You Don’t Need My Tolerance

March 21, 2012


A generation ago, people talked about “tolerance.”

“Tolerance” meant that people lived next door to their neighbors in peace, and minded their own business.  Didn’t matter if your neighbors were a different religion or political party or sexuality.  Just live and let live.  Granted, it was a new concept for a lot of people.  Seems some people still don’t have the grasp of it.

We still talk about tolerance.  We use the word every day.  Heck, the cardinal sin you can commit is to be “intolerant” of someone.

But “tolerance” today means something totally different.  Because “tolerating” each other is no longer enough.  It’s not enough to “live and let live” or to mind your own business.

Want to know why our culture is so divided, so polarized?  Because we’re self-righteously waiting for a truckload of “tolerance” that we’re just never going to get.  The irony is that it’s only going to get worse, the more hung up on tolerance we become.

The New Definition of Tolerance

What you have to understand is that “tolerance” doesn’t just mean “tolerating others.”  Today, the convoluted, politically correct definition of “tolerance” really means “validation.”  See, it’s not enough to merely tolerate someone’s habits, beliefs or lifestyle choices.  To tolerate them really means you validate them.  The cardinal sin you can commit today is to believe that your beliefs or choices are better than someone else’s.

So we preach about how everyone’s opinions are equally valid and true, and everyone’s choices are equally beautiful (except for intolerant people.  They can go to hell.)  I can be a Christian…as long as I also accept Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, and all the other gods under the sun.  I can’t believe in antiquated notions of “right” and “wrong,” because that would mean some people are “wrong,” and calling someone wrong is intolerant!  We’ve devolved into a kind of modern day pantheism that even the Greeks would find completely absurd.

Now, we don’t talk about “tolerating” others.  We talk about “affirming” others, or “accepting” or “celebrating” others.  If you’re merely “tolerating” others, then you’re pretty much a racist, bigoted homophobe.

You Don’t Need My Tolerance

Guess what people…

You don’t need my validation.  I’m not your mother or your spouse.  Stop being so co-dependent.

No, I will not always validate your lifestyle or beliefs.  Don’t worry about it though.  You don’t need my permission to live your life however you want.  It’s within your rights as a human to live and believe as you wish.  And it’s within my rights to disagree with your choices.  My acceptance of your choices or lack thereof in no way hinders your ability to make them.  I’m not going to celebrate you, unless it’s your birthday.  And I’m not waiting for you to throw me a party either.

I love you.  I think you’re made in God’s image.

But I won’t always praise, validate, affirm, or celebrate you.  Please affirm my right to make that choice.  Stop accusing me of being intolerant, just because I disagree with you.

What Happened to Privacy?

I assume there was a time when people minded their own business.  Americans, more than anyone else, like to talk about their rights to privacy.  Good grief, we flip out at the mere hint that someone may be invading our privacy.  The irony of our modern crusade for acceptance is that it requires us to bring all our personal business out into the open, to give up all our privacy, so that we can force people to look at us, to accept us, to validate us.  Because, apparently, we have so little self esteem, that we need the approval of strangers.

And the real absurdity of it is we keep waiting around as if we’re going to get that approval.  

That’s why we’re so divided.  We’re a pretty tolerant society, but we keep telling other people how intolerant they are.  Maybe we’d be a lot less divided if we just went back to a time when people minded their own business.

What do you think?  Are we drunk on “tolerance?”  Are we still an intolerant society?  Do I have to “affirm” someone in order to really “tolerate” them?

42 responses to You Don’t Need My Tolerance

  1. “Stop accusing me of being intolerant, just because I disagree with you.” Amen and amen. I’ve bookmarked this post to read again and again. I’m going to choose one aspect of the “failure” of legislating tolerance that has been brought to my attention. There is a book out, Blacklash by Deneen Borelli. Among other things, it discusses the intensifying of racial tensions in the Obama era. All the hope of bringing races together has been dashed. In my own opinion, I think we celebrate individuality too much. America used to be described as a “melting pot.” Maybe celebrating the individual above all isn’t the best thing to do.

    • Interesting take – hadn’t thought of it, but the pendulum has definitely swung hard toward individualism. We balk at “hive mind” and “group think” and worship personal autonomy. We can be as autonomous as we like, but the cost is, everyone else is too.

