Culture and Worldview: Are Christians intolerant?
In high school, I was not a Christian. Some Christians in our large public school, however, wanted to change that. Year after year, we would have debate after debate. They would try to convert me, and I would try to disprove them. At some point in nearly every debate, they would tell me that I was going to hell because I was a sinner. At that point in the conversation, I would pull out the only Bible verse I had committed to memory and say, “Thou shall not judge.” For me, this was my ace in the hole.
Many who make no claim to follow Jesus are especially critical of what they see as the failure of Christians to live up to their own principles of tolerance. As a guy in Phoenix put it, “The basic belief of Christianity is that you’re not supposed to judge your fellow man.” He continued,
“Saying somebody is going to go to hell because they don’t believe as strong as the other person, or because they did something, that’s a sin. The basic pretext of Christianity is supposed to be tolerant, compassionate, loving, forgiving, merciful. But there’s [sic] a lot of examples in the Bible where biblical figures, they pass judgment on their fellow man. They demonstrate hatred for their fellow man and most definitely not very compassionate.”
But as we saw in the earlier conversation between our facilitator and the focus group in Austin, a complete lack of judgment about what’s right, good, and true leads to chaos and is ultimately impossible to endure in reality. More than that, it leads to a real devaluing of someone else’s ability to think and their inherent dignity as a human—able to stand apart from the animals to think, and feel, and follow deeply held convictions.
So, could it be that tolerance is dangerous and intolerance is actually a good thing? Let’s find out.
An analogy about God’s laws might help. I am a father. I love our five children. When our kids were small, we lived on a busy street. The first thing I did when we moved in was get a fence built. That fence provided boundaries for my children, and the reasoning behind the boundary was not restriction but affection. I was not trying to take anything good from my kids. I was attempting to keep bad things away.
As long as my children played within the boundaries of the fence, they were free to play whatever games they wanted and do pretty much whatever they liked, as long as it was not dangerous or harmful.
In Christianity, God is also a Father. His principles for what we should do and not do are like pickets in a fence. God wants His kids to safely have fun in the enormous yard of life He has provided them to enjoy without hopping the fence and getting hurt. Admittedly, many Christians do a bad job talking about their Dad and their yard and their fun. They get obsessed with the fence. To the neighbor kids on the other side of the fence, they seem intolerant and unloving and not fun at all. And no one ever wants to come over and play with kids like that. But what if the neighborhood kids saw us having a blast? Not just because we’re safe, but because we’re free to run without fear. That’s what we’re after.
This is an excerpt from Pastor Mark’s Christians Might Be Crazy. You can get the free e-book here.