Tolerate This!

September 10, 2010

Well, tomorrow about fifty people in Florida are going to have a little bonfire.

First, I’d like to point out, that I broke the story of Dove World Outreach Center to you, my faithful readers, on August 2nd, a month before this became a national news story.  So I’d like to take this time to admit that I was the leak to the press.  I mentioned the story, and the national news outlets picked it up from me.  I’m sorry for being such an awesome and reliable news source.

Now that the day is nearly upon us, September 11, and International Burn a Koran Day, I felt the need to share a few thoughts with you that no one else seems to be saying.

Can We Just Get This Over with and Move On?

At this point in time, I am sorry that CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX picked up the news story, apparently from me, because a tiny little church in Florida is probably not worth this amount of attention.  I have to think it’s been slow news for the last couple of weeks, since this little event has gotten so much press.  Heck, the fact that major news outlets are apparently scouring my little blog for leads proves it’s been slow news lately.

I’m Tired of Being Told I’m Intolerant

Tolerance is a big word now.  We throw it around a lot.  If you oppose anything at all, you’re intolerant, or a racist, a bigot, a homophobe, whatever.  Just being Christian is enough to be “intolerant.”  Ever since September 11, Americans have been told that we need to be tolerant, civil, and open-minded.  We need to be peaceful and conciliatory.  We need to understand our adversaries, and love them, and let them build a mosque near a site where thousands of our countrymen were killed by their countrymen.  We get heavy doses of this from our government leaders, our media and our churches.

I’m all for the message of tolerance and peace.  It’s the message Jesus would want.  Except that it’s usually communicated through a tone of accusation.  There’s that hint in so many voices that says I should be tolerant, because I’m not tolerant already.  If I oppose your actions, then I should be more tolerant.  Guess what.  I’m very tolerant.  I tolerate everyone.  And if you don’t think I’m tolerant of you, I will smack you in the face to knock some sense into you and prove how much I tolerate you.

The combined controversies of the ground zero mosque and the Koran burning highlight something very interesting to me.

Americans Are Some Incredibly Tolerant People

The fact that the vast majority of Americans have reacted negatively toward this little Florida church burning a few Korans just demonstrates how determined we are to be tolerant.  We’re concerned above all else that outsiders will look at that little event and believe that all Christians are hateful, intolerant crazies.  We’ve put a lot of work into being tolerant, and we don’t want this joker and his mustache messing it up.

Besides that, while the vast majority of Americans are opposed to a mosque being built at ground zero, we are going to let it happen.  As much as we hate it, we’re going to let it happen, either because we’re really that tolerant, or we’re too lazy to stop it.  Aside from isolated incidents of violence, there hasn’t been a whole lot of reaction, outside of strong verbal disagreement to this thing, despite the fact that most people see it as a huge insult to our nation and way of life. 

In fact, for the last nine years, I’d say the way Americans have treated Muslims living here has been pretty remarkable.  The very first thing that Rudy Guiliani did on September 11 was encourage New Yorkers to be safe, compassionate toward others in need of help, and to not assign blame to any group of people.  And guess what?  That speech was unnecessary.  New York’s streets didn’t run red with Muslim blood.  You can point out any example of discrimination or profiling or even the isolated violence that has happened since then, and I will point you to how far we’ve come since the days of lynch mobs.  Americans talk tough sometimes about our dislike for people, but for most of us, that’s all we do. 

The worst America can cook up lately is a Koran burning, and the rest of us are wringing our hands, saying, “Oh no, what if the Muslims in the Middle East don’t like us anymore?!”  And it proves that either Americans are very tolerance-minded, or we have huge self-esteem issues.

America is Different

Not only do these two events prove what Americans are made of, it provides a massive contrast between Western, largely Christian civilization, and Middle Eastern Muslim civilization.

Every American, including the President, his cabinet, and our four star Generals has said that this Florida church burning Korans could incite violence in the Middle East and put our soldiers in more danger.  Wow.  In contrast, I’ve seen the American flag burned, I’ve seen stacks of Bibles burned.  I’ve seen Jesus treated completely disrespectfully.  And I never see Americans react by beheading people, shooting guns in the air, burning Muslims in effigy, flying planes into buildings, or any other ridiculous nonsense, because most of us have important things to do. 

