Comments: opinion

John Pavlovitz: "Church, ...I really need you to tolerate me."

Um, no thanks.

I really don't want to be 'tolerated', in that "You're sinning but I still love the sinner" way... which lets the 'moral' person off the hook for their homophobia or transphobia.

That kind of toleration feels condescending and patronizing, and sort of "this is really good and magnanimous of me", when actually it still feels like they can't... ever... accept the deep and precious things of who you are.

What I long for is churches and congregations that *celebrate* who I am, where I am.

And that applies, whether you're gay or lesbian, or trans, or punk, or homeless, or eccentric, or any other brand of "not us".

I long for the day when the Church really celebrates and endorses, affirms and blesses, people gor being who they are... not just who the pious Christian feels 'morally' they ought to be.

And in return, I also need that generosity of spirit, to look to the human person, when I feel disconnected to the person on the outside. To look for the celebratory love of God, not just a toleration.

To that extent, in my own turn, I need to look deeper than the surface toleration offered to me, and recognise there is a God-created person, even behind the religious moralism, the tight theology, the frozen mindsets.

Toleration may be a beginning, but it is not enough, and can be a barrier to true acceptance and opening up. Toleration can be a stance, and a defensive position. We grow as individuals when we move on from toleration to the celebration of one another's queerness, and the tender given queerness and otherness of God.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 23 August 2014 at 4:10pm BST

Susannah - Very well put. Thank you!

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Saturday, 23 August 2014 at 7:20pm BST

Anna Norman-Walker, I've been known to be wrong too! And I also don't like labels.

Posted by Pam at Saturday, 23 August 2014 at 11:30pm BST

'John Pavlovitz: "Church, ...I really need you to tolerate me."'

No, I don't want that. If I'm screwing up, if I'm living a selfish, self-centred, self-absorbed life, I want to be called on that. I need to be called on that. That's how I need to be loved.

So, church, if you see me screwing up, please call me on it. I got died of saccharine and warm fuzzies a long time ago.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 24 August 2014 at 12:50am BST

Tim, I think we'd all fall into the 'selfish,self-centred, etc' category (even Ministers!). So, moving on from that, we should expect a high standard from each other and, when we don't quite make it, a smile and a word of encouragement. Having said that, our best friend (who may not go to church) can often be relied upon to 'set us straight' more effectively. You know, God working in unexpected places.

Posted by Pam at Sunday, 24 August 2014 at 7:28am BST

Two comments:

First re Giles Fraser. After reading his article I dug out an old quotation attributed to Robert F. Kennedy, "Crime is a matter of criminals, its not a matter of race, color,or religion"

Second, re John Pavlovitz, more of a gut feeling after reading his article parts 1 and 2, interesting to find that one does not have to be a church supporter in order to present as self-righteous or push guilt buttons.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 24 August 2014 at 7:48pm BST

"Tolerating" doesn't mean I won't tell you you're selfish, it simply means I won't chuck you out. I won't celebrate you, I won't applaud you, but I won't cut you off, either.

There's a good deal of misunderstanding about "tolerance," rather like "theory" or "scientific."

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 27 August 2014 at 4:54am BST

Good point, Mark, and I was probably reacting to more than the word 'tolerate'.

I think (now that I read through the thread again) I was reacting to these words in Susannah's post:

'I long for the day when the Church really celebrates and endorses, affirms and blesses, people for being who they are... not just who the pious Christian feels 'morally' they ought to be.'

My response - perhaps a little more nuanced? - is that, yes, I want the church to celebrate the unique things that constitute God's good design of me. But there are a lot of ways in which I have mucked up that design, and quite a few of them are within my control, and if I'm being lazy about doing something about those things, I want my fellow Christians to call me on that.

Which is kind of what you did. So thanks.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 27 August 2014 at 5:14pm BST

If it seemed I was "calling you out" - I didn't mean it in a cruel or derisive way, I assure you. Believe it or not (given my online personality), I really respect you. The misuse of "tolerance" has usually come from the liberal side, who tend not to like the complementary term "discernment."

I think that being "who you ought to be" is very much a matter of discernment. I understand, for instance, the reasons certain conservatives have for insisting that homosexuality is a besetting sin from which I suffer. I have discerned that they are incorrect, entirely, and that their continued insistence of blanket application of that misunderstanding is both harmful and morally wrong. I have received little, on their part, that demonstrates discernment, rather than simple embrace of bias. In terms of their personal viewpoint, I tolerate it, but discernment means that I cannot tolerate the harm an institutional embrace of that viewpoint does. I understand they feel the same way, and tolerate them, as long as they wish to stay, but not their attempts to institutionalize their ideal. If they succeed, I will move elsewhere, and tolerate that version of church, just as I do the Southern Baptists, the Missouri Synod Lutherans, the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, though I don't approve of or celebrate them.

This is an ongoing and recurring debate, which is the only reason I use this specific example.

Sometimes, I know I am not who I ought to be, and find all kinds of reasons why I am just perfect! I am grateful for the tolerance, resent the discernment, and try to make a successful synthesis of both.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 4:56am BST

Mark, I did not receive it in a cruel or derisive way. No worries, and thanks for your kind words.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Thursday, 28 August 2014 at 4:21pm BST
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