Monday, July 30, 2012

On Intolerance

To this quotation, I might add "fear."

We are living in a world fraught with anger and frustration, largely brought on by fear ("I feel threatened by you," "You want to take something away from me," "Your worldview throws my beliefs into question.")

We are living in a world fraught with intolerance that is also largely brought on by fear ("If I tolerate you, I give into you, thus ceding power and privilege to you," "If I tolerate you and do nothing to fight you, it means I agree with you and I will be judged for that," "If I tolerate you, it's the same as saying your morals and values are just as good as mine.")

The way to battle fear, anger, and intolerance is to do exactly as Jesus advised us: "Love thy enemy." I don't think he meant running over and giving your enemy a great big hug or to not try and stop someone if they have a gun pointed at a crowd and are about to fire. He was talking about understanding--because where there is understanding, anger and intolerance become less powerful. You do not have to agree or see eye-to-eye on everything. But if you at least can understand where the other person is coming from, you can agree to disagree and part in peace, or you can perhaps find or negotiate a happy medium in which you both feel respected. Where there is at least mutual respect, there is much less chance for violence.

When violence meets violence, everybody loses.

This is not to say "tolerance" means to sit back and take it if someone is abusing you or oppressing a group. On the contrary, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Mohandas Ghandi, Dietrich Boenhoeffer--so many who died precisely because they resisted oppression and did so in a way others refused to tolerate--all of them SPOKE OUT. Jesus argued against following the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law and to help the poor. King argued against the oppression of black Americans. Ghandi argued against British colonial rule and tried to barter peace between the Hindus and Muslims. Boenhoeffer opposed the Nazi oppression of Jews. All of these men died for pushing back--albeit peacefully--against an intolerant status quo.

All of this comes up for me because recently, an acquaintance argued that homosexual marriage should not be tolerated because homosexuality is "unnatural," going against God's Laws, and that the sexual act is intended for procreation. I did not raise my fists against this man--I merely pointed out that actually, if he'd just look at the natural world and the animal kingdom (and human beings are animals; and indeed, science is now proving that animals can not only think and reason, but they have consciousness), homosexuality has been observed among virtually all animal species. I then said that there is more to sex than procreation--if marriage hinged on the ability to procreate, then infertile couples should not be allowed to marry, or an middle-aged or elderly woman past menopause should not be allowed to marry. I said that sex is also a physical expression of love, one of God's great blessings. I pointed out that in some countries, homosexuals are legally put to death or jailed, and that this was a matter of great concern to me.

I was attempting to get him to SEE that this view of homosexuality as unnatural and immoral has led to great human suffering, but I'm sad to say he did not hear me. In fact, one of his friends lashed out at me, accusing me of being the intolerant one--intolerant of his friend's views. In all fairness, he did agree that the oppression of homosexuals is wrong. That's a starting place.

And so the world goes 'round and 'round.

All we can do is try--relying on reason, relying on a sense of fair play, relying on the intuition and goodness of our hearts. For we all are creatures of God, possessing the Divine Spark. Seek it out in others, and with God's grace, they will likewise be able to seek it out in you. Peace Profound.

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