Why do TV stations hold back on making fun of Muslims, but they’ll show Jesus doing whatever mocking thing they can think of?  Because they know that the Muslim reaction will be far worse than the Christian reaction.  South Park didn’t even show Mohammad, just a hilarious bear costume that we were told had Mohammad inside, and the network execs got their underwear all in a bunch over possible death threats, (rightfully so, as it turned out.)

And for all of the disagreement with the Christian church, our outright suspicion about who is “in” and who is “out,” I don’t see a civil war going on because of it.  Our history’s not perfect, sure.  But we got most of our fighting with each other over with a long time ago.  For all that is wrong with America, Americans, the church, and whatever else, the difference in our two cultures is pretty striking.

There you go.  What do you think?  Do Americans have a lot more work to do when it comes to being tolerant, or the word “tolerant” is overplayed, or are we pretty tolerant already? 

28 responses to Tolerate This!

  1. I think that we are pretty tolerant (being in Aus, but still agree the US is). I think that the ones saying Christians are intolerant tend to be the ones with no tolerance – they don’t tolerate our beliefs and us standing up for them. (I don’t think I could get any more t’s in that statement if I tried!;D)

    We tolerate a lot of things which go against Christ’s teachings, mainly (I think) because we don’t want to cause offense; we don’t care enough to object; and we aren’t prepared to die for what we believe. I don’t think that dying for our beliefs is a real problem in the US and Australia, but if it were we would probably find out who really believes what they say they do.

    So, I’m all for listening to what they say, but if I don’t agree or it goes against what Christ teaches then I won’t tolerate. Sorry if it offends.

  2. Matt, for future reference, August is always a slow month when news stories pop up out of nothing. Next time you have a bombshell to drop, you’ll know to keep this kind of thing under your hat and wait until the week after Christmas when everyone is perfectly happy not to have any stories to cover.

    As for your question, I’m going to give an answer not to Americans in general, but to those of us who are followers of Christ.

    Intolerance is a perception, and I think perception, to borrow a phrase is in the eye of the beholder, not the accused. To be fair, the accusation of intolerance will make anyone of any faith or political persuasion defensive. That’s a natural human reaction. But with the power of the Holy Spirit working within Christ’s followers, we should be able to rise above that human need to defend ourselves. We should be able to remember that there is a higher purpose to our lives than arguing with people who call us intolerant.

    The Great Commission included teaching the world to obey everything Jesus commanded. But before teaching, we were to go into the world to make disciples and to baptize.

    We often get the cart before the horse, trying to teach people before making disciples and then we get mad because we can’t teach them. And we scream and yell because they can’t be taught.

    And in this process we forget that teaching the world to obey what Jesus commanded starts with what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments, to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbors. Our neighbors don’t feel the love when we’re coming across as angry, so they call us intolerant, and then we get into the cycle of the human nature defending ourselves against a charge that we find offensive.

    Once we get into that cycle, we forget that Jesus didn’t tell us to go into the world to make everyone just like us. He told us to go into the world to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. He told us to lead people to Him. He even gave us the formula: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” If we could just remember those two commandments, we might be able to cut down considerably on the accusations of intolerance, and much more importantly, have more opportunities to tell people about Jesus.

  3. Cries of “intolerance” and “bigot” are thrown around so casually these days, people are beginning to forget what bigotry actually means. It’s easier to throw around those buzzwords than to articulate why you disagree with someone. It’s intellectually and interpersonally lazy. Consequently, many of us have forgotten that tolerance does not imply moral relativity or an acceptance of everyone’s truth claims. We can still disagree with a person or group fundamentally, oppose them philosophically and theologically, yet tolerate them.
    You’re right that America is a pretty darn tolerant nation. I think we may even be too tolerant of a lot of the immorality in our own homes, lives, and churches that’s far more dangerous to us than Islam.

    • “I think we may even be too tolerant of a lot of the immorality in our own homes, lives, and churches that’s far more dangerous to us than Islam.”

      You’re right. It’s much more dangerous to us, and it inhibits our ability to be salt and light in the world.

  4. – As a Christian, i don’t need to tolerate anything. “Tolerance” isn’t in the Bible. I am glad that all I need to do is be loving – well towards my wife, my neighbor and my enemy anyway. Love is not letting others do whatever they want – BTW. The very idea that we “put up with” (tolerate) the unsaved, whether they are atheists or Muslims or whatever, is wrong in my view. Hey, we tolerate stupid Christians too… there is a better way. Love.

