Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tolerance, Acceptance, Love

Universal acceptance is not my goal; not everything should be accepted. Factory livestock farming is an example that comes to mind; I've never heard anyone defend it, but most people accept it because changing it is too hard or too expensive. Likewise, universal tolerance is not my goal; not everything should be tolerated. The goal is love; not that everything should be loved, but that everyone should be loved.

A lot of times you'll hear Christians say "Hate the sin, but not the sinner." This is not a Bible quote, according to Snopes it's from Mohandas Gandhi's autobiography. The Bible does mention loving the sinner, extensively, and it does at least once mention hating sin, but I can only remember it mentioning that in the context of the sin in oneself, not in others. We're really supposed to be concerned with our own behavior and our own relationships with God, not so much other's.

Sometimes the love must be tough love. Even further, sometimes with a particularly violent sort the love of the victims must be more of a guide. Usually it's much simpler.

So that's my goal. Not tolerance, not even acceptance, love.


  1. Utilitarian not Christian, but I personally tend to think that other people's wrongdoing is their own business. I have enough problems making sure that I make the world a better place by my presence here, I don't have enough time to judge other people.

    I guess I view life as a series of compromises with morality. From a strict utilitarian standpoint, the most ethical thing to do is find the most efficient charity possible and the highest-paying job you can work, make as much money as possible and donate everything beyond the bare necessities to live to charity. Obviously, very few people do that, and those that do we call 'saints.' But, having compromised that I eat vegan food but don't donate much to charity, I hardly have much room to judge someone else who picked the opposite course.

  2. Don't forget that you are also one of the people who are to benefit from the utilitarian perspective, and the decisions you can make about doing good for that person who is you will always be enormously better informed and thus probably more effective than the decisions you can make about doing good for others; also, you have unique power to help or harm that person who is you which you do not have for the benefit of others.

  3. Indeed, but one could come up with the reasonable assumption that "Doctors Without Borders saving lives in Africa" will always yield more overall utility than "a new coat for Ozzy, especially given that said coat was probably made by children in a third-world country." But I want the damn coat, so.

  4. Dear M - I do appreciate your theological analysis. So much of our religion is culture rather than directly defensible from the Bible. This implies at times we might put a lot of effort into something or miss out on really good stuff for no reason. :-) Thanks Candice

  5. Thanks Candice! I think you're very right in terms of the effects. And sometimes we fail at an important commandment because we're too busy with some cultural detail.

    “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

  6. Yes exactly! One of my favourites as well. :-) ahh...It is one of the ironies of our modern world that one finds excellent theology on a sex blog. :-)

  7. There's a lot of behavior I see that I don't agree with but as others have said I myself am far from perfect. Even if I disagree with what my friend is doing the most I might do is voice concerns for his well being. My bible says "Judge not lest ye be judged." Lord knows I've got enough skeletons in my closet that I don't need other people digging through there. Now if I see a person endangering or harming another person I'll be the first to jump in there to correct. There's a pretty big rift between forcing morality on others and protecting the innocent.

  8. Candice said, It is one of the ironies of our modern world that one finds excellent theology on a sex blog.

    Thank you! But, considering what the Bible has to say about sex, it is perhaps expected that there might be problems with theology from anti-sex sources. Not that I don't use sources that are prudish for reference, I just take them with a few extra grains of salt when they talk about sex.

  9. But I am curious: doesn't love imply some level of acceptance and tolerance? Tolerance for different opinions and ways of life (so that you don't cast the first stone), acceptance of their ways even if they violate the accepted code of conduct for a Christian?

    But then again you probably mean absolute tolerance and absolute acceptance as objects of criticism, not less extreme versions of each.

  10. Right. I mentioned universal acceptance and tolerance as not my goal.

    doesn't love imply some level of acceptance and tolerance?

    I'm not sure that it does. I love my ex; I am not called upon to accept all of the things she did, and I don't. Tolerate, I guess, but only in the sense that it is implied by love and not in the sense that it's not; which makes it a less accurate word than love to describe my goals.

  11. I suppose the problem is that we associate criticism with lack of love, simply becausepeople who don't care about how you feel can throw all kinds of mean critical observations around -- sometimes precisely because they know you will feel hurt.

    Maybe if we bear in mind that people don't make mistakes -- either 'absolute' mistakes, or mistakes according to someone's code of ethics -- because they enjoy making mistakes. 'Bad' criticism seems to imply that; it seems to be saying: I don't respect you, I don't see valuable things in you, I don't see something in you that is like something in me (the old Navajo greeting). And then there is criticism that does not imply that. Not even necessarily constructive criticism (since the latter implies some level of commitment to improving the lot of the criticized person), but simply criticism that still leaves room for the fact that the criticized person is much more than what can be criticized about him/her.

    Maybe it's difficult to tell the two kinds ofcriticism apart without some way of looking into the criticizer's soul. But we should; because I can see how they are actually very different things.

  12. Criticism is a tough thing. I don't find that people offer it much unless they care on some level, so I think I'm pretty good at accepting it.