      • The absence of tolerance suggests a lack of respect for our fellow man. Jesus Christ asks of a man in Saint Luke 10:26-28, What is the greatest commandment? The man answered, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Christ answered you have answered correctly.

        This is the Shema Yisrael, which is printed and posted on every Jewish home’s doorpost. A mezuzah is the modern day version.

        In this we see tolerance preached and displayed. Love God – Love one another. It’s simple but we as humans try to confuse the situation. We say today tolerance is bad. It’s only bad when the tolerance forces us to love those we would not wish to love.

        In the Holy Scriptures, we read of a woman “caught in the act” of adultery that was brought to Him. It was all a ploy. Christ had said He came to fulfill the law. Jewish leaders thought they knew the law, so they decided to confront Jesus with a “simple” case. Under “the law,” a woman “caught in the act” had to be killed. The trick was obvious. Romans occupied Jerusalem and applied Roman law. Roman laws allowed people to be executed, but only for reasons allowed under Roman laws. Capital offenses under Jewish law didn’t count. If Christ followed “the law”, He would violate Roman law and could be executed for that offense. On the other hand, if Christ honored Roman law, He would fail to fulfill “the law,” as the Jewish leader’s interpreted it. Christ answered them, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Christ turned the tables on His antagonists. He made them consider their failures to act justly. To the woman he showed mercy. As she turned to walk away, He told her to go and sin no more. It is another way of saying “walk humbly with your God.”

        This was tolerance. It’s easy in today’s society to drag the Gays, the Goths, the Thugs, the Non-Conformists, the….dare I say it….the Muslims & any other “faith” that is against our own Westernized interpretation of Christianity and demand that these people be handed over for execution.

        People tolerance is not wrong….it’s the essence of Christianity.

        Saint Matthew 7:21-23 “”Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name. Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

        I am but a sinner, saved by the blood of Christ, and I am on my walk. I condemn none of you, as others would condemn me. However, I think this whole diatribe of tolerance deserves to be viewed from a different angle.

        Peace be with you all.

  2. Majority groups have a duty to be more tolerant than the minority groups they coexist with. As a white christian, I need to be extra sensitive of my Vietnamese Buddhist neighbor because I’m part of a voting bloc that can legislate it’s own values into society because of its majority status. I don’t need to validate their beliefs – I need to validate their right to believe and not have Christianity crammed down their throats at every turn.

  3. Thank you. It seems that we have to ‘tolerate’ everybody…..unless you are a Christian, in which case you are wrong. Well that is how it appears.

  4. Hi Matt,

    It’s alright with me for you to be wrong.

    Odd thing: in the 1,576 pages of my Bible, only six or eight paragraphs tell my wife what to do; all the rest of it tells me how I ought to behave. Not one word tells me what anybody else on earth should do.

    Must be some mistake in my translation.

    Surely they ought to conform to what I see as right! What’s wrong with them? I mean they walk around with motes in their eyes. Motes I can see clearly. They ought to do something about that unsightly blemish.

    Can it possibly be that God did not ever intend for everybody to be like me? And, if they are not, if they continue in gross, vile, malignant sin and vote Republican, what business is that of mine? Don’t they have One to judge them?

    Problem is, They want me to be like them. They will even force me to conform. Or shun me when I don’t.That’s their problem, not mine. I need to tolerate, i.e. to let them exercise their right to be wrong. Even dead wrong. I will stand naked and alone before the judgment throne of the King to answer for one man only.

    It seems to me that so many issues we Christians get excited about are just matters of taste. Should we play organ baroque in our services or country/western? Should we force everyone to listen to Chubby Checkers & the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? Should we force them to raise children they don’t want? Should we demand they serve in the armed forces? Make them give up their guns, or shoot them?

    So much of my religion just states what I like. Nothing more than that.

    I think of the Rich Young Ruler who walked away from Jesus; And Jesus let him walk away. No dragging him back. He let him be wrong. Should we followers of Christ do less?

    John Cowart

  5. Brilliance! Sheer brilliance!

  6. “You don’t need my validation. I’m not your mother or your spouse. Stop being so co-dependent.”

    Love it! I was raised with the concept that you’re not gonna agree with everybody and that’s ok. It’s ok to agree to disagree. So many people cannot grasp that concept. If you don’t agree with them and validate everything they do and say, you are – bigoted, racist, backward, un-enlightened, homophobic, or anti-(insert group).

    Sigh…the most closed minded people I’ve met are those that claim to be the most open-minded.

