When Tolerance Simply Isn’t Enough

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision regarding same sex marriage, I had an interesting dialogue with a friend on Facebook the other day. The fact that she was on one side of the issue and I was on the other wasn’t a problem for me, but as our conversation progressed it quickly became clear that this was an issue in which respectful disagreement wouldn’t be tolerated.

— 1 —

The SCOTUS decision has been a controversial one, and one with many different facets. There are gay people who disagree with the decision and straight people who applaud it. It is an issue which has been primarily, and loudly, argued from an emotional perspective. It is an issue which has even deeply divided Christians. We have allowed our emotions to cloud the issue rather than engaging in reasonable and charitable discourse – both sides are guilty of this offense.

As I point out in my article Feel Good Religion:

“Everything is filtered through the screen of our emotions. The facts of a particular situation rarely come into play; rather we choose to focus almost exclusively on our emotions, feeling that they are far more trustworthy than our intellect in helping us to make decisions.

We feel that the rights of the individual override any other considerations (even the rights of other individuals), and we speak of things like personal choice, sex, and marriage as God given rights for all; because after all – wouldn’t God want us to be happy?

We feel that it is intolerant and judgmental for us to disagree with anyone on matters of philosophy, religious belief, or moral actions, because ultimately we feel that we have no way of determining objective truth – rather we must rely on what makes us feel good to guide our actions and beliefs, and trust that others will do the same.”

— 2 —

I really liked what Steven Greydanus posted on his FB page under the title of ‘So, What Do We Do Now?’  Here is an excerpt:

“I’m not going to add to the suck. I’m not going to embrace bitterness or anger — or unnecessarily give anyone else a reason to be angry with me. I plan to avoid going around freaking out, panicking, wringing my hands and anxiously huffing and puffing. I have it on excellent authority that does no good.

I intend to love my neighbor, not just in pious fiction but in practical fact, and, insofar as it is within my power, to be at peace with all men. I have no plans to insult, demonize, hate, disrespect, or harbor animosity toward anyone; indeed, I plan to resist insults and hatred toward anyone whenever and wherever I encounter it.

If you are celebrating the Supreme Court decision on marriage, you are my neighbor, and blessings on you. We disagreed yesterday and we disagree today, but I had no feud with you then and I have none now.

If you are lamenting the decision, you are my neighbor and I commiserate with you. If we trusted God yesterday, let us continue trusting Him tomorrow. “

— 3 —

In the wake of the SCOTUS decision I reposted several articles and quotes on my FB page. In the interest of full disclosure I have put links to them below:


Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Just Fine

The Supreme Court Just Gave Evangelicals a Gift


Sacramento’s Bishop Jaime Soto

Dr. Michelle Cretella, President of the American College of Pediatricians “[T]his is a tragic day for America’s children. The SCOTUS has just undermined the single greatest pro-child institution in the history of mankind: the natural family. Just as it did in the joint Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton decisions, the SCOTUS has elevated and enshrined the wants of adults over the needs of children.”

Supreme Court Justice Kennedy “The word that keeps coming back to me is ‘millennia.’ This definition [of marriage between two people of the opposite sex] has been with us for millennia, it’s very difficult for the court to say, ‘Oh, well we know better.'” Same-sex marriage has been legal in parts of the U.S. now for just more than a decade, and Justice Kennedy also said there hasn’t been enough time to see the effects of same-sex marriage. “If we’re not going to wait, it’s only fair to say we’re not going to consult the social science.”

— 4 —

As you can see, there is a wide variety of perspectives here. Many individuals looking at the issue from different perspectives. And that’s good. We need to be able to take a look at emotional and controversial issues while calmly and carefully examining the different perspectives that exist on an issue.

But here’s the thing. Regardless of which side of the issue you are on, we can still engage in reasonable discourse – right? We can still disagree with each other with charity and respect – correct?

Certainly you wouldn’t want to forcibly coerce my beliefs, take away my right to free speech, or prevent me from following my conscience on matters of religion and morality. You wouldn’t….right??

