Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tolerance: How do you do yours?

It doesn't matter who you are, or who you talk to, the reality is that everyone claims to be tolerant and yet tolerance for many is not a constant but a variable.

One of the fun things with tolerance us that it carries with it the potential for us to be more intolerant than those we might otherwise consider to be intolerant bigots. The reality is that those who who claim to be open-minded are, more often than not, more dogmatic and prescriptive than those they label as closed!

Try telling someone that they are behaving wrongly or have a flawed mindset and you will find yourself criticised and more likely than not, lectured, vilified and acted against - even if its done in a Christian rather than secular setting.

Oddly, remaining in a Church setting, using the Bible as the reason for your position, you will find yourself labelled as judgemental and 'narrow minded' and should you dare to use the word 'sin' then the gauntlet is well and truly laid down. Lob in salvation, new creation, different lifestyle and standards and that's a declaration of war (don't forget we're still talking about Church).

Tolerance, is an inconsistent state of being in that drawing line require consistent measurements and yet the traditional measure in this, our Judeo-Christian society, has of course been the Bible and removing this leaves us with what? I'm a Christian and so, perhaps surprisingly, I continue to take the Bible as my measure or yardstick (after all, that's what Canon means) but where do others turn for an authoritative and consistent constant?

It seems that many would have us work along a basis of consensus, that is keeping the majority happy, but what of those who are not happy or are perhaps acted against or dealt with unfairly because it pleases the masses?

What about those who support 'natural justice' where people 'get what they deserve' and where law is a movable feast to ensure that revenge (rather than justice) and desired outcomes (rather than fair play) are the rule?

We don't have to look too far back into the history of the world to see what happens when a society eschews rigid, and perhaps dogmatic, laws and takes up attitudes which support the masses or marginalises some parts of the community. Law has to be consistent and public attitude needs to support what is right rather that demand what is, for that moment at least, desirable.

Perhaps we should leave justice and tolerance to the press - but if we do what happens to those who are marginalised, vilified and generally belittled in newspapers like the Daily Fascist; those people who are benefit scroungers, career single-Mums, immigrants and the like? Look at the red tops and take five minutes to read them from cover to cover - do you find consistency, fair play and justice? No of course you don't - what you find is cries for vengeance and a stirring of the pot against whosoever they choice to act against (not always wrongly, just often) and the tub-thumping about rights and expectations (often dashed).

No, it's obvious that there's too much spin and inconsistency to trust the newspapers.

So what's left? Perhaps we need to look at 'family values and traditions' (as one politician recently put it. The problem being that we come full circle to find that these are embodied, and lived out, in the Bible. You see, the need for a consistent and coherent measure is essential and for some two thousand years, that has for our Western mindset be found in the Bible.

But the commandments - who has the right to 'command' anyone about anything - are not popular. After all, stealing is wrong if someone does it from you but isn't always wrong when you do it yourself ( a direct quote ladies and gentlemen - I jest not!). Not only that but there are times when stealing is OK because it's 'victimless' (after all, no one really suffers if you nick something from a shop or falsify stuff to get a little extra). It's not wrong to do stuff unless you get caught and that's perhaps the first consistent guideline of our society today: Don't get caught!

The next constant is that we have developed the attitude that says that as long as what we are doing makes us happy and gives us what we want, then that's alright. Everyone has the right to be happy and do what they want - unless of course they don't agree with your attitude and then they are wrong. But let's note the second constant: Being happy is a right!

The third constant is that no one has the right to tell other people what to do (unless of course it's us telling other people that is) and if they do then they are, quite legitimately, open to attack, and even more so should they impose their old traditional Bible stuff.  So constant the third: You're not the boss of me!

Starting to feel like I should be hitting piece of stone with a chisel as we move on the fact that our new tolerant society is happy for people to do what they want without any criticism or comeback, unless of course you decide that an attitude or lifestyle doesn't suit you. When this happens, even though they might not act against others who think or live as they choose not too, they are wrong because you have to agree. So the fourth constant is: Everyone has the right to think and act as they wish unless it goes against what I think, in which case they are wrong!

I hope that the above shows you why I opt for a consistent and just approach to tolerance - embracing the demands of Micah 6: 6-8 which calls for:
Justice - that means treating everyone the same, applying the rules consistently regardless of who or what.
Mercy - that means not looking for revenge but restoration. I want people to live differently and stop doing what is wrong and this underpins the application of the law.
Humility - I don't think of myself as being more worthy or valid than others and even thought I might not agree with what people choose to do, I accept their right to live as they choose (just as I have that right).

And of course, my fourth constant is to be found in the commandments which establish, and maintain, some consistent boundaries (even if you leave the God and Sabbath bits out!), namely,

Don't take murder (or even hurt) people,
Don't nick stuff,
Don't tell lies,
Don't swear - there are much better words open to you that expletives,
Be nice to your parents (nuclear families have lots going for them)
Be faithful in your marital/cohabitational relationships
Be happy with what you have - stop looking at others and let envy eat you away.

A nice set of rules that makes life good and relationship easier - what could be wrong with that?

Have nice day :-)

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