Tag Archives: tolerance

How Do Christians Find Common Ground With Muslims?

When the director of liturgy for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., planned a worship service for Muslims to pray to Allah within the sanctuary of the cathedral, the fraud that is the pseudo-virtue tolerance was clearly shown for what it is. Suicide. Surrender. Self-immolation.

Every Christian knows that the God we worship, the Mysterious Three in One, is one God in three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Every Muslim knows that the god he or she worships is “Allah,” who is one and only one and Mohammed is his prophet. Christians and Muslims have no common ground on which to pretend that they share something except for the genetic connection of Ishmael and Christ with Abraham. Both Ishmael (ancestor of the Arabic families that founded Islam in the 7th century after Christ) and Isaac (ancestor of the Jews through whose genetic line Christ was born) were sons of Abraham. The genetic connection is no foundation for any interfaith dialogue, because there is no common ground between Christianity and Islam. Mohammed himself made that clear. He thoroughly believed that Christians had become polytheists and idolaters, and if he were alive today, he would call the idea of interfaith dialogue with Christians “anathema.”

Explaining the decision to open the doors of the cathedral to such a service, representatives of the Cathedral said, “Leaders believe offering Muslim prayers at the Christian cathedral . . . demonstrates an appreciation of one another’s prayer traditions and is a powerful symbolic gesture toward a deeper relationship between the two Abrahamic traditions.” Such a statement is completely without justification, because it implies that the core of the two religions is Abraham. Abraham is not the point. Abraham is a human being whose genes have migrated through descendants such as Mohammed and Jesus. Never at any time did those descendants worship Abraham. Mohammed spend part of his life claiming to be a Christian, but he felt that Christianity had become polytheistic. If he had ever understood Christianity, he would have known better, which calls into question whether he could ever have been a Christian at all, but that is not the real issue. The issue is that Mohammed founded a religion that worships a god it calls Allah, and that god is not the God by whom the world was created and through whom Christ came to bring salvation to the world.

Therefore, the notion that Islam and Christianity have something to discuss is ludicrous, since they do not worship the same God. When factions in a Christian group such as the Catholic Church have disputes over whether women are to be ordained, they discuss their differences in the context of listening to the same God for guidance. When Muslims and Christians discuss prayer, they do not have any common ground on which to stand, because each stands before a different god. In the eyes of Christians, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one approaches God except through him. In the eyes of Muslims, there is no god but Allah. This difference is irreconcilable. The only way there can be any discussion of prayer is for one party or the other to reject its own god.

The sad part of the whole story is that in the eyes of the Muslim world, Christians have rejected their own God. Muslims would never permit Christians to pray in a mosque, because to do so would make the mosque unclean. Muslims have such a strong perception of the “uncleanness” of Christians that when Pastor Saeed, a prisoner in Iran, was taken to an Iranian hospital for medical treatment, the doctors and nurses refused to touch him because he was “unclean.” To Muslims, to be Christian is to be unclean. Muslims are taught to regard Christians the way Brahman Hindus regard the Dalit (the untouchable caste).

The people who are leaders in the National Cathedral have abdicated their right to be called Christian leaders, because they clearly believe that it is fine to reject Christ in order to be hospitable to Muslims. They have, furthermore, demonstrated complete ignorance of Islam by permitting such an event inside a Christian church building. If they do not yet know that Muslims around the world now believe that Islam has conquered that building and subjugated it to Allah, they are not paying attention. No Christian prayers are or ever will be permitted in Muslim holy sanctuaries, and when Muslim prayers are offered in a sanctuary, it is henceforth subject to and dedicated to Allah. Mark Christian, a former Muslim who has been disowned by his family since he received Christ as an adult, says, “In Islamic tradition, supremacy is demonstrated to all by practicing Islam where Christianity or Judaism once reigned. This is what animates the building of mosques on the holy sites of other religions. It is a conqueror’s philosophy.” Watch for continuing efforts for Muslims to worship and pray in the Cathedral. Watch for Muslims to attempt to expand the area they use. Watch for enhanced efforts to shield their view of the cross or the stained glass windows or any other Christian symbolism in the gradually expanding space where they will be allowed to worship Allah in a house dedicated to worship and service to the Triune God under the guise of tolerance.

