The Politics of Tolerance and the Gay Debate

Rainbow gay flag

Ah, the good ole’ “T” word, thrown around in debates for great rhetorical effect, but meaning nothing in reality.

When I received some tweets from RA_Whipple on the comments at a news report at The Guardian, around a writer who is in a huff because a school backed out of his community opera due to homosexual references (and some of the dialogue), I was inspired to write something on this wonderfully abused word.

What so many people seem to forget is the complete irony in their comments on intolerance and bigotry. The old joke goes that if you are intolerant of intolerance you are guilty of intolerance yourself. And this is quite true. People who call people bigots are essentially saying that the views of those people are not worth much and not valid. The problem is that that, in itself, is a bigoted view. And it’s incredibly self-righteous to go around calling someone a bigot when you essentially have the same attitude.

Everyone is intolerant. That’s a fact. I bet the same commenters at that post would be completely against the opinions of paedophiles or serial killers or, it seems, even some Christians. If a Christian goes around saying that they are not too keen on gay marriage and homosexuality, they’re labelled a homophobe, bigot, intolerant and whatever other word is popular at the moment. But all the labelling and name-calling exposes the hypocrisy of the whole debate rather nicely.

Tolerance is a political word. It’s used by politicians to garner votes, much like gay equality. I bet most politicians couldn’t give a fig about whether or not gays can get married, or the questions of justice around that, but in a democracy they’ll use that to gain political advantage – or change their minds just as easily when the public is swinging the other way.

The problem with this whole argument is that people often shout loud about homophobia and gay marriage rights etc. but in reality you won’t find a single homosexual friend in their circles nor will they really let a homosexual couple babysit their kids. It’s all very well to talk of gay rights at a newspaper website, but don’t let it get too close to home.

A friend of mine who studied law brought up an interesting comment on this the other day. One day in class her professor showed a clip of gays at a rally of sorts, behaving obscenely and doing all kinds of things. The question was asked: are you for gay equality? Ok. Now, would you REALLY let those kinds of people in the video look after your children? Would you REALLY invite them over for dinner? Hang out with them in public places?

My point here is not to say all gay people are obscene, but to show that everyone has their limits when it comes to tolerance. Most people probably wouldn’t invite these people over for dinner etc. despite how loudly they shout ‘tolerance’ and all those politically correct words. All they really want is to be seen as tolerant, but they’ve got their own lines that shouldn’t be crossed – usually not spoken about publically – because we shouldn’t ever really talk about those, that would be intolerant.

Tolerance is a way of saying that, actually, no one should really have an opinion. But at no time in the past has a lack of an opinion ever pushed society forward in a good way. In fact, the very lack of opinion and mass intolerance against having a strong opinion on a matter is becoming damaging to our society. Leaders with opinions are unpopular. So many leaders just sway to and fro depending on whatever the public wants. There’s no conviction and a result is that there’s no true leadership happening. And then when finally a leader arrives with an opinion, it’s usually an extreme view (ala Julius Malema) and the lack of any strong leadership causes so many to gravitate towards the only strong leaders there are.

This has nothing to do with tolerance anyway. This has more to do with being fashionable. Let’s be real here: there are certain things we all won’t tolerate.

There is a gigantic difference between love and tolerance. You can love someone while disagreeing with them. My wife and I disagree many times. Christians are told by Jesus and the Scriptures to love. There is no commandment to be tolerant, but there are commandments to love – and even love unconditionally.

Christians often talk about ‘hating the sin but loving the sinner’. It holds true. I always found it perplexing at the office when it proved true that actually the Christians were the only people loving the homosexuals, despite their differences of opinion. This is not a biased view, it was plain as day to anyone.

I was never ashamed to go to lunch with one of the openly gay guys at the office. I’ve never felt hate, repulsion, or disgust towards any gay person, ever. (I don’t know of any single Christian in my wide circle of friends who hates gay people either.) Yet I don’t believe homosexuality is really something God wants for them and I do believe sleeping with another man is what is called a ‘sin’. If you call this old fashioned, that’s ok — just because something is old doesn’t make it wrong. So-called Progressives have no right to take the moral high ground here.

While non-Christians often spoke of gay rights at the office (I work from home now), some of them wouldn’t even talk to those that were openly gay. They would often walk in the office and talk about that ‘gay guy’ and wonder openly how any man could have sex with another man and declare their disgust for it. But then, almost in the same breath, how they hate judgemental people and Christians especially who tell them that it’s a sin to sleep around. I’ve seen the same attitude exhibited by religious and non-religious types: I know atheists that are incredibly anti-gay.

The thing is, I’m called to love all those people too.

Tolerance and love are not the same thing. So-called lip-service to ‘tolerance’ about homosexuality is all the fashion right now, but it’s really nothing more than a fashion for many people. But loving homosexuals, even ‘obscene’ homosexuals, those that might prowl the street corners at night, is a tall order for believers and non-believers alike; and don’t expect to see much real love from some of the loudest proponents of homosexual marriage. Expect to see a lot of political correctness, but not much actual reality.

Think about it like this. Will you love a paedophile? Do you feel disgust, repulsion, hate for paedophiles? If so, consider how consistent your views on tolerance and bigotry actually are. And, if you’re a Christian, remember that Jesus commands we love those people too, even though we know they might hurt our children. (Sure, don’t ask them to babysit, but love them unconditionally despite their views or struggles. And remember love does not mean you unconditionally accept their views, it means you unconditionally accept them.)

That is the challenge. And that is not popular either.

Tolerance is also not the same thing as justice (love and justice share a closer relationship) and I’m thankful that despite my views on homosexuality I could vote for gay marriage in the realm of justice and politics, because Jesus said the Church and State should be separate. Although I don’t know much about marriage laws so I never comment on this issue much and have no real political opinion on it. When I vote, I vote on other issues, and I think this issue is often blown completely out of proportion and the entire debate around the subject is framed incorrectly.

7 thoughts on “The Politics of Tolerance and the Gay Debate”

  1. The writer, Rubel Shelly wrote in “Living in God’s Story” the Bible “is the narrative account of God’s purpose to rescue sinful-but-dearly-loved humans through his grace made known in Jesus.”

    He goes on to explain how our own personal stories begin to merge with The Story of God’s love. He says, “In the process of interacting with the people of God, people hear the music of the gospel and begin to move to its rhythm. They see how The Story engages their personal stories. They encounter the Holy Spirit and are changed.”

    Shelly asserts, “The world’s culture offers the option of shutting out God, pursuing a self-willed agenda, and suffering the tragic consequences. The church is called out of the world to be an alternative culture whose identity is shaped by God’s nature, whose activities reflect his redemptive love, and where authentic joy reigns.”

    “Our neighbors won’t get caught up in the story of Jesus until they see us genuinely engaged with it. The heart of evangelism is not bumper stickers, T-shirts, and tracts; it is bona fide imitation of Jesus. Only when our churches are cultural alternatives to the world’s racism and sexism, jealousy and rivalry, selfishness and materialism can we be light in a dark world.”

    Our “tolerance” as seen through the eyes of Christ is simply to merge our own stories with The Story and allow the Grace of God to overflow in our hearts. Ours is not the business of passing judgment over those who choose not to intertwine their personal lives and stories with what God has to offer.

  2. I like what you’re saying about loving everyone, even paedophiles.

    I do disagree that homosexuality is a ‘sin’, though.

    But otherwise you’ve made a compelling argument for love, and I love that. Preach it, brother!

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