  7. funny I blogged the other day of how I was intolerant of intolerance!

  8. What a great post and insight; tolerance = validation. How true. BTW, I’m glad you’re not my mother.

  9. Great blog, Matt. I am glad that I can refer to the Bible for an answer to your question. I looked up tolerant in the NKJV and it isn’t there. So, I don’t have to worry about it!

    Tolerance in today’s world means that we judge one another. We are not meant to judge others, that is Jesus’ job! Whew! However; we are meant to spiritually discern things. We have the word for some specifics, but there are other things that are important to God – heck, our entire life is important to God! Just because there isn’t a verse doesn’t mean that God is cool with it.

    If we look at the perfect lover: Jesus, we see that he still rebuked people for sin.

    Everything in 1 Corinthians 13 is an action. That is what our actions should be – but not to everyone. However; some days you need to kindly say what is right and wrong.

    FYI – here in Massachusetts pastors had to sign statements of faith regarding their stance on gay marriage. It is a war of faith vs. tolerance. We’ll see where it goes.

    I am glad that I don’t have to tolerate anyone. I just need to take whatever stance Jesus would, and that is on an individual basis, and not a group hug.

  10. Forgive me for being a contrarian (again), but this whole “nobody’s respecting my right to be intolerant” thing gets trotted out every year at Christmas and about every other day on talk radio and Christian blogs. (I could probably set my watch by the number of times someone makes some form of this statement on Jesus Needs New PR.)

    It’s become pretty tiresome, in my opinion.

    • I don’t mind a contrary opinion. Although I did mention that, I didn’t intend for that to be the focus. By saying that my tolerance or lack thereof does not actually affect people, I also have to admit that no one else is affecting my choices to be “tolerant” or “intolerant.” I don’t need anyone to approve of my “intolerance!”

      • You say: “I also have to admit that no one else is affecting my choices to be “tolerant” or “intolerant.” ”

        See, that’s what kind of rubbed me the wrong way about the post–you made all these sweeping statements about insidious “political correctness”, but no concrete examples of stuff like this actually happening to you. A couple examples—

        –“I can be a Christian…as long as I also accept Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, and all the other gods under the sun.”

        —Did anyone ever actually tell you this? Has anyone actually prevented you from practicing your religion unless you celebrate theirs as well? (Personally, I work with Muslims, Buddhists, and others on a regular basis and have never been harrassed for ‘not accepting’ any of those other gods.)

        —-“We talk about “affirming” others, or “accepting” or “celebrating” others. If you’re merely “tolerating” others, then you’re pretty much a racist, bigoted homophobe.”

        —–Again, has this actually happened to you? Have you ever been forced to “affirm” or “celebrate” something that you don’t approve of? (And, no, someone calling you a name on the internet doesn’t count). Did someone tie you up and drag you to a gay pride parade or something?

        Those were the things going through my head after my initial read of your post. And now it sounds like you answered my question–no one has actually interfered with your “right to be intolerant”.

        With you being a teacher, I understand that you’re probably surrounded by more of a milieu that’s obsessed with “political correctness”, but I wonder if you’re exaggerating it’s reach just a little bit.

        As I wrote somewhere last week, I think there’s this tendency (on both the left and the right) to see the mere existence of someone that doesn’t agree with you as an attack, or a sign that we’re all going to hell in a handcart. It doesn’t have to be that way, and I think discourse in general would be a whole lot better if more people realized it.

        • I see your point, and it’s a good one. I suppose I see the incredible level of polarization in our culture, the polarization that says “everyone can live as they want, as long as it’s A, B and C” and take it personally. If someone claims that their beliefs are the one way to God, they are practically martyred. People can’t seem to stand the fact that other people will disapprove of them.

          To give an example, and this is by no means the focus here, but gays have every right to be gay. Christians are wasting their time trying to supress them. But a Christian or church that actually says that they disagree with the gay lifestyle might as well be Westboro Baptist. We’re just so willing to make caricatures of our enemies, yet we still expect them to come around and grant us approval. The gays have a right to be gay, and Christians (if they do so) have a right to disagree with that lifestyle.