Americans are bombarded daily with demands that they show tolerance. This word is touted as the opposite of hatred and bigotry. Actually, it is the tool of hatred and bigotry. In the name of tolerance, affronts to religious liberty, freedom of speech, and other personal liberties are being accepted culturally, because in the name of tolerance training, activists for a variety of agendas are permitted to club their opponents with arrest, fines and even re-education. Expressed this way, tolerance simply becomes hatred and bigotry expressed by the winning agenda.

The opposite of hatred is actually love. It is love that transforms people and relationships from confrontation to respect. People who have suffered insults and been treated as less than human do not really want to be simply tolerated. That is what Hindus do with the untouchable caste in India. To this day, and Americans may find this very surprising, a Hindu of the Dalit caste, the untouchables, need not aspire to a middle-class life, let alone to political leadership or national acclaim in any field. Yet the Dalit are tolerated. It is against the law to shoot one down in the street, for example, or to force one into slavery in a household. The days of unfettered abuse of a Dalit are over, more or less. Still, the Dalit are pointed out as Dalit and recognized as Dalit. All citizens have heightened awareness of what a Dalit is. To initiate interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians is to accede to the necessity that Christians become the Dalit in a culture operated by sharia law. This “historic” prayer service is interpreted by some as a step forward in cordial relations between Christians and Muslims. Those who think that way ought not to plan to hold their breath until the Muslims extend an equivalent invitation.

The proponents of the interfaith dialogue initiated by allowing Muslims to pray in the National Cathedral while being protected from all the signs and symbols of what that cathedral is about are simply heightening our awareness of the Muslims. At the same time, they are unwittingly heightening Muslim awareness of the weakness of Christian affection for their God. Those who believe that we must surely have something in common with Muslims and we must exert ourselves to uncover and work with that something are clearly willing to create something for common ground if none exists. They have made common ground out of a section of the cathedral sanctuary where Muslims cannot see the cross of Christ. It will be enlightening to see what Muslims do with that common ground.

Christians who want to prevent anyone from seeing the cross of Christ have, in my view, a very strange way of expressing their faith. The Bible teaches me that the cross is evidence that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom. The Bible teaches me that all of us find our common ground at the foot of the cross, not out of sight of the cross. The Bible says that the mission of every Christian is to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them all the things Christ taught his disciples. When we do that, I believe that we will all find common ground in the heavenly throne room of the God who dwells in ineffable light, where the slaughtered Lamb sits at the right hand of the Father, where the Holy Spirit reigns and calls forth the praises of angels and myriads of myriads of the faithful in heaven. Now that is what I call common ground!

 

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Tolerance is Not a Cure for Discrimination

What is the reason that the words tolerance and discrimination are so important in the culture of the US? You might think that it means we have a cruel, bigoted society, but this is not the reason. The reason is that whoever controls the speech increasingly controls the whole society. These words are used as battering rams to suppress the God-given liberty and rights of religion and free speech in this country.

The cultural mantra of our secular society is expressed in three words: diversity, tolerance and inclusion. Those words have been mounting in importance for many years, and they have shaped legislation focused on establishing civil rights. The concept of tolerance is expressed in legalese that includes heavy penalties for a failure to show tolerance. The term discrimination is no longer confined to actions that actually put someone at a disadvantage in society. Today, discrimination can be as simple as a failure to show positive affirmation of someone else. Even conditions and behaviors which conflict with the deeply-held religious convictions of some citizens are subject to be classified as bigoted discrimination in today’s culture. Political and social activism are aggressively working to enshrine each new cultural restriction into a legal requirement.

