Tolerance. Sometimes I want to tell people, in the great words of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.” The media (including people on social media) seems to love spewing hatred in the name of tolerance.
Am I the only person who sees the hypocrisy when people proclaim they are tolerant only to throw verbal punches at the people who do not think the same as they do? Oh, the irony. “Why can’t we all just get along?” -Rodney King
And people sure love to throw Jesus under the bus when it comes to social and political activism. Can I tell you something though? Jesus is not a Republican. (He’s not a Democrat either. Or Libertarian. Or Tea Party Member. You get the point.)
With each election, the political (and social climate) feels more and more hostile. I don’t know if it’s really that way. I don’t personally experience this from friends or even strangers around my area. Then again I also have a large number of friends who know how to communicate and love each other despite our political differences. That is tolerance, sister.
What is Tolerance?
Is There Even an Objective Definition?
The Oxford Dictionary online defines tolerance as “the ability or willingness to [allow without interference] the existence of opinions or behavior that one dislikes or disagrees with.”
Although it’s difficult to trust a book that defines the word literally as “used for emphasis while not being literally true.” But I digress.
And let’s talk about the definition of tolerance according to Merriam-Webster, “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.” Oxford Dictionary says, “ability to allow without interference” while Merriam-Webster says it is the “indulgence” in beliefs that conflict with your own. It’s so interesting how “willingness” and “indulgence” come across, isn’t it?
The point is that words change over time and in effect, change God’s word as well. We do it to suit our culture or even our personal lives. Our confidence cannot rest on something that can change so easily though. It must rest in the word of the Lord.
If you spend time reading the red letters of the Bible, you will see that Jesus did not bother himself with politics. He always turned back to God’s word.
What We Do In the Name of Tolerance
Our culture has turned to black and white and an if-you-aren’t-with-us-you-are-against-us attitude (and oh-by-the-way-you-are-wrong mentality as well as the you-are-such-a-bigot mentality). Facebook has become more like VentBook and I have no shame in telling you that I have hidden a number of people from my feed because of it.
Sure, they are protected by the first amendment but that doesn’t mean that I have to sit around and listen. Does that make me closed-minded? Absolutely not! What that makes me is a woman who chooses not to be verbally battered by someone who has no interest in engaging in a constructive dialogue. (By the way, dialogue actually means, “a discussion between two or more people or groups, especially one directed towards exploration of a particular subject or resolution of a problem.” Thank you, Oxford Dictionary!)
Do you see that? A dialogue is an exploration of a subject. It’s not one person standing idly by while another verbally abuses one and then the person is feeling trapped for fear of being called an “intolerant bigot.”
Tolerance today seems like a contradiction in itself. It’s an acceptance of all beliefs…except for those who don’t believe in accepting all beliefs.
Abraham Lincoln is credited with asking (although I cannot corroborate this with a credible source. A cute cat meme doesn’t count.), “Do I not defeat my enemy by making him a friend?” Whoever said it though, we can remember that Jesus said it first (and best) in Matthew 5:44 “Love your enemies and pray for those who mistreat you.” He hung out with the dredges of society. People the Pharisees wouldn’t have thought about spending time with. The Pharisees continued to set Jesus up and even had him captured and crucified. All with the masses calling for him to be crucified. And even on the cross, with the nails anchoring him up, he said, “Father forgive them.”
How to Handle Tolerance In Fragile Political Climates?
1. Hide People from Social Media Newsfeed
You must be thinking, Ana, how can you start your suggestions for handling tolerance by suggesting I hide people from my newsfeed? I know it seems counterintuitive and even outright hypocritical. Just hear me out.
And in case you haven’t noticed, the news media is no longer sharing the facts with us. They are sending it to us through a filter of what they believe to be true. This is information I would give to anyone. Not just to my Christian mamas. No matter who you are, if you have people on your social media news feed who are using their beliefs to abuse you and others, you need to get rid of them. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. They are called “social media.” For being social with others. I allow only a select few people to have the kind of influence in my life to address my personal flaws. And truth be told, I rarely interact with them on social media. I have their phone numbers and, call me “old-fashioned,” but I actually prefer to chat on the phone or meet for chips and salsa.
This is the way I look at it. If I were face to face with the people who are using political and social activism as an excuse for verbally battering me, would I just stand by and listen to the hatred? Would I continue to come back to them over and over again? Absolutely not!
So, why would I allow it on my social media account? All in the name of the First Amendment? Nope.
I don’t need to un-friend or un-follow them. I just limit the amount of interaction and influence they have in my life.
Freedom of Speech ≠ Freedom from Consequences (and that includes social consequences)
2. Know Your Scripture
Some of the hottest topics in politics year after year are education, abortion, the environment, and foreign affairs. God’s take on these things are in the Bible and you will discover that his “views” on them fall all along the political spectrum.
I’m not here (in this post anyway) to go into the depths of scripture and what it says on each political topic. That’s a series of posts that needs to be carefully dug into. What I am wanting to accomplish here is to encourage you to read your Bible regularly and learn how to study scripture. Scripture is like statistics. People like to manipulate it to say what they want.
3. Know How to Apply the Greatest Commandment
When Munchkin is mean to her little sister, I ask her about the two greatest commandments. And then I ask her if she is doing that in the way she treats her sister.
As a follower of Jesus, we are not called to defend our politics. Jesus himself didn’t do that. We are called to stay true to the greatest commandment. These two commandments sets up one of the best questions we can ask ourselves when dealing with people.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37 – 39
I know it’s so difficult and some people just really know how to push our buttons, don’t they?