    – As an American, I think the pastor has the right to do whatever he wants, I just wish he wouldn’t blame it on prayer and the Lord. As for the mosque, they should be allowed to do build whatever they want. It does seem, now that Donald Trump offered to buy the site for 25% more than they paid for it; and they’ve refused the offer, that there is a deeper motive. I’m just sayin’…

    In Acts 19:19 recently converted Christians burned their OWN stuff, NOT the items of the unsaved.

    As an American I dislike the burning of flags and Bibles, and more so terror attacks. I am not very concerned about what others think about America overseas.

    I also think it is easy to forget that most of our Bible heroes from Moses to Daniel, to Paul and Jesus, lived in “foreign” cultures filled with atheists, polytheists, those who practiced divination and a host of other foreigners while under the rule of dictatorships. They didn’t give up their faith.

    IMHO, it is time for American Christians to read their Bibles, and start giving thanks for the freedom to own a Bible, assemble at a church building, and their right to free speech – and use it. It is not a time to be tolerant of other religions; it’s time to preach the Gospel of forgiveness, repentance, grace and love.

    Great post Matt.

  5. And you have a typo – Koran is supposed to be spelled Qu’ran. Not to be inflammatory or anything. :)

  6. Absolutely brilliant! I don’t like the word tollerant. It’s like trying to put up with something. I’m tollerant of my neighbours loud party music until 6am, I’m tollerant of my sore back… Imagine how much different it would be if Christians acted like Jesus instead of just preaching it to those who don’t want to hear. People seem to notice more when your actions speak louder than words.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. I think burning Holy Books is intolerable.

  8. today i came across the following quote by president obama (concerning tolerance). it seems ironic to me:

    “If he’s listening, I hope he understands that what he’s proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans, that this country has been built on the notion of freedom and religious tolerance.”

    i agree with the president, but i think it’s odd for him to support the rights of the muslim group to build where they legally can, but NOT to support the rights of terry jones and crew to burn qurans when they legally can. i’m not saying i agree with what dove outreach is doing — i don’t. but i am growing tired of such double standards when it comes to freedom of speech and human rights and the like. for instance:

    – the media refers to quran-burners and the like as “evangelical christians,” while those who murder others in the name of allah are referred to as “muslim extremists.” one article i read today said “terrorist-minded individuals” — didn’t even call them terrorists.

    – the same folks who would fight all day long for an american to be able to burn a flag will fight equal time for terry jones NOT to be able to burn a quran.

    – we’re constantly told that islam is a peaceful religion — yet, there are dozens of warnings from world leaders explaining that americans will die for what jones is doing.

    – many are even saying it would be reverend jones’ fault if americans die. responsibility for one’s actions is only expected by those of us who are christians?

    here’s my take, if i may: http://jamesbrett.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/burning-holy-books-and-the-terry-jones-debacle/

    • Excellent post Matt, and excellent point you make, JamesBrett, that the president isn’t supporting Terry Jones’s right. Our Constitution has given us the right to express ourselves. Sadly, good taste and common sense aren’t legislated, so that means people can say and do incredibly stupid things. And, by the way, I’m tired of people saying a person is a racist just because they don’t agree with the President. If you don’t like it, tolerate me.

  9. A few (intolerant) retorts: To your statement that we are being expected to “let them build a mosque near a site where thousands of our countrymen were killed by their countrymen.” Please remember that there are American Muslims too. Some were killed on 9/11, and some support having a Muslim place of worship in lower Manhattan. “Us” and “them” are not such easy distinctions to make.

    And I think it’s also important to remember that in America, tolerance is not just a virtue some choose to have–it’s the law. You are right that America is very tolerant in that the vast majority of people don’t retaliate with violence for things they don’t like. But “letting” someone build a house of worship on property they own is not some concession stemming from our niceness as a people–it is built into our constitution that people of all faiths can worship freely. Freedom of worship is part of what it means to be American.