The list of diverse cultural expressions which must be tolerated grows longer and longer every day. Tolerance must be expressed in inclusion, and inclusion must be verbalized in affirming statements and language. The ostensible objective of tolerating diversity and inviting diverse social categories into our everyday associations with the use of affirming language should have produced a culture where the term “hate speech” would be an oxymoron. Yet the speech of public leaders such as Supreme Court justices, legislators and administration spokespersons is outrageous and deliberately abusive toward anyone with opposing views.

Why?

Because absorbing the political/social agenda items of diversity, tolerance and inclusion, and fervently expressing those concepts in politically correct speech, assuming anyone can even discern what the latest politically correct term is, does not transform anyone. Instead of transforming individuals into better people, focusing on an agenda whose success is measured by use of politically correct speech only fosters pharisaical judgment that is expressed as taking offense. The one who is most sensitive to the fine points of speech becomes the one who sets the standard for others.

Sadly, regulation of speech does not transform the human heart. People are quite capable of saying whatever is necessary while harboring the desire and will to demean others in their hearts.

It is sad to observe that in the quest to eliminate “discrimination” social and political activism have, in fact, nourished the very thing they sought to destroy. This outcome, of course, is the predictable result of heightening people’s sensitivity to differences and to speech about differences. The desired outcome is complete indifference to distinguishing characteristics as a basis for a lack of respect. The actual outcome is hair-splitting arguments over the very characteristics that should be ignored in social discourse.

Is there any way to cure the human propensity to discriminate against people who are different?

Yes. The cure is well-known, and it works every time. Transform the human heart to love every person the way God loves people. People who love God so much that they love people the way he does do not discriminate against anyone. They love and touch and serve the most unlovely individuals. They love and serve and touch people whose social status or economic condition or health problems or intellectual capacity inspire rejection or scorn or even abuse in unloving hearts.

There is one cure for the well-documented need of each human to feel superior to all the rest. Jesus expressed it in everything he said and did, but most succinctly when he was asked what God’s most important law is. Jesus, God in the flesh, answered that question by saying,

 “‘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 NIV

American culture teaches people to be sensitive to differences, and its lexicon is harshly enforced by activist leadership and a compliant media. The consequence of heightened sensitivity is that the enforcement of tolerance has become intolerant. Instead of making it easier for people to ignore their differences, heightened sensitivity not only spotlights the differences, but it also spotlights the language, resulting in as much aggression over the language as ever occurred over the differences themselves.

Jesus teaches people to love one another regardless of differences. The followers of Jesus don’t examine differences in a microscope in order to use the correct words. They study how to serve all people no matter how different they may be. They don’t need to review the approved vocabulary, because their words serve Christ, not a political agenda.

Jesus teaches something else that smooths the process of building relationships between people who are different from each other: forgiveness. The teaching of sensitivity in attempt to prevent discrimination creates a heightened sensitivity on the part of those who have been the targets of discrimination. Teaching those people to be more sensitive to the language of discrimination, even unintentional words or phrases, even words or phrases used long ago and now abandoned, only wallows in pain and suffering that are not even happening.

Jesus teaches that the targets of discrimination must forgive, and he teaches that they must forgive over and over. This teaching is embedded in the prayer he taught to his disciples:

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  Matthew 6:12 NIV

Knowing that people who were targeted for abuse would feel that the abusers were their enemies, Jesus went further. It is not enough just to forgive the enemy. Jesus taught that people who are abused must love, bless and pray for that enemy:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Matthew 5:43-44 NIV

Jesus did not teach people to be sensitive to the differences between themselves and other people. He did not teach people to use special language to express their sensitivity to those differences. He did not teach abused or persecuted people to assess the behavior and language used in their presence for its sensitivity to their special differences. Jesus taught everyone to ignore all those differences. He taught that each person must love God so much that the love simply overflows naturally to everyone around him. Jesus taught that when someone fails to love another person, the right response is not to call attention to the bad behavior and language; the right response is to forgive, to love that person and pray for him. Castigating the “enemy” on Facebook, or going on television to describe in detail the “hate speech” someone used does not promote healing and reconciliation among groups in society who have differences.

