The Line between Acceptance and Tolerance

Rodney King’s infamous words ring just as true today as they did decades ago, “Can we all just get along?”. He voiced a frustration he suffered first-hand and gave many of us something to ponder. Nearly 20 years later, I consider what it means for those of us residing on Planet Earth. Are we a people of acceptance and tolerance?

We are not a tolerant species

I don’t read the news much. I stopped years ago when I realize the media tells us what to think and how to feel. Warm-fuzzy types of stories don’t matter the way sex, drugs and murders do. Hate crimes and violence against women permeate our culture and are highlighted in news stories. I realized one day that my heart hurt after watching story after story of pain. Much of the suffering we endure stems from intolerance. When we are unwilling to accept the views, beliefs or behaviors of others when they don’t resemble our own, we are being intolerant. Terrorism? Intolerance. Hate crimes? Intolerance. Violence? Intolerance. Racism? Intolerance. Homophobia? Intolerance.

What does the Bible say?

If you want to instantly polarize a situation, ask a Christian what their views on homosexuality are. This is where the fine line between acceptance and tolerance is drawn. In layman’s terms, “acceptance” means embracing the ideas or beliefs of another. “Tolerance” means we can be open-minded about a belief or situation without adopting it into our own dogma.

Those of us even a little familiar with the Bible know about the passages regarding homosexuality. The Bible tells an explosive story (literally!) about the demise of a homosexual community in Sodom and Gomorrah. But some may find it interesting to note that Jesus never mentions homosexuality. What He does mention, however, is that the greatest commandment is for us to love one another. This means we go beyond tolerance and accept each other. The Bible also tells us that God does not want even one soul to be damned to hell.

Ellen Page got it wrong

Ellen Page is an actress who came out as gay in 2014. Since then, she has been very vocal her experiences with anti-gay sentiments. Recently, she took issue with Chris Pratt because he attends a church that in her opinion is “infamously anit-LGBTQ”. In a nutshell, the backstory is that Ellen appeared on The Late Show and received a standing ovation when she passionately spoke of anti-gay sentiment. A week later, Chris appeared on the same show, extolling the virtues of fasting, since joining his church.

I spoke with someone who is very dear to me about Ellen calling Chris out on Twitter. As someone who identifies with the LGBTQ community, I asked him what he thought of Ellen’s behavior and surprisingly, he agreed with me that Ellen went about it the wrong way. We agreed that she should not have called Chris out publicly.

We need to get it right

My LGBTQ friend and I agree that through her tweet, Ellen is exhibiting “reverse discrimination”. By stating her displeasure over Chris’ chosen church, she is nearly saying where he should or shouldn’t worship. When it comes to religion, I absolutely, fundamentally take issue with this. Each of us needs to build a personal relationship with God. He opens our hearts to when and how to worship Him, devoid of the opinion of another human being. It is not freedom of religion if we are being told where we can and can’t worship.

Ellen’s example of reverse-discrimination affects those of us who try to at least be tolerant and aim for accepting.  I want to feel free to stay, “I feel uncomfortable with that” without someone disdainfully regarding me as intolerant and ignorant. More importantly, I want to worship our Lord where I feel a connection to Him.

Whether we like it or not, we are all inhabiting this same Blue Planet. Ellen is a young woman, newly out as a lesbian. I don’t know what her experiences have been regarding her sexuality, but her tweet made me wonder: Who is the real target? Christians or those who spew anti-gay hate speech?

I’m not telling you want to think or what to believe in. That is the beauty of being individuals capable of independent-thinking. As we build our own relationship with God, we should think about how we treat those around us–especially those that don’t share our culture or ideologies. It would be heavenly for us all to be united and have no issues to overcome. Until that day, let us not take God away from each other. Instead, lets have a conversation about what makes us different and how we can accept each other despite it all.

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