Tolerance

Summer is here, and is it great!  School has been out for two weeks already–where has the time gone?  I’ve been golfing numerous times, started another class for grad school, finished the duct work in the ceiling of the room soon to be called a nursery (next up, heating duct and dry wall.  yum…), read books for my various classes, worked on writing stuff, and got a new camera.  What a laundry list.  I’m sorry to bore you.  I’m just trying to salvage every spare minute of summer…or justify every spare minute.  What a waste.  Let’s move on.

The class I’m taking (one of 3 or 4 for the summer) is called Philosophy and Spirituality.  Ooooh.  It’s one of the core classes in the Liberal Studies program at DU.  This makes sense, as a liberal education means that one is submitted to things across the board in terms of humanity.  I’ve already studies globalism (how we are connected as a planet…yes, even with China and Canada), human creativity, trust and human relationships, and finally religion.  The idea behind the class is basically religious literacy–we can better understand people if we understand where they come from philosophically and/or religiously.  This is interesting to me, it’s a class for thinking and I like thinking.  One word keeps coming up in class discussions and in the various articles and textbook readings: tolerance.

Tolerance is define by the Oxford American Dictionary as “the ability or willingness to tolerate something.”  I went ahead and walked the extra mile to look up tolerate.  Actually, there is no walking.  I hit F12 on my computer and a dictionary pops up.  I’m just typing this to kill time.  Right.

Tolerate: to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of without interference

Hand in hand with understanding people is this tolerance gig.  We hear it from politics, professors, some religious leaders, and Boulder.  Boulder seems to be all about tolerance until war or marijuana something homosexual pops up.  Then it’s okay to no longer be tolerant and ask for the President’s head.  That’s a good idea, because it is his fault.  Entirely.  Completely.  Yup.  Or not.

I’ve always associated tolerance with irritation.  I tolerate that kid in class who gets up every five minutes for a Kleenex.  There is genuine snot so I don’t really get on his case.  Sometimes I take him the box and a trash can which he empties the former to fill the latter, draining his face the entire time.  I tolerate the guy behind me in church who keeps sneezing on the back of my neck.  I tolerate the supervisor who thinks it’s okay to give more work and more work and more work.  So it’s ironic that we’re being pushed to tolerate everything.

Another irony that simply stumps me is that the idea of tolerance is not really a part of major religious movements.  Let’s look at Islam.  Do you remember the cartoonist in Holland (yah!) who made fun of Muslims and the church leaders called for his head?  Muhammad himself ordered his followers to kill the infidel, or anyone not accepting Islam.  What about Judaism?  I don’t see too much tolerance for Gentiles.  It doesn’t seem to tolerant to call Gentile women heifers.  Some of you may say this doesn’t happen, but I was witness to it in my class last year.  I’m still in awe.  Even Christianity doesn’t preach tolerance–Jesus wasn’t too tolerant of the Pharisees and Sadducees, or the people who set up a market in the temple, or Peter for asking stupid questions.

So the pursuit of tolerance seems a bit silly to me.  I see tolerance as the world’s definition of love.  But it falls a tad short as conflict is bound to surface in love.  I wonder if it is better to love people at all costs.  Part of love is saying no, is helping somebody realize they aren’t right, admitting that you yourself aren’t right, pursuing all that is good and true together.  This isn’t tolerating, it’s fulfilling Christ’s decree to love our neighbor, to hate the sin not the sinner.  But the world sees this as being close-minded and selfish.  They won’t tolerate this type of viewpoint.

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