To love people, especially enemies, is very difficult. Some people think humans simply cannot do it. Jesus, who was completely human, demonstrated how to do it. In the end, he was not able to persuade his enemies to love him, but he never stopped loving them. As he was being nailed to the cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them.” Luke 23:34 NIV People were driving nails into his hands and feet. The surrounding crowd was making fun of him. Jesus was a human being who suffered exactly as any other human would suffer. To love and forgive those people was no easier for Jesus than it is for anyone else, because he was a human being, too. Yet Jesus summoned up the strength and made the choice to forgive.

The society of the USA is troubled by a lot of old wounds. The people who live here are quite varied. There are ethnic differences, economic differences, intellectual differences, language differences, spiritual differences, and so forth. At the moment, the society, dominated by secular thinking, is trying to end the enmity and violence that erupts over the differences by making everyone more sensitive. Social activists promote sensitivity toward targets of discrimination, and the targets of discrimination promote greater sensitivity toward language and behavior from those who have discriminated. Heightened sensitivity is only making the problems worse.

Jesus taught people to love one another and to forgive wrongs. It is easy to show that when people learn to love one another they behave respectfully toward one another. It is also easy to show that when those who are wronged for any reason are able to summon up the strength to forgive those who wronged them, people can work toward healing and even become reconciled in loving relationships.

Increased awareness and heightened sensitivity do not promote tolerance. They actually increase the anger and violence in the culture. Jesus taught a better way to cure discrimination: love your neighbor and forgive his wrong-doing. There are undoubtedly people who think this idea won’t work, but it should probably be tried before it is rejected. Be the first in your neighborhood to advocate love and forgiveness as the strategy for ending discrimination. 

Are We Even Sure What Truth Is?

People who try to be Christ-like in a world that despises Christ face a never-ending challenge. The first challenge is that secular thinkers reject the idea of anything spiritual. They only believe in things science can probe – weigh, measure, count, and so forth. This attitude means that the idea of a spirit, holy or otherwise, is anathema to them. They make fun of Christians for having imaginary friends. They believe that prayer is talking to one’s self. They think that Christians hear voices in their heads.

The second challenge is that secular thinkers want people who believe in any religion to keep their religion inside their houses of worship. Secularists do not want to see anything in the public forum if it is even vaguely related to a spiritual idea. They believe it is abusive for Christians to live their faith or speak of their faith in public. This attitude leads them to object to displays of things like the Ten Commandments or a manger scene in public. This is why they don’t want Christians praying at public events such as football games or graduation exercises.

The third problem is probably the most difficult to face with a Christ-like spirit. It is the scorn. It is one thing to need to put into words an explanation of your reasons for faith in God. It is quite another to be told that you are irrelevant, deluded and silly because of your faith.

Despite all these issues, Christians in the USA have always believed that the norm in public discourse is for all participants to speak with respectful courtesy to one another, and even about one another. This is the attitude at the heart of debate societies. Young people are educated to recognize that there are many points of view and all are welcome to the table. In discussions of public policy, Muslims may explain why they believe sharia is valid for domestic disagreements in Muslim families, atheists may explain why the law must be completely neutral with no preference for any religious view, and Christians may advocate for the culture to accept the moral value of life even if it rejects Christian definition.

However, public discourse is increasingly taking on a new flavor.  Polite respect for all viewpoints is processed through a flattening lens, the lens that says that truth is always relative. There is a mounting cultural unwillingness to allow anyone to believe that any truth might be absolute. Truth is only what seems like truth to any given individual, and people who want to engage in the conversation must not assert anything as absolute truth.

For example, Christians who believe the Bible is God’s revealed guide for faith and life, believe that the Bible teaches non-negotiable truth. The truth that life is sacred is not a negotiable truth. The truth that homosexuality is sin is not negotiable.

