By Jonathon Van Maren
Due to relentless influences from Hollywood and progressive activists, many people now believe that Christians are hateful people. Specifically, Christians are hateful because Christianity forbids a broad range of sexual behaviors, and secular progressives have decided that this makes Christians “homophobic.” This term can be applied willy-nilly and irrespective of whether or not Christians do, in fact, fear or hate gay people. If Christians cannot agree that the definition of marriage can be arbitrarily changed after thousands of years, for example, this is indicative that Christians are desperately in need of the one quality progressives prize: Tolerance.
What I often wonder, though, is why “tolerance” is trumpeted as such a virtue, considering that Christianity makes a far more radical demand. Christianity doesn’t demand “tolerance” for others. It demands that we love our neighbor, love our enemy, and forgive those who hurt us. Tolerance is a weak imitation of love. It implies that your heart can still throb with hate for someone, but as long as you don’t say anything out loud, and as long as you tolerate that person’s presence and veil your contempt, that’s cool. Tolerance implies utter detachment from the wellbeing of those around you, and total disregard for their well-being. It’s confusing that progressive activists get so much mileage out of lauding tolerance when in reality, it is a huge step down from the love that Christianity demands.
But the truth is that the progressives don’t really want people to adhere to the Christian standard of loving your neighbors rather than simply tolerating them. Christians have always said that we are commanded to hate the sin and love the sinner. In other words, hate actions that have devastating spiritual consequences in order to love the person—to the extent of warning him against behaviors that will hurt him. As others have written, the reason the gay rights movement began to refer to homosexuality as a description of someone’s fixed orientation rather than a lifestyle consisting of certain actions was to dodge the conundrum of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” After all, how could they claim Christians were hateful when to the contrary, Christians were willing to readily say that not only did they love people they disagreed with, but that they were commanded to?
What the progressives actually mean when they talk about toleration is not that we should tolerate people. As I said, Christians already had a far more rigorous demand written right in the Scriptures. What they mean is that we must tolerate and accept, without any social disapproval or verbal disagreement, behaviors that conflict with Christian teaching and that we believe will be genuinely harmful. Thus, opposing gay marriage is “homophobic.” Disapproving of promiscuity is “slut-shaming.” Pointing out that abortion kills children is “misogynist.” Progressives conflate behaviors with people, and then demand that we stop condemning certain behaviors because that is hateful to the people practicing those behaviors. See what they did there?
Christians have not always succeeded in following the commands laid out in Scripture, and so it can be easy for progressives to find inconsistencies and failures and then triumphantly point out that Christians can be hypocrites. This accusation is ironic, because that is obviously true. The reason the Crucifixion took place is because people are sinners and need a Saviour. There is no such thing as a perfect Christian, and so there is no such thing as a Christian who never sins. But the point here is that the standard laid out in Christianity—the radical command to love our neighbor—is far superior to the anemic and pathetic counterfeit laid out by the progressives—that we must tolerate our neighbor.
It is of course essential that Christians strive to avoid hypocrisy, especially in a time where hypocrisies are used to tar all of Christianity and paint it as a hateful and intolerant faith. Where there is genuine hate towards members of the gay community, it must be called out and condemned as sin—but not because it violates a progressive standard of “tolerance,” but because it violates the Christian command to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is true that our culture finds it hard to understand that in order to truly love someone, you must be willing to condemn sinful behaviors that will harm them, but that does not excuse us from obeying this command. We must recognize those around us as men and women created in God’s image with souls of infinite value. Loving our neighbor means not ostracizing or exiling those members of Christian communities who may struggle with their sexuality. It means reaching out in compassion—not because our culture preaches tolerance, but because Christianity preaches love.
6 thoughts on ““Tolerance” is just the cheap counterfeit of Christian love”
Well written as always Jonathan, but “hate the sin & love the sinner” is unbiblical.
