The Intolerance of Intolerance or Institution vs. Individual

>> Saturday, October 6, 2012

There's an interesting conversation going on in the comments on Gather (not something I say often, by the way). Oddly enough, I'm involved in it. Now I don't want to recreate it here, but it got the part of my brain, the opinionated part, working enough to make me want to write something here in my blog. I'm sure Relax Max will be thrilled.

The article has to do with and example of intolerance in the Boy Scouts driven by Christian organizations (in this case, against gays). I noted with confusion the tendency, in largely public positions, of focusing on the importance Christ's divinity so extremely as to fail to follow Christ's teachings. Someone noted that intolerance of Christians was just as bad and another made a point that there is no inherent dichotomy between seeing Christ as divine and following his teachings.

I agree on both points; unfortunately, that's not what I was saying. And it's not that simple, as is true of so much of reality. Since people have interpreted what I say far differently than the actual words or my intent enough times that I feel compelled to explain, noting that, by explaining, I take the chance on it happening again.

To address the second point, although I absolutely agree that believing Christ divine and living his teachings are not mutually exclusive, I do think doing hateful divisive things, manipulating other for power or monetary gain, singling out groups of people to be spurned if not misused, all in the name of Christ vs. living his teachings IS inherently contradictory. Ironically, though I "see" Christians doing so in the news and organizations doing so, I do not actually believe most Christians knowingly do so. Admittedly, I'm naive. 

Then, there is the assertion (not for the first time) that I am prejudiced against Christians. I'm not. I have always admired the teachings attributed to Christ (there is debate among the far more scholarly than myself regarding whether he ever existed - I like to think he did since his teachings and behaviors were so much nicer than the behavior of his disciples who went out and passed those teachings about that it seems odd the disciples came up with it). I have never heard anything directly attributed to Christ in word or deed that I found even the slightest bit offensive. In most cases, he seemed even more pacifist, tolerant, understanding, forgiving, kind, non-judgemental, etc. than I am at my best. Divinity notwithstanding, his wisdom is sufficient to draw my admiration and wish to emulate.

It is because of this that I have been told, by every Christian I've discussed this with, that I am not a Christian, because to me, it is entirely irrelevant if he were divine or not, or even whether he existed. Because I do not accept as an absolute that Christ was divine, I am, apparently, not a Christian, even if my behavior is closer to Christ than, say, nine of ten Christians one is likely to see on TV (though I'll be the first to admit they are unlikely to be good representative of the Christian faith). I'm not saying this because I'm exceptionally good, but more because 9 out of 10 Christians promoting his faith on TV is a megalomaniacal ass. I would not be surprised if the same were true of the individuals we see footage of from other religions, like, say, Muslims. I believe that being better than TV Christians is probably also true of the vast majority of real Christians, too. I'll touch on this later.

The lessons are fantastic and I believe in them. Here's the kicker, though. Using exactly the same beliefs (basically a color-blind golden rule), I would be just at home in the Buddhist religion (which is really more a philosophy than a religion), Judaism, Islam, Hindi, Wiccan, and most pagan religions. Oh there are cultural and geographic variations, but that same Golden rule lies at the heart of the original teachings of all the big ones I know of. Interestingly enough, I'd find myself at home among agnostics and atheists, too, at least all the ones I know (who, ironically, seems to become agnostic or atheistic because of a crisis of conscience, not the other way around).

So, no, I don't object to Christians. What I object to are hateful things done in Jesus' name, or in fact, at all. It's just so ironic to me (in a bad way) to find Jesus associated with so many opinions completely counter to what he lived and preached. I hate organizations using the power of their followers and the name of their religion (and Christianity doesn't corner the market on this, nor, in fact, religious organizations) to do hateful things to others. And the acts and attitudes are what I object to, not individual people (unless, perhaps, the masterminds).Are there great things done by these or similar organizations? You bet and more power to them, but that doesn't give anyone a pass on doing something heinous. Sorry.

If a group of former rapists wanted to set up a fund to help victims of violent crime, I'd applaud it, even if I'd be careful how it was administered to preclude making more victims as a by product. If a group provides free healthcare to the poor but promotes misogyny or pickets dead soldiers with an anti-gay agenda, I can deplore one action but still appreciate the other. I'm like that.

Going back to the point that I don't think most Christians really support the more egregious intolerant or hateful stances taken by some (yes, not all) Christian organizations, if I'm railing against religious organizations that, through donations or direct propaganda, have promoted an anti-gay agenda (for example) but your church, or just you personally, don't support that thinking, rest assured, I'm not talking about you. I don't hate you.I don't even hate them so much as I hate what they're doing.

But I don't feel sorry for you either, getting lumped in with the crazies. It is, to an extent, because the more moderate and understanding voices in the Christian church are frequently silent on these controversial topics that the fringe and fanatical become the de facto representatives of their faith. I know you don't all agree with the extremes frequently taken, but a profound enough silence becomes an affirmation to any outsider who doesn't know whether all "Christians" really feel that way or not. Does being silent while others do horrible things make you a monster? No. But ask a really old German: you get branded just the same.

By the way, I could have replaced "Christians" with the names of a number of other groups or religions that have a vocal fanatic fringe.


  • Roy

    I agree. And you've pointed out the biggest tragedy of the current situation: the silence on the part of mainstream Christianity. Because of that silence the public image of Christianity is the hate-filled faces and words of a minority of believers. A vocal and media-savvy minority, but still a minority despite all the public exposure. The silence needs to end.

    The tactic taken by the haters that ticks me off the most is that attitude that they're being persecuted because they're not being allowed to persecute others. Now that's some seriously skewed thinking!