Secular thinkers who hold the view that all truth is relative believe that life has value relative to certain other values; a fetus may be technically “alive” but the life of the fetus has a lesser value than the life of the adult woman who is, relatively speaking, the “host” to the fetus. When weighing the relative values, things such as the “host” woman’s preferences and convenience are all part of the value of her life, and if the fetus has negative value in that context, the fetus may be discarded with no compunctions. Pure relativists and pure absolutists cannot easily discuss any issue.

Secular thinkers who say that truth is what makes a person happy, and that “happy” means whatever that person says it means, readily advocate for homosexual couples to marry and acquire children by adoptions, while Christians living by the absolute truth that homosexuality is sin cannot even imagine placing children in a household headed by a homosexual couple.

The change of tone in public discourse has already manifested itself in an internal DOJ document titled: “LGBT Inclusion at Work: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Managers.” It was emailed to DOJ managers in advance of “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.” It contained the guidelines for showing respect to the LGBT community during their “pride” month. Among other directives, employees were told, “Don’t judge or remain silent. Silence will be interpreted as disapproval.” This statement is the voice of a demand that everyone acknowledge that truth is relative to the individual. If it is true for you, then I am obligated to accept it as your truth. I have no right to my opinion or even to my religious convictions, if my convictions reject your truth.

The problem with this way of talking about truth is that unless everybody agrees to a definition for “truth” along with all the other definitions needed for any discussion of differences, no disagreement can ever be concluded. A discussion which excludes revealed truth by definition cannot invite Christians (or Muslims, either) to the table. If they don’t come to the table, no “resolution” of cultural differences can ever be achieved.

This is a new sort of truth. This is a new definition for “tolerance,” a definition that is as unlike most people’s understanding of the word as “gay marriage” is unlike most people’s understanding of marriage. Christians must be aware of this new development in the public forum. If people do not push back against this way of thinking, then people who advocate this view will be able to appropriate the language of tolerance and use it to completely suppress Christian views or any other religious view based on absolute revealed truth. That would be the end of religious liberty in the USA.

What Would Jesus Do?

A friend of mine, explaining her political stance during the election of 2008, said, “I just ask myself ‘What would Jesus do?’ and then I vote for the candidate who will do that.” It sounds pretty simple.

  • Unfortunately, the simplicity of her viewpoint masks two important problems:
     political candidates are masters of the words and phrases that simultaneously mean everything and nothing, and 
  • even when a candidate says something meaningful during the campaign, it is extremely rare that the candidate turned elected official actually considers a campaign promise to be a personal commitment.

However, the ultimate problem with my friend’s approach is to discover what Jesus would do about any particular campaign issue. Christians remember that the apostle Paul admonished us to have the mind of Christ, but it isn’t all that easy to know Christ’s mind on political issues.

For one thing, the words used in political campaigns are not exactly the same words used in the Bible to record what Jesus said and did and thought about issues. Take the word tolerance for example. This lovely word has blossomed in politicalspeak over the past few years, but it is not found in the Bible, even though at first glance it almost sounds biblical. The idea of tolerance sounds very attractive when juxtaposed against ugly words like discrimination, racism and homophobia. The word tolerance is contrasted to these harsh words as it is paired with words meant to be kinder, such as inclusive

Tolerance as used in in political speeches is defined at the Merriam-Webster online dictionary site :
a : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own
b : the act of allowing something

When people use the word in political conversations, tolerance is finely focused on specific behaviors. For example, someone who is tolerant of other races rejects the use of specific pejorative words to describe people of other races, takes actions to include people of other races in activities previously closed to them, and leads in aggressive remedial action including special considerations for people of other races where they have previously experienced discrimination. Tolerance creates the appearance of respectful acceptance of people previously excluded or abused on the basis of race. Tolerance makes the public image of a culture look better.

What tolerance does not do is to change people’s hearts. It does not transform hate into love, scorn into respect, disdain into appreciation. Tolerance does not build relationships.