— 5 —

A work colleague and friend responded to the statement from Dr. Cretella and asked, “Just curious, is this also your perspective, Adam?” 

Well, …I’m no pediatrician. Bah du dum.

But in all seriousness, none of these are my perspectives. They are quotes and articles from others. A gay Catholic man who practices chastity. A Bishop of the diocese of Sacramento. A Supreme Court Judge. An Evangelical Christian. The president of the American College of Pediatricians. These are people that I may not agree with completely, but who nevertheless have something to offer to the conversation. As does my friend, who is a lesbian, married to her partner, and has a son through IVF.

Except that over the course of our conversation we came to this, “I am actually at peace with those who are ‘on the fence’ or struggling to accept this for whatever reason be it Religious or otherwise. I can coexist peacefully and respectfully with those who don’t believe my marriage and family deserve the same protections as theirs. I do it literally every day. However, I choose not to share personal moments, celebrations, triumphs, and [the] experiences I share with my son and wife with those who believe my family deserves less dignity…I will always be kind to you Adam. It isn’t even in my nature to be otherwise. But, tolerance simply isn’t enough for me.” 

And I was summarily un-friended.

— 6 —


I have to admit, I was floored.

Not because I was un-friended on Facebook – I think I’ll survive. What floored me about this statement was her assertion that she would not be friends with anyone who didn’t share her personal beliefs. That she chooses not to share her life experiences with those who don’t agree with her. And then the follow up statement – tolerance simply isn’t enough.

How did we get here?

When pushed to give my personal perspective I responded with this:

“As a Catholic I believe and profess all that the Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God – even the stuff I have personally had to really struggle with 🙂  – and I fundamentally disagree with the decisions made by the Supreme Court yesterday.

I personally choose to share my personal moments, celebrations, triumphs, and experiences with people who disagree with me on any number of issues and have wildly different philosophies, religious, and political views than I do; but who nevertheless are still very close as both friends and family.

I certainly hope that we can still continue to be friends in spite of the fact that I disagree with the Supreme Court on their ruling. Blessings.”

— 7 —


Because for me, tolerance is the bare minimum. The inherent worth and dignity of every person as a human being demands tolerance, respect, and charity – at a minimum. Again, all emotions aside, it’s not a question of the rights of every person to legal protection, or a question of the inherent dignity and worth of all humans. Even if we disagree (even if we disagree passionately), on important issues you are still my neighbor and I love you.

It is tempting, but oh so dangerous, to only associate with others who share our own values and beliefs. People who affirm our every decision and tell us we are right no matter what. People who vote as we do, believe as we do, live as we do, and even raise their children in the exact same manner as we do. But it is incredibly valuable for me to have people in my life who disagree with me. To have people in my life who disagree with me on fundamental issues involving morality, religion, politics, and philosophy. People who can help me to see the world through a different lens and be more empathetic.

When encountering someone with a different perspective than mine will I change my views? Perhaps, or perhaps not. I will not stray from the teachings of Christ or His Church. It is His Church that helps me to properly form my conscience and develop my beliefs and worldview. But either way, there is value for me in seeing the world from another perspective.

So, is tolerance enough? Maybe not. I think she was right. Tolerance isn’t enough. No one wants to feel merely “tolerated.” And if I made her feel that way, then I am truly sorry.

Christ never preached a message of tolerance. Rather he preached love. And not just love for our friends and our family. Not just love for those who agree with us, or our neighbors. He told us that we were to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. And that kind of love goes far beyond merely “tolerating” someone. But to love others in this way demands that we are willing to have relationships with people that we fundamentally disagree with. People who rub us the wrong way. People who don’t share our views and beliefs. People who, if not our enemies, certainly are not our friends. And people who are our friends but still manage to disagree with us on virtually every topic imaginable 🙂

So perhaps tolerance isn’t enough. But love is. And I for one choose love.


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  1 comment for “When Tolerance Simply Isn’t Enough

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