Tolerance Is My Second Choice
A friend who has a developed taste for politics but whose soul has not yet been taken over by the partisan body snatchers came by recently and dropped off a book that has helped me avoid the trap of cynicism and despair. Like all of us who have had small children on road trips, we are weary of hearing the kids call each other names, point out minor infractions ("she's breathing on me again") and make us turn around countless times and warn them about "one more time and you are going to bed with no dessert tonight." Of course, I am not talking about small children. I am talking about politicians. Same thing.
Many years ago I heard Os Guinness issue the challenge of how we live with our deepest differences. Not just our disagreements but those differences which define us and for which we would die - or kill. Some have solved the dilemma with a black and white position which alienates while it delineates the clear differences. Others have chosen tolerance which, as we know, often devolves into the worst kind of intolerance. As well, it too often becomes a cold and detached disregard for the values and beliefs of others as it "merely tolerates" them and quickly writes them off. And that is where the book "The Limits of Liberal Democracy" steps in with a third choice - hospitality. I know that sounds like a throw back to a naive assumption about people breaking bread and magically solving generations of mutual hatred. That's not what Scott Moore is describing here. "Hospitality...denies the allegedly neutral space within which tolerant political discourse longs to move. Since there is no such thing as neutral space to begin with, this means that hospitality is also more honest." Hospitality is not theoretical or philosophical or doctrinal because its focus is on people - even more than rights. It is not undisciplined acceptance of bad behavior or indifference. There are "rules of the house" but it is a game for grown-ups - not children in the back seat. True hospitality recognizes difficulty and complexity but does not run away from them by choosing a tolerant indifference, a demeaning intolerance disguised as sophistication or a refusal to budge on even the most minor points.
Tolerance is the practice which says: "We are willing to put up with you. We don't like you, or your ideas, or your behavior, but we are willing to stomach your sorry condition and behavior in the name of your civic liberty to do and be these things." Hospitality, by contrast, is the specifically Christian practice which says: "We want to put you up. We welcome you to enter our houses on the condition that you let us enter your lives, engaging you about the matters in which we morally and religiously disagree, confessing our own limits and sins as we help you confess yours."
That, while still idealistic, might make room in the back seat for some growing up.
|Lorie Farrar||July 10, 2012, 5:06 pm|
|Well put. Thanks for posting this. Soooo hard to turn idealistic into realistic. Got any books on that?
One would argue that it would make sense that the first scenario in which to practice hospitality would be with someone you already love. But, when differences come up in families or extended families where there once was great love, incredible history & heritage, but situations begin to change resulting in differences in religious, cultural and moral choices between it's intergenerational members, the tendency is to try to become comfortable to live at a level of pseudo-peace and non-involvement in each other's lives - for the sake of having any relationship at all. And for the sake of "comfort and ease" all agree - just to "be happy for each other" when all together. What grievous loss of abundance promised by God.
Ever so much harder and with more risk is desiring God’s heart of peace and forgiveness and acting courageously to stay integrally involved, welcoming all fellowship and expressing true love with the boundaries necessary to stay engaged. Calling on God to provide grace and strength to dialogue lovingly, truthfully and biblically takes a much greater investment of emotions and time & vulnerability, and can bring huge risks and downsides as well as rewards. We have to choose not to tolerate the attitude of 'tolerant indifference' with the people we love first, before we're ever going to learn to grow up and engage in truthful, biblical dialogue with complete strangers who hold vast differences.
- That's idealistic.
And I would argue that we'll always find it idealistic unless we are willing to "realistically" take steps into real risks and real rewards. Until then, this concept - any concept will always stay "idealistic" - something to hope for and/or grieve about, but never experience.
- Ministry-hard choices; not for the weak, but for the meek.