In engineering problems, there really is no better way to improve some situations than to focus on tolerance. If part A must fit into part B, the engineer must specify a tolerance that keeps every dimension of part A inside part B. If the tolerance is not correctly specified, then the part will not fit and the machine will not work. The objective is not to make the two parts like each other. They simply must fit together and not rub or stick in such a way as to impede the operation of the machine. Inanimate parts have no emotions or attitudes. Smoothing a rough edge pretty much fixes the problem.

Not so with people. A group of people can say and do all the things an attitude of tolerance requires and still be in a state of relationship best described as a truce, or maybe even a powder keg just waiting to be exploded. The Korean War is historically recorded as having ended on July 27, 1953. Today, no official war is in progress on the Korean peninsula. However, between North Korea and South Korea, the relationship cannot be described as a state of peace except in the most euphemistic, determinedly optimistic view. Likewise, the countless “cease-fire” agreements between the Palestinian refugees and Israel during the 65 years of Israel’s existence have never for a minute established peace or any real desire for peace between the parties to the conflict. Every minute without gunfire that follows such a signing is only a minute in which all ears are tuned for the shot that signals yet another failure. The end of the Civil War in the USA was the end of slavery, too. The end of slavery was followed by a century of segregation, and more than half a century has passed since segregation was legally ended. Efforts to be more tolerant have led to semantic transitions from Negro to black to African-American, yet every political campaign reveals that something in the relationship between people of various skin colors is not quite healed by tolerant language and tolerant legislation and tolerant enforcement of the rules.

Why isn’t tolerance just what Jesus would do? My friend spoke at some length explaining her thought processes, and tolerance was part of her personal equation for determining what Jesus would do, but as you can see, tolerance is not very Christlike. Jesus did not teach, for example, “Refuse to call people ugly names. Except, apply ugly names to all the people who refuse to agree with you about the right name for the people you formerly scorned but now tolerate.” Look at the current gay marriage conflict. Jesus did not say. “Refuse to call homosexuals ugly names like *****” Except, call people who refuse to support gay marriage homophobic baboons.”

What exactly would Jesus do? When Jesus talked about the way to live together in a society, he said, “Love your enemy. Pray for those who treat you like dirt and call you names.” Jesus also said, “If somebody slaps you on one cheek, then turn the other and let him have at it again.” Jesus did not advocate tolerance. Jesus advocated love. Jesus was not about appearance; Jesus was about reality.

He demonstrated in his own life what he meant by love. Jesus touched lepers. It wasn’t enough simply to be seen in their company. He touched them. That was the ultimate uncleanliness. He touched the blind, the lame, the bleeding and the speechless. He touched the maniacs. He touched prostitutes. He invited a tax collector into his inner circle of followers. He never preached about the right words to use when speaking of someone he could not love, because he loved everyone.

Jesus gave absolutely no examples of tolerance. He did not tolerate people. He loved people. Jesus showed us what it means to love anyone and everyone. Jesus showed us what it means to build relationships with people who were formerly either enemies or at best neutral bystanders.

Jesus does not teach us to tolerate one another and put on a show of right language and behaviors. Jesus calls us to love people and care about what becomes of them. He showed us that love for other people shapes both speech and action. If we love people, we don’t need a glossary of tolerant language. Instead, if we love people, our love shapes our words and deeds. We simply give and give and give until we have nothing left to give.

Tolerance may work for those whose only objective is to be politically correct, but tolerance does not change anything. Love changes everything. Love heals wounds and builds relationships. Love builds up rather than tearing down. Jesus died to show us what love can do, and when we learn that lesson, the whole world changes. We probably cannot expect that any politician will do what Jesus would do, but if that is what we are looking for, evidence of tolerance will not meet the standard.

The things you might observe about tolerance can fairly easily be observed in most politicalspeak. The finest individuals can get caught up in the language and strategies of politics and lose their way. As Christians, if we are looking for a path that leads to the redemption of our culture and our nation, we would be well advised to actually do what Jesus did rather than to look for a political leader who promises that he or she will do what Jesus did if we vote the right way.