        • To add to that, I’ve bumped up against kids in youth group and school who balk when I try to teach them that Christianity is THE way. We have a lot of Christian parents who have been infected with PC and are teaching the kids that Christianity is A way, but whatever they choose is okay. That kind of plurality just doesn’t exist in Christ or the Bible. Not saying we should stone adulterers – quite the opposite, I hope you’d surmise from what I’ve said – but we should have the fortitude to believe that we are right, and the grace to love the people who disagree.

          • How do you explain Matthew 25:31-46 to them? (sheep&goats) Here Jesus makes no mention of professing faith in him, saying the sinners prayer, or being baptized. Instead he gathers the righteous from all nations and sets out an admittance criteria that is radically unexpected.

          • Understandable. However, I wonder how much of the “bumping” you’re getting is from “PC infection” and how much is from the kids (and their parents) trying to wrap their heads around a difficult concept.

            I mean, major theologians can’t seem to agree on what “Christianity is THE way” actually means–is it any wonder that teenagers might have a hard time grasping it?

            Also, I think that notion becomes more unsettling the more diverse our society becomes–not because of “political correctness” but simply because of more opportunity to connect with people of other faiths.

            See, it’s easy to say “Christianity is THE way” when the only contact you have with people of other religions is stories that missionaries bring back about the brown people overseas that they’re trying to convert. When you’re left wondering if the nice Muslim guy that covers your call night so you can be home for Christmas is going to be consigned to Hell for it, it’s a little bit more difficult to accept.

            Not saying I know the answer or that you’re wrong for whatever you teach. I just think that maybe there might be more than “PC-ness” behind some of the blowback you’re getting. Not telling you what to do, but maybe it’d be a good opportunity for the kids to express some of their doubts.

          • Well said. Like I encourage contrary opinions here, I try to encourage kids to express doubts and difficult questions. I respect kids and their questions, but I try to communicate to them that although their doubts are valid, I am confident that satisfactory answers exist.

  11. There’s a book on this issue, aptly titled “Be Intolerant”. It’s pretty short, but I think you’d enjoy it.

  12. I have to agree with the overall premise that there is a disconnect with how we use the word “tolerance”, well and the word “person”.

    It is very prevalent disconnect between some communities of faith and gay christians. The most recent personal example I can think of this is when sitting down with a pastor we had to draw a picture of the difference. The pastor had said he would baptize my husband, when first asked. Later he changed his mind – 24 hours before time to get baptized and a host of about 40 people that were invited had to be called to tell them “the baptism was off” because he is gay.

    Later, my father-in law, an active member of the church, said to call the pastor and not jump to conclusions as to why it called off. During the meeting, the pastor came out with it. Robert said that he thought he was accepted, but that he now knows that he was just “tolerated”. And thus the great divide was exposed. To me it is simple as a believer, if the fruit of the spirit, including our “love” is not accepted, then I am not accepted. When “I accept you” is so closely defines you as an object as a person and not the core of a living, loving person, then “person” is what has been redefined and around that all other words in that kind of a culture begin to be redefined to draw clarity and context to the discourse at hand.

    In the minds of people who tolerate, I don’t have a father-in-law, Why? Because, I’m not married in their mind. That negation can go as far or further than if gay people are capable of love. Which concerns me, because if you drive that into a young persons mind long enough that they are not capable of love, then they can doubt if they should even exist – which call attention to the high rate of suicides. For some people it is so demoralizing – I would say it is kin to being in a concentration camp where the spirit of hope is pulled out of you little by little, till there is none left. To those same kind of people who tolerate, this is all a farce, adding insult to injury.

    I’m not completely sure of how we should handle this. Perhaps, we should go back to the old definition of tolerance – And people on both sides of such issues should just “come out” with it and own up to our intolerance and just call it was it is or what it was. I’ll do my part – When you don’t baptize my husband because he is gay, I am intolerant of you. When you don’t baptize my husband, you are intolerant of us. I think when such occasions arise, we should take the time to own our intolerance, even if all it means is that I acknowledging someone without sweeping how our acceptance fails under the rug. Then, maybe word will start to have meaning again and hopefully people who have lost meaning will gain some even when that are not validated.

    ~ Ryan

  13. As usual, I love the post, Matt! I think tolerance is a too low of an achievement goal. To me, tolerance means putting up with something or someone, like listening to a Katy Perry song, even though you think her voice is awful, because someone you know likes her or because you are actually listening to a radio station and not a MP3 player. Instead, we should be aiming for respecting other people and loving them regardless of whether they agree with us or not because all people are made in God’s image and He is good to all, He has compassion on all that He has made (Psalm 145:9–My kid’s memory verse for the month).

