Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tolerance or Love?

On Canada Day, my family set out on a rainy morning along with other like minded Fort McMurrians to celebrate the 145th anniversary of this great nation. Standing curbside with my two-year-old in my arms, I encouraged him to enthusiastically greet the cultural and religious groups passing by in the parade.

Then I saw the rainbow banner of a gay pride group. Now, the church I represent promotes a traditional sexual ethic — sex is only to be practiced by a man and a woman who are committed to each other in a marriage relationship. In other words, the gay pride group and my church group differ at a core belief level on a politically fraught issue.

So the moment I recognized the gay marchers in the Canada Day parade I faced a dilemma. Do I encourage my son to smile, wave, and shout, "Heh-wo!" to the people holding the rainbow banner, or do I look away and ignore them?

In 1689 the Parliament of England passed the Act of Toleration, allowing religious liberty for Protestant groups who dissented from the Church of England. That Act represented a widening of English civil society to accommodate groups with opposing core beliefs on the basis of tolerance, inaugurating a tradition of tolerance that extends down into Canadian-style multiculturalism today.

The word "tolerance" comes from a Latin word that means putting up with something you don't like. Since the 1530s, tolerance has meant permitting that which you consider wrong, but which you don't think should be prohibited. In our society, tolerance means that even if I oppose all you stand for, I will not deny you your right to exist and participate in society. It means that churches espousing a traditional sexual ethic may not seek to have gay people thrown in jail, and that gay pride groups may not seek to penalize clergy whose conscience will not allow them to perform gay marriages.

This is good as far as it goes, but where does this state of tolerance leave me and the gay pride group during the parade? If we merely tolerate each other, shall I stand in silent protest at those promoting a wrong I am tolerating? In turn, shouldn't they vow never to darken the door of a church that promotes a traditional sexual ethic? After all, we would not want to appear to support each others positions, would we?

Fortunately, those of us who are followers of Jesus are called to a higher principle than tolerance. Jesus taught, "You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you …."

According the principle of tolerance, smiling and waving at ones ideological opponents is about the most one can do. But when measured against the principle of love, smiling and waving is the least one can do.

Andrew Marrin is a evangelical Christian who was prejudiced against gay people until one summer when three of his best friends came out to him. This prompted Andrew to reevaluate his attitudes in light of Jