30 January 2014

The (in)tolerance of Jesus

The ever-insightful Peter Kreeft has noted that "we are evangelizing to a new audience, one that does not know Christ but thinks it does."

Following the recent spectacle during the Grammy awards, a good friend of mine received a comment on his Facebook page:
I guess you think that gays are gay because they want to be, not because they are born that way? I would like to think they are born that way because I can't imagine actually wanting to go through all the crap they have to go through. If they want to get married, more power to them. It doesn't bother me. What bothers me is I don't have anyone in my life and I'm straight as straight can be. I'm just more tolerant I guess. Also, some of those couples who got "married" on the show were heterosexual and some of mixed races. How do you feel about that? I love you and I grew up Catholic and I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but I thought Jesus taught us to be tolerant of others? Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so.
This comment is a perfect example of what Dr. Kreeft points out so succinctly.

Too often we forget that, as Archbishop Chaput has pointed out, “tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty — these are Christian virtues. And obviously, in a diverse community, tolerance is an important working principle. But it’s never an end in itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil.”  Continuing on, he says:
Likewise, democratic pluralism does not mean that Catholics should be quiet in public about serious moral issues because of some misguided sense of good manners. A healthy democracy requires vigorous moral debate to survive. Real pluralism demands that people of strong beliefs will advance their convictions in the public square — peacefully, legally and respectfully, but energetically and without embarrassment. Anything less is bad citizenship and a form of theft from the public conversation.”
In response to this claim of the commenter on the tolerance of Jesus, I suggested several passages of the Gospel, in which Jesus speaks, that refute the commenter's claim of who he is.

A tolerant man, I suggested, does not go about calling out, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17).  To call people to repentance is at the same time an implicit condemnation of sinful actions; if no sins have been committed, there is nothing of which to repent.

A tolerant man does not make judgments on someone's righteousness and say to them, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).

A tolerant man does not say, "every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment" (Matthew 5:22).

A tolerant man does not say, "truly, I say to you, you will never get out [or prison] till you have paid the last penny" (Matthew 5:26).

A tolerant man does not say, "But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).

A tolerant man does not go about crying out, "You hypocrite" (Matthew 7:5; 15:7; 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29).

A tolerant man does not begin a sentence, saying, "If you then, who are evil..." (Matthew 7:11).

A tolerant man does not declare, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

A tolerant man does not say, "whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:33).

A tolerant man does not go about crying out, "Woe to you" (Matthew 11:21; 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29)!

A tolerant man does not exclaim, "O faithless and perverse generation" (Matthew 17:17).

A tolerant man does not refer to people as "whitewashed tombs" and a "brood of vipers" (Matthew 23:27, 33).

By now you surely get the idea.  N.B.: These examples come only from one of the four Gospels.  Other examples abound.

It was acknowledged that the commenter was unfamiliar with most of these passages.  Not surprisingly, the person has not since commented; I can only suppose the verses were either not consulted, or the person has no response to the actual words of Jesus.

We have far too many people - Catholics, former Catholics, Protestants, and otherwise - who claim to know what Jesus condemns and condones but who have never actually read even one of the Gospels.  Instead, they posit their own beliefs for Jesus'.

Notice the use of words: "I would like to think;" "I can't imagine;" "What bothers me;" "I'm just more tolerant;" "I thought Jesus taught us to be tolerant;" "Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so."  These thoughts do not begin with Jesus, but with the individual.  And this commenter is not alone; we've all read comments like this, heard them, and probably even have had them addressed to us personally.  What are we to say in response?

Jesus condemned sinful actions, but not sinners themselves.  He warned them sternly about the coming judgment, of the separation of the sheep from the goats, about eternal life and eternal death.  He called sinners to repentance - and still calls sinners to repentance - so that they might share in his life, but if sinners do not repent they will not share in his life.

When he comes in his glory, "who will endure the day of his coming?  And who can stand when he appears" (Malachi 3:2)? These words of Sacred Scripture will be proclaimed to us this Sunday.  It is "the LORD of hosts" who comes, "the fall and rise of many in Israel;" will he find us worthy of his presence (Malachi 3:1; Luke 2:34)?

We cannot forget that Jesus said quite clearly, "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34).  These are not the words of a tolerant man, as the world understands tolerance.  Jesus tolerates sinners, but he does not tolerate sin.  We must ask ourselves: "Is this a man to whom I will entrust myself completely?"

Returning to the demand for the tolerance of objectively sinful acts, if you pay close attention to these demands you begin to notice something curious: Those who demand tolerance of their views are absolutely intolerant of the views of anyone who happens to disagree with them, regardless of the reasonableness of their disagreement.  This is why George Weigel has called tolerance the "supreme virtue of the culture of radical relativism."

As Jennifer Hartline has written:
The Gospel of Tolerance really only has one rule: thou shalt tolerate any action, belief, lifestyle, agenda, and person except the person who believes a certain lifestyle, action or agenda is wrong and has the gall to say so out loud. The real goal here is not acceptance but submission.  It's not enough to "get along" or tolerate quietly. You must approve.  You don't dare disapprove publicly.  Those who don't tow the line will be punished [emphases original].
Recall how the commenter above - who is, again, not alone - phrased it: "I'm just more tolerant I guess."  In the name of tolerance a judgment is made, a subtle condemnation, really.  Such a judgment is, frankly, nothing less than an attempt to stifle and quiet an opposing voice, which seems an odd way to insist on the importance of tolerance.

The culture of radical relativism insists there is no single good, no single truth, except what I declare to be good and true and you cannot speak against my choice but I can certainly - and must - speak against your choice.

This is not the way of Jesus.  He was, and remains, tolerant of sinners but intolerant of sin.  As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said:
Christian love bears evil, but it does not tolerate it.
It does penance for the sins of others, but it is not broadminded about sin.
The cry for tolerance never induces it to quench its hatred of the evil philosophies that have entered into contest with the Truth.
It forgives the sinner, and it hates the sin; it is unmerciful to the error in his mind.
The sinner it will always take back into the bosom of the Mystical Body;
but his lie will never be taken into the treasury of His Wisdom.
Real love involves real hatred:
whoever has lost the power of moral indignation and the urge to drive the buyers and sellers from the temples
has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth.
Charity, then, is not a mild philosophy of "live and let live";
it is not a species of sloppy sentiment.
Charity is the infusion of the Spirit of God,
which makes us love the beautiful and hate the morally ugly.
This must always be our response.

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