Tragically, the most intolerant people I have encountered would
label themselves the most religious. Indeed, they deem their
intolerance an expression of God's will. What does this day about them? About
their religion? Their God?
I am writing this short essay with some regret. I deeply believe in Christ's dictum
"for whoever is not against us is for us" (Mark 9-40). However I have found more
intolerance in the beliefs of the Christian "radical right" than I care to
stomach and I feel I must speak out. When, in this context, I use the word
"Christian," I am referring to those generally referred to as the Christian
right- by no means all or a majority of Christians.
In my opinion, Christians on the right are fully entitled to their views
on abortion, the Supreme Court, "objectionable" books, school/corporate prayer,
family life, no-fault divorce, homosexuality, women's rights, evangelicalism, the right to
bear arms, sex education, the interpretation of the Bible, etc. However their beliefs often are the fruition of
a philosophy of living and way of thinking that I abhor. These Christians have an
unthinking, blind faith in THEIR interpretation of the Bible. They readily condemn other
sects, religions and beliefs but make no or little effort to understand the beliefs they so easily
condemn. Many proclaim themselves "saved" by virtue of accepting Christ as their
savior, but do not see the need to serve their fellowman and truly give of themselves. To
the contrary, some practice violence and show overt and covert hatred to
those that appear to be "on the other side" of issues they deeply believe in.
They would readily deny the "opposition" their political and economic rights,
not realizing that this very denial threatens all, including their own, right to dissent.
The Christian right are intolerant of free thinkers. They feel they have
little or nothing to learn from perspectives other than their own. They wish to raise their children
in "closed" sometimes "Anglo only" environments, exposing them as
little as possible to the "corrupting" influences of the outside world. Indeed,
by isolating their children this way, they pass on their intolerance to their progeny.
Music and art to the Christian right must conform to their
biblical beliefs. For example, lyrics or art labeled "pornographic," films
and/or books that accept, not necessarily promote, homosexuality as an alternative life
style are condemned as corrupting influences on youth.
The Christian right, almost gratuitously makes homosexuality a rallying
point, a way to raise "true believers" in thoughtless, easy condemnation. They
readily claim that the country is run by homosexuals and blame them for numerous social
ills. To many of the Christian right, AIDS represents God's punishment of homosexuals. To
even write the last sentence is abhorrent to me! Actually, one perhaps should say that
God shows his love the most to those who suffer and the world persecutes. See:
World AIDS Day.
Christians of the right slant science to their own preconceived views.
Any science or research that they think confirms their views is uncritically
accepted. Scientific research that opposes their views is dismissed summarily- without
thought. In some cases they deliberately misrepresent the writings of historical figures
such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to make it appear as if these men, if alive
today, would support their stand on issues.
As I said in the beginning, writing this saddens me.
in God is ultimately, just that, a deep abiding personal faith. Not a blind
faith, but a faith in the universal, in that which is good and the pursuit of truth. Many
who are Christian have a deeply held faith in God, Christ and the Holy Spirit and a great
desire to serve and love their fellow man. Their faith is fully consistent with
the teachings of Christ in the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, John and Thomas.
To the Christian right I say this. If you think that intolerance is
acceptable to God -you are sadly mistaken. I truly believe that if so many who call
themselves Christian were alive when Christ was alive, they would roundly condemn him as a
social radical - a disheveled vagrant, a disturbance, a false prophet, a delusional man
who claimed he is God or a messenger of God.
Perhaps most objectionable is the Christian right's belief that the
only way to serve God and achieve "salvation" is by accepting their
views. In their thinking Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists and
others are lost souls -at best who need to be converted -at worst, who are condemned. To
me this is hubris at its very worst. Its ugliness becomes manifest when one who openly
disagrees with them worships in their midst. Rather than accepting him or her as a fellow
traveler in pursuit of truth and service to God and/or mankind, they all to easily reject
this individual as a threat to their own beliefs and an "outsider."
Finally, it would be false to say that only the Christian right can be
characterized as above. Unfortunately, intolerance is alive and kicking in many of today's
religions and philosophies and/or those that claim to be their practitioners.
Recently I have seen the epithet, "Truth not
Tolerance." Tolerance does not imply taking another's
beliefs as your own. Tolerance does connote respect, acceptance and
love of another regardless of their beliefs. However, most
agree that when another's beliefs, actions and words cause physical
or mental harm, they must be legally and ethically opposed.
Tragically, some equate tolerance with a passive acceptance of
"evil" and see evil as any belief opposed to their
interpretation of religious doctrine. Gladly admitting to
intolerance, they deny their doctrinal views are subject to
interpretation and simply state their beliefs are THE TRUTH.
As is often
the case, men use words as obfuscation- twisting meanings to placate
their emotional longings and needs. Later, they confuse the words
with reality, and from this springs wars and the many faces of human
"Troublemakers: Since no one
really knows anything about God, those who think they do are just
8th century Sufi woman.
The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America &
Ontario Consultants on
for Interreligious Intercultural Dialogue
The Interfaith Alliance
People for the
The Public Eye
Shelby Spong, the 8th bishop of Newark Diocese of the
Episcopal Church, making a plea for tolerance and a
"revitalized" Christianity for the third
Analysis for Bias: The Public Record of Pat Robertson
Gave U.S. 'What We Deserve,' Falwell Says
"I really believe that the pagans,
and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the
lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative
lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way - all of them who
have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their
face and say, 'You helped this happen [the terrorist acts of
September 11, 2001].' "- Jerry Falwell. A day later Falwell
said that he regretted his comments and claimed they were taken
"out of their context."
Falwell: Press downplaying Islamic atrocities
'Christian lives do not seem to have the same value' as 'gays and
"If a massacre were being conducted against people of color, God
forbid, or groups like gays and lesbians, there would be an
understandable outcry that would demand change," Falwell told
Baptist Press. "It is a tragedy that Christian lives do not seem to
have the same value to the national media."
Question: Does Falwell in any way ennoble the deaths of Christians
in Jibla, Yemen by suggesting media bias in the coverage of
injustices against gays and lesbians? Are not many gays and