Monday, January 04, 2010

I Can't Tolerate Your Tolerance!

I believe it was Yakov Smirnov, the Russian comedian who used to use the phrase, “Whadda Country!” when talking about the United States. He used it in his act to refer to things we do here that are sometimes excessive and not available in his country. I take it that Yakov’s career has slowed as I haven’t heard his name in a number of years, but his catch phrase still resonates. We live in a great country that allows us many freedoms. The freedom we enjoy allows us to not only think freely but to speak freely. We are a melting pot of many different races and cultures that carry with them many different beliefs. This conglomerate of peoples and cultures, religions, etc., relies on tolerance to succeed. Tolerance is a good thing. But what I see today is tolerance gone bad. What I seem to get as a definition of tolerance in our country lately is that “Everyone’s OK” or we are all right in our beliefs and judgments. Just because you don’t believe what I believe, That’s OK, we are both right. To this I say, “Huh!”. This makes no sense to me. How can people with opposing opinions both be right? This is not tolerance, it is absurdity. 4 + 4 = 8. It cannot equal 9 no matter what you believe. I believe this idea has found its roots in our society’s idea that there are no moral boundaries except those we wish to impose on ourselves. This is another idea that makes no logical sense to me as it can only bring about anarchy when truly embraced.

If this country is to succeed, we need to tolerate each other. Not by saying we are all right, but be able to live together when the other person is wrong. Did that come out right? I assure you that it did. You see, as mentioned above, if you have two opposing views, they can’t possibly both be right. Let’s look at me for example. I am a Christian. Yeah, that’s right, I’m playing the religion card. It seems to get the most people riled up. Anyway, back to my point. I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. The Bible makes the case that you can only find salvation through Jesus Christ. I have a good friend who disagrees with me on that. Sadly, I am right and he is wrong. Unless, of course, you ask him. He will tell you that he is right and I am wrong. I love my friend. I mean love. If our friendship were to end, I would hurt. If some tragedy were to take him from this earth, I would mourn him as much as any family member. My friend and I are, as the saying goes, “Two peas in a pod”. We have many things in common. We share a twisted sense of humor, love music and many more things that make it easy for us to be around each other and enjoy the time. We agree on many things but we disagree on the subject of morality. We talk about the subject occasionally because we know each other’s views and we each want our belief to prevail so we try to make our case. So far, I have not swayed him, and he has not swayed me. We butt heads on this issue, but you know what? When we have each made our cases and realized that convincing the other at this time is futile, we can go from there and get a pizza or move on to the next topic. I believe that what makes our friendship strong is that we can sharply disagree on one thing, but move on to celebrate the things we have in common. I believe that this is the meaning of tolerance. My friend and I know our differences, there are no surprises. But we also know what we have in common, and that is more important to us than the difference. In fact, we both respect each other for being able to set aside our differences and to have a great friendship.

Why are we so afraid to use the word “wrong” lately? Are we so afraid of offending someone, that instead of saying that we disagree, we will try to appease them by telling them that they are right when there is no possible way that we can believe that. Or is it that we are afraid to have to defend our position, especially if it is an unpopular one. And so by saying that everyone is right, we avoid confrontation.
We live in a great country of freedom. Shouldn’t we be free to disagree on a point or two and still be able to say, “Let’s go get a pizza”? We need to acknowledge our differences, set them aside, and celebrate the things we have in common.
Another friend, Josh Cleveland, wrote a song based on an event in the book of Joshua in the Bible. Yeah, I’m going there again. The story is about an altar that was built between tribes separated by the river Jordan. The tribes that built the altar were first accused of wanting to separate themselves from the other tribes. The builders of the altar went on to explain that the purpose of the altar was to be a “witness between them” for all generations to see what the tribes had in common. Josh’s song is called “A Witness Between Us” and it is quite possible I have plagiarized this whole idea from his song. If so, sorry.

As I wrap this blurb up, it is my hope that I have not offended anyone in any way. But really, if you disagree with me, I’m still right. Now let’s go get a pizza.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cry Freedom

As I was lying in bed tonight unable to sleep, I thought about an incident that happened to me a couple of years ago. I was on my way home from the store and as I drove up to an intersection I noticed a young man (younger than me) sitting on the corner. He had long dreadlocked hair, a full beard and very “hippieish” clothing. He was holding a cardboard sign stating that he was traveling and hungry. When I got to where he was, I rolled down my window and told him to meet me at the Culver’s restaurant across the street and I would buy him a meal. I pulled into the parking lot and he arrived momentarily. I introduced myself and he reciprocated and then we proceeded into the restaurant. As we talked, he told me about the lifestyle he led and how he has traveled across the country many times. I don’t remember where he was on his way from, although Alaska seems to come to mind. I do remember that he was on his way to Florida to stay with some friends down there. I think the impending winter had a lot to do with that. The funny thing is, he wasn’t even positive that his friends would still be there since he had had no contact with them since the prior year when he had stayed with them. It really didn’t seem to concern him though. He seemed very passionate about this lifestyle of having no ties to society, no responsibilities, come and go with the wind. Completely and utterly free. As he spoke, I found myself starting to envy his lifestyle when it dawned on me; this lifestyle was not free at all! If it were not for me, a person tied to society with responsibilities, he would be hungry today. It didn’t take me long to go from envy to concluding that this guy was a moron! It blew me away that he could not see (or chose not to see) the contradiction in his way of life. His freedom was completely dependent upon a lifestyle he was trying to avoid. We soon parted company and I wished him all the best and told him I hoped everything worked out for him. He assured me it would, and in my superiority, I thought to myself, “I’m sure it will too, as long as there is another member of society like me around the corner to foot the bill”. I went home feeling pretty smug and told my wife about the whole incident.

So here I am tonight, thinking about this 2 year old memory when it hits me. It took two years, but I should have seen it coming. It happens every time I climb up on my high horse. I soon find myself laying face down on the ground. You see, I too live a life of freedom at the cost of another individual. The Bible says in 1Co 1:8 He (Jesus) will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, if you are reading this and you know me, then you know that Pat and blameless are two words rarely used in a sentence together. The Bible also tells us, The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)
I sit here today with freed from my transgressions and able to stand blameless before God. Not because of anything I have done, but because of what Jesus did. I live a life of freedom because Jesus chose to leave Heaven and bind himself physically to this earth so He could unbind me from it. This event has caused me to look at the following verse much differently.
And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.(Mat 5:40-42)
I believe Jesus wants us to have confidence and joy in our own freedom. I also believe he wants us to do whatever it takes to free our brothers and sisters. So as I look at my feet and once again see the shoes of one I have judged, wherever you are tonight my wandering friend, I hope you are well fed and free.