Tolerance – A Former Christian’s Perspective

tolerance.jpg.image.975.568My point in this post is not to tell the story about why I am no longer a Christian, but two-fold: one – that readers would not stereotype or stigmatize all Christians because of some; and two – to promote tolerance toward all people. The experience I generally had with Christians during that part of my journey was that they were as respectful and tolerant of others in their differing beliefs as any other community – no more, no less and that they are no more and no less deserving of tolerance than any other group. That being said, the Christians with whom I mostly associated were “transparent” rather than “conspicuous.”

One misconception about Christians is that they are commonly judgmental, hypocritical and, themselves, intolerant. I believe this is because the most “conspicuous” ones fit that criteria. Conspicuous Christians are vocal about their beliefs whether or not someone is open to hear about them and judgmental of those who do not appear to meet their standards of being “Christian” or a “good Christian” (intolerance). They use the Bible and the name of God to validate their beliefs and behavior when it is convenient for them and ignore them when it is not… and often grossly – thus the hypocrisy. They are typically saccharine and sanctimonious. They throw about Christian lingo like it somehow makes them appear more pious than others. People react to such behavior in being uncomfortable, believing they’re phony or just plain loony. By the way, the conspicuous view such reactions as evidence they are being persecuted for their faith as Jesus reportedly prophesized his followers would. There is much more we could say about them, but you get the point. Sufficient to say that there is a part not representing the whole.

The conspicuous are like plane crashes that get sensationalized and given mass coverage in the media. It is statistically much safer to fly than to drive, but the impression is given that flying is not safe because plane crashes get so much attention. Likewise, the behaviors of conspicuous Christians are easily generalized to the population because the conspicuous assert loudly they are biblical models (and, indeed, fine examples at that). We respond, “Jesus, please save me from your followers.” Yet allow me to offer some insight into my own religious experience and which I mostly witnessed in the largely Christian community where I live.

We (I and the transparent community with which I associated) valued, “Judge not, lest you be judged[1]” over the Great Commission[2] to overtly evangelize as the conspicuous do. We believed in loving others[3] despite any fact that others’ beliefs or behaviors differed from our own. We understood that, if we had any spiritual insight, it was benevolently bestowed and not merited. We did not view ourselves different from others in any way that made us feel superior. We respected people’s boundaries and willingness to hear about our faith. We did not preach hellfire and damnation, but sought to honestly share how a relationship with Jesus had transformed our lives. However my core beliefs now differ from the most common Christian perspective, I shared with my fellow disciples an experience that valued tolerance.

Though I no longer practice the Christian faith, I now view my former beliefs, practices and perspective as functional and healthy for me at the time and some lessons from that journey still guide my life. My hope is that readers of this article would consider the perspective that no one is in any position to condemn the character of another person. Though we may not agree with others’ beliefs or approve of their behaviors, let us show mutual respect and tolerance for all. “Judge not” is a page we can all take from that Book.

[1] Matthew 7:1-3

[2] Matthew 28:19-20

[3] Romans 13:9

4 thoughts on “Tolerance – A Former Christian’s Perspective

  1. Excellent article. Especially the plane crash example, which is spot on! Couldn’t have explained it better.

    I recently had another chat with a theist and now I am somewhat confused on the subject. I’ll be writing about it on my blog soon, explaining the details. I am having a hard time thinking things through anyway, due to some major changes in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been looking through your blog this morning and can relate to almost all that you have written – partly as a result of my own experiences (that were very different to yours) and partly because of the chances I have had to share something of the journeys of others who have been on similar journeys.
    I’m now 80 and I walked away from an Anglican Church in the UK in the early 1970’s.

    I felt quite relaxed reading your story until I read “The Joy of Deconversion”. That hit a raw nerve – something we might be able to discuss later.

    The last few months have been very interesting. I’m still trying to work out how best to change the introduction to my blog. You might like to look at this Page first:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for visiting, Peter, and I will check out your blog. I’m very interested in hearing your perspective on The Joy of Deconversion. I hope you will make a comment and share your view.


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