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.