  • Darrell B. Nelson

    I agree as well.
    Roy, I think the Federal Judge in Missouri felt the same way as you in upholding the ACA covering birth control. He said "[Federal religious freedom law] is a shield, not a sword."
    The ironic thing is the hate filled messages are driving destroying the Christian Churches faster than any other force.
    When asked to pick one word to describe Evangelicals the words "Hateful" and "Intolerate" were highest on the list among the Millennials. Not the greatest marketing pitch.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Roy, I hear you. The notion that one must be tolerant of unpleasant action and attitudes that do appreciable harm or else be labeled intolerant oneself boggles my mind. On the link, I have since moved on to being "selfish and narcissistic" in my tolerance (apparently because I can't understand the plight of "Innocent Children" who might, thereby, be dragged from orphanages and foster homes to be with loving parents.

    Darrell, I think the contrast between stories and allegories attributed to Christ and the public actions of the most extreme "Christians" has worked against those same extremists and their political agendas. The rest of the world is starting to grow up.

  • Relax Max

    I AM glad you posted on your blog again.

    This is a bit too complicated for me to sort out and comment on though.

    I just believe in the first amendment, I guess. And I believe in equal rights under the law, where applicable.

    I respect your beliefs. I don't believe a society has to tolerate ALL things, as you know.

    I wish you could narrow this down to one thing. (Many people are hypocrites? Private clubs shouldn't be intolerant or excluding? Christ's rule book doesn't apply to you?) Anyway, it was good and thought provoking, I thought. If I upset you, will you blog more often? :)

  • Stephanie Barr

    I don't believe society has to tolerate all things, either, but I don't think the law should be involved unless damage (monetary/physical/emotional) is being done to another and some modicum of law for citizen physical self-protection including regulating dangerous drugs, for example, and traffic laws.

  • Relax Max

    Oh, I think you believe a lot more than that in this post and in the link you gave. :) I think you'll agree any one of these things if enough for a separate post. You overwhelm. You know what a simple person I am.

  • Stephanie Barr

    I do believe any number of other things. But I focused on what I had to say addressing specific points.

    Otherwise I'd never stop writing (I'm verbose and opinionated). And have a purring cat on my shoulder.

  • Relax Max

    I'm just asking you to choose one subject to explain your beliefs about. There are too many things in your post to address on one comment. Nobody wants to read my long philosophical comments. Choose Christianity. Choose hypocrites. Choose "Life is Not Fair." Choose Gay Rights. Choose Tolerance. Choose Bigotry. Choose Pompous "Christians" who think they know it all and arrogantly tell people to follow the rules of capitalization. Anything. Just one at a time. You said not too long ago that you were having trouble finding motivation to write and subjects to blog about. There's about 10 subjects in this one post alone. I think the basic thing here was "hypocrisy", though.

  • Stephanie Barr

    I was explaining (a) why I'm not prejudice against Christians as individuals even if I am bothered by what some of the actions they publicly take and (b)I was clarifying that I didn't think believing Christ's divinity and following his teachings were mutually exclusive, though I personally find the question of his divinity of no personal interest.

    Everything else were examples and reasons to support those two points.

    I, of course, have more opinions, but that's not what this post was about.

  • Relax Max

    So this post was about Christians? See, I didn't get that at all.

    Well, I'm not much into religion (rules made up by master manipulators) but I would offer the opinion that if you follow all the teachings except the main one, you are not a Christian. I recommend Buddha. He's not so demanding.

    As an aside, do you believe Jesus and his disciple John (aka Lazarus) were lovers?

  • Stephanie Barr

    If I get dragged to church, I usually describe myself as a Shinto-Buddhist with Christian tendencies because it's easier than explaining I just have my own beliefs and I don't worry much about where they fit.

    On the other hand, I have as much respect for Buddha as I have for Christ, and I can't help but admire people who didn't have to kill off their "savior". I wish more wise people got to die of old age. And I hope they keep cropping up. We can always use more wisdom.

  • Stephanie Barr

    As for, "As an aside, do you believe Jesus and his disciple John (aka Lazarus) were lovers?" I haven't the foggiest idea.

    And, as long as no one was coerced into the relationship, I certainly couldn't care less if they had one. Actually, at this point, if one were coerced, I'm not sure I'd much care. Nothing I could do about it, but I would be disappointed if I thought Christ were a rapist and grieved if he were a victim of that kind of crime.

    I don't, though.

  • Relax Max

    You really have a hangup about rape and rapists. Furthest thing from my mind. G'night.

  • Stephanie Barr

    People's sex lives hold no interest for me. It's none of my business unless children or force are involved. I was simply clarifying.

  • soubriquet

    I'm not going to join gather in order to comment there, but I was more than a little disgusted by some of the comments there, and the assumptions made.
    There is no evidence to say the scout involved was anything other than a good scout and a high achieving young man.
    He deserves admiration, not vitriol. His coming out as homosexual in no way harmed any person in his scout troop, whereas, it's also said that he had endured repeated bullying by 'scouts'. Surely the bullies are the people who had offended against the principles laid down by Baden-Powell? Surely the bullies, the bigots and the intolerant should be expelled, not the boy whose only transgression is to be honest about his own sexual orientation?
    As you point out, a central message in christ's teachings is not to judge other people's failings, and that, eventually, it is god who will judge.
    "Forgive us our trespasses,
    As we forgive them that trespass against us".
    As far as I can see, christ would not have shunned that boy.
    Unlike those false followers who like to justify their hate by claiming Jesus told them to do it.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Wise decision, in my opinion, not to join Gather, soubriquet. You have also managed to communicate, succinctly, my own thoughts on the subject.

  • John Milar

    This is so much more than i needed!!! but will all come in use thanks!!
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