheep and a wolf in the same pen, but one would be at peace and the other wouldn’t.

The problem with this coexistence is there is no big happy place where good and evil get along.  There is no place like that here on earth, and there is no place like that after we die, either.  Good cannot accept evil.

That pigeon and that sheep might be accused of narrow-mindedness for not wanting to share a room with their predators, but it is a happy narrow-mindedness . . . for them!

By the way . . . who do you suppose is crying that the pigeon and sheep are “narrow-minded”?  Who do you suppose is crying “intolerant”?

The hawk and the wolf.

So we’re not called to pull away from people in need.

But we are called to pull away from Satan.

By Jesus’ great grace, my relationship with Satan is going extinct.

No coexistence.

That means I have to throw down every lust, every greed, every selfishness, every obsession, every doubt .  . . because I cannot coexist with a lion waiting to tear my flesh apart.

Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, NIV)


[1] Ken Ham’s video One Race is a wonderful presentation of how we are all connected through Adam, leaving no room for the ridiculous and horrible prejudices that have plagued the world for so long.

Photo by SPCBrass (Shawn Carpenter), profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/spcbrass/, website http://shawnpcarpenter.tumblr.com/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.