You are mistaken, Andrew. Jonathon is neither the first nor last to state this biblical truth. I’ll give you just one passage (John 8: 3 – 11) which ends with these words to the woman “caught committing adultery”: “Where are they woman? Is there no one left to condemn you?” “No one, sir,” she answered. “Well, then, ” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. You may leave, but do not sin again.” Her sin is not disregarded, she is told to sin no more. She is not condemned, she is corrected.
I think that what comes off as homophobic is that Christians have normalized divorce and remarriage, something expressly forbidden in Christ’s teachings, while vilifying same-sex marriage which is not expressly forbidden by Christ’s teachings. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d bet a million bucks that if you asked a first century Essene Jew if it was okay for two men or two women to marry you’d probably get a few rocks thrown your way, so if I had to guess (which I do) I’d guess that Jesus wouldn’t be keen on the notion.
However, the fact remains that Christians are not upset by divorce and remarriage even though divorce has destroyed the institution of marriage. Evangelicals get divorced at the same rate that everyone else does. And no one’s particularly upset when they get re-married, at least not pitchfork mad. That’s homophobic. Christians are not taking to the streets to prevent divorce, but some are taking to the streets to prevent same-sex marriage… which of course, isn’t really a threat to them or their beliefs… nor is it sin likely to consume them, because straight people don’t marry people of the same sex irrespective of how normal it becomes. It’s a choice, that really only about 1.8% of the population are likely to contemplate.
And there’s a difference between gently correcting the behaviour of a friend and raising a chorus of voices in support of public policy restrictions on people’s rights. Context matters. If you are gently correcting, or admonishing a gay man or woman in private, out of love and concern for their roasty-toasty afterlife, there’s really no way anyone’s even around to condemn you. If you’re posting messages about Adam and Steve to the comments section of the newspaper, then you’re not engaged in gentle correction, but in public debate.
I’d put forward a thought, not for debate but as a thought experiment; that sex of any kind, outside of marriage is a sin – therefore sex within a same-sex marriage is not. One way to gauge if you’re a homophobe is to measure how quickly you dismissed that suggestion without consulting scripture, because it is a perfectly defensible position from a scriptural standpoint. Divorce, adultery, and remarriage are not defensible.
You had me until the last paragraph. Divorce has been far, far more damaging to society than gay marriage ever could be, and Christians lost a lot of their credibility on the marriage issue for precisely the reason you say. But the thought experiment insinuating that someone is a homophobe for rejecting the bizarre biblical acrobatics LGBT activists are doing now to claim that the Bible is okay with gay marriage is ridiculous.
Thank you, Libby. You hit all the notes I was preparing to. One additional note I’d make is this; We arent going to make much progress in the Church on this subject until we face a glaring truth most won’t admit. The reason we so easily have normalized divorce, and not homosexual marriage, is that for most heterosexual people, the thought of “what homosexuals do” is not attractive. No thanks, I don’t think I’d enjoy that. It seems kind of “Icky.” The “icky factor” is what causes most straight folks to be revolted, and to run to the scriptures to find assurances that “God doesn’t like that, too.” Well, O.K. now, I’m not intolerant, just holy. Sure that other guy has had three marriages, and that’s a shame for sure, but they were all chicks, so he’s not weird or anything. The fact that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, and several rather pointed things about divorce, hold no candle to the effect of “The Icky Factor”.
The biggest danger in society to date is not whether or not same sex marriage should happen, but lies in redefining the foundations of marriage between man and woman that will destabilise societal norms opening a Pandora’s box for the generations to follow. Societies who are successful are led with timeless wisdom, not by feelings or following trend. This is where democracy fails us. Freedom of speech is truly freedom when those who are against the change aren’t shot down or shut down and labelled for voicing their opinions. Its a minority with a loud voice who fight to discredit Christianity simply because it doesn’t suit their agenda. Have a look at what is happening to those who stand up for their convictions in countries where same sex marriage has been allowed and tell me that Christians aren’t now being harrassed, sued or bullied for having an opinion or for standing up for their convictions. That’s not freedom. That’s an attempt to discredit Christianity in its entirety. Christians have long served the community with institutions like The Salvation army, The Smith Family and St Vincent De Pauls plus many many more. Do we want to see them gone?