  14. As a Christian, tolerance is getting off easy. Jesus called us to love, pray, operate in grace and forgive. He never said, just tolerate people. He did specifically say not to judge them though. I think alot of Christians operate in judgement disguised as tough love. The answer will always be love… not tolerance.

    • That’s a great distinction! Like I said, I love people. I think people are made in the image of God. But I don’t think it’s judgmental to say I’m not going to celebrate everyone’s lifestyle, beliefs and religion if I don’t agree with them. It’s not up to me to give people “tough love” because they are adults. But I don’t think Jesus would have me celebrate everything people do.

      When Paul went to Athens, he respected the religiosity of the people. But he didn’t ” celebrate” their beliefs – he told them the truth! If we’re saying that a good Christian doesn’t judge, then Paul was a terrible Christian!

      • To clarify, I never said to celebrate lifestyles that are not in alignment with the Word of God. I was just saying that Christians are called to go above and beyond tolerate. Jesus didn’t just tolerate people. He loved them, He corrected them, He forgave them, He healed them, He saved them from themselves and sometimes from the judgement of others. I had a conversation with a Christian friend who had a co-worker who she said she argued with about his choice of lifestyle. Telling him that he needed to stop what he was doing and become a Christian. I think that’s often the take that the Church has toward the lost. Stop sinning and come to church. What I’m saying that that when you love people and introduce them to Jesus, Who loves them most of all, it’s alot easier to get permission to speak into their lives. If people come to know Jesus, He can show them the areas in their lives that are not in alignment with His Word and they’ll believe Him and the Word.

        I was just thinking last week about Kirk Cameron’s whole debacle when he said that he would never support gay marriage. There was a line a mile long to speak out against him and his intolerant point of view. I thought, where are all of the people who would stand up for him? There was no line at all. Christians are so afraid of coming accross as intolerant that we choose apathy, which is NOT love. How can we love people and believe that there is a hell and do nothing? How is it loving people when we just tell people that they are going to hell and not care to show compassion? At some point, Christians are going to have to be brave enough to stand up and admit their failings in life and give all credit and glory to God as their savior instead of standing around pretending we are perfect and expecting others to live up to a standard that we don’t even hold up.

        That’s the big secret after all, right? For the most part, Churches are filled with a bunch of people that are broken and are too embarrassed to admit it. We’re too concerned with what people will think if they knew the truth. So, we have to act the part, which causes us to come down harshly on the people that struggle in teh same areas we do. It is when we allow our sin a place in the shade, it grows down deep. When we don’t allow Godly men and women to speak into our lives, the only voice we’ll hear is our own… or the devils. Once we admit who we were and what we’re capable of, that’s when we can let go of judgment and move into loving people. That’s when people will listen to us and believe that there is a loving and gracious God that only wants the best for their lives… and all that that entails.

        Love not Tolerance.

  15. Great post! I think you’re so spot on about the fact that we now have re-defined tolerance to mean validation. I adore your point about the fact that you love people but of course are not going to always praise and validate them. I think emotional and spiritual health and maturity are about being content in who God made you and knowing that if you believe you’re doing what you are meant to do, that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

  16. Now we’re moving away from “tolerance” and moving more towards “acceptance”. Tolerance is “I’m going to put up with the way you live.” Acceptance is saying “The way you live is good..” Our culture is moving more towards accepting any behavior at any time.

  17. Matt, this was awesome. I had to stop myself from shouting “Amen!” a few times while reading it on the bus.

    I’m tired of having tolerance shoved down my throat and like I should feel bad for being a 28-year old white guy.

    Not everybody is right.

  18. Matt,

    This is one of the best blog posts I have ever read – anywhere.

    I am re-posting, tweeting and linking to it across the board.

  19. Youre totally right, but the problems start when you start trying to enforce your beliefs on to all others thats when i start having problems, and thats where this whole tolerance and acceptance thing started.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Best Blogs of The Week: Rachel Held Evans, Matt Perman, and The Other Matt | PrayBuddy - March 26, 2012

    […] You Don’t Need My Tolerance – Matt (Who apparently has no last name??) […]

  2. Wednesday's Rambling Round Up | Rambling with the Barba - March 11, 2013

    […] The Church of No People-You Don’t Need My Tolerance […]