    • Quite right on the fuzzy distinctions between “us” and “them,” but I’ll add to that that many people do make that distinction, and yet we will concede to the mosque being built. And you’re also right that tolerance is built into our Constitution, but we live in a land that is governed by the people. The Constitution is only legit because people choose to uphold it. The fact that our Constitution has withstood so much I think illustrates our determination to be tolerant.

  10. I think all of you are missing the greater point. It is NOT Christian to do what this man is proposing to do. This is not something we should tolerate. Do you, any of you, have any real knowledge of what the religion of Islam really is? If you did, you would not tolerate this either. I am not trying to be provocative, but what I’m hearing is a lot of self-righteousness, and not Godliness. This is unalterable, “if it causes my brother to sin.” What sins might his burning of the Qu’ran actually cause? Is it not a sin, in itself to burn Holy Books?

    • Interesting point, Steve. I suppose it depends on your definition of “holy.” Jesus asked which was more sacred: the gold in the temple, or the temple that made it sacred. Of course, Muslims do claim parts of the Old Testament, and even believe Jesus was a prophet, so I wonder if the church will be burning those parts of the Koran. Besides that, you asked what other sins might the book burning cause, and that’s easier to answer: hate, false testimony, slander, etc.

      Just curious if you would elaborate on “if we knew what the religion of Islam really is.” I’m curious to hear what your view is of the reality of Islam.

    • I’d be interested to see what Bible verse says burning the Bible, or any other “sacred” book fr that matter, is in itself, a sin. It sounds a little religious – but not biblical. But I am open. I have already stated that I think it’s wrong, and given biblical support for it.

  11. If Americans are generally tolerant is isn’t because we’ve sat around saying “Don’t call me intolerant – at least I’m not beheading people!” No, it’s because we are vigilant.

    James, I don’t think Obama expressing his displeasure and disapproval is somehow not supporting Jones’s rights of free speech. That’s a legal right, as you point out. Obama is expressing what many others have expressed, in full knowledge that Jones can burn what he wants.

  12. There are two issues at hand that are being confused with one another.

    1. Nationalism – When one strongly identifies with a nation (in this case, the US) and 2. Christianity.

    Concerning nationalism, this guy can burn the book and it’s legal. He has just as much right to burn a Qu’ran as the Community Center (not a mosque) has to be built in NYC. I can burn a flag on my front yard if I want. It’s legal. People get pissed (and tolerate it) but it’s legal. If you claim to be a loyal patriot of the good ole US of A, you should not get bent out of shape when something like this happens. If you believe this, support the freedoms to do this, be tolerant.

    As for me, I serve under the nation of God with his son Jesus Christ. The atrocities that go on in this country, ie, this guy burning a holy book of some other religion, pisses me off because he claims to be serving the same God as myself, NOT because his actions may make someone else angry. Hell, it makes ME angry. He has every right in this country to do so, but frankly, I really don’t care about his right.

    My God is not happy with this pastor, and neither am I.

    Toleration is yielded from confusion which causes us to give up, and stop caring. Toleration is becoming numb to issues. Toleration is lukewarm.

    I encourage all American believers to drop this Nationalistic mindset and subscribe to the mindset of Christ(who, believe it or not, was not American); he would not be burning the Qu’ran. He would march right down there and talk to this guy, figure out what’s up and then solve the problem.

  13. What bugs me about this whole kerfuffle is not the intolerance, but the lack of wisdom. Just because something is permissible doesn’t mean it’s profitable. I agree that what this pastor is planning to do will be used to recruit more terrorists and incite violence. You cannot overcome evil with evil. It has to be overcome with good.

    As to the rest of your post, I’m right there with you. Thanks Matt.

  14. WoW. This is an excellent post, with equally excellent comments!
    One sentence that really struck me:
    “As much as we hate it, we’re going to let it happen, either because we’re really that tolerant, or we’re too lazy to stop it.”
    I fear that our laziness is what has conformed us in to the incredibly tolerant people that we are. I have led too many prayer groups to believe otherwise. Very few people show up to pray. IMHO, we believers should be praying around the clock to stop the mosque. Let the powers of Heaven fight this battle, because
    “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
    I’m just saying…Oh wait, those are God’s words, not mine.

  15. Didn’t they call it off yesterday?

  16. tell the truth at all times is what jesus did so we should be doing that now tell the muslims and any one who cliams to know god thier is only one way and that is through jesus all other ways lead to hell.amen come lord jesus