journeys

Friendship and Tolerance

[We live in] a culture in which about all that can be conceded is that there may be your truth and my truth, what good’s for you and what’s good for me. To assert that there might, in fact, be something properly described as the truth is not only considered odd; it’s usually considered intolerant, and, in a culture that values “tolerance” (or what it imagines to be tolerance) above all else, to be called “intolerant” is about as bad as it gets.
—George Weigel, Letters to a Young Catholic

I almost went on a social media rampage this week. It was over a seemingly innocent comment, but it put me over the edge. How can my friends not understand my principles by now? How could they so boldly suggest I engage in something contrary to my beliefs? But it didn’t take long for me to understand—they simply don’t know, because I’m not that vocal about it.

Most of the time, my vocal reach stops at simply stating I’m a Christian. That alone ruffles some feathers. I’ll preach the wonders of Christmas and Easter, or I’ll post a pretty church on Instagram, but rarely do I publicly burst into Biblical song. I’m a loud and proud Catholic, and I love Jesus, but secretly. I’ve always been that way. I keep to myself. The hardest part about converting was telling people. It was a public declaration that I believe in something, a belief system that goes against the new majority.

We live in a culture of tolerance for all, but that acceptance has a limited reach. In fact, we haven’t achieved tolerance at all. We’ve just swapped things around: those who used to live in the cultural margins are now at its center, desperately trying to push everyone else into those recently-vacated shadows. We’ve created a society that tries too hard to be inoffensive, with no concept of truth or, honestly, morals. And this is difficult for someone like me, who is naturally inoffensive and doesn’t like to step on toes. The people I’d allowed to speak for me have quieted, or compromised to appease the masses, and I’m not bold enough to voice those unpopular opinions on my own.

Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.
—Galatians 1:10

The Baptist church often preached that you’ll lose friends for your faith. At the time, my friend group seemed pretty tolerate despite our differences. We could have intelligent conversations that offered varying points-of-view. But looking back on it, I never participated. I enjoyed listening to the debates, but my Jesus-friendly perspective was pounced on. In retrospect, I understand why—I simply regurgitated what that church said, without doing any of my own research. But rather than try to explain and learn more, I remained quiet. I was a good friend.

But now, everyone is the “good friend.” The whole of society is afraid to speak up, to voice an opinion that opposes the norm. It’s intolerant. By being anti-abortion, we hate women. By suggesting trans people seek therapy before transitioning, we hate trans people. By saying climate has changed naturally over the course of millennia, we hate the Earth.

I don’t hate anyone, nor the whole of Creation. I have different views.

Jesus himself lost a lot of friends. He wasn’t intentionally controversial; he simply spoke the truth. He was crucified literally because people disagreed with him. Martyrs across the centuries died for this truth, but I can’t even face people maybe being upset with me. But that’s not being a good friend. To be loud and proud, I have to speak. I’ve never exactly been vocal, so that’s not easy for me to do. But we’re to practice true love and tolerance—including to those who have different views. And at the very least, I can try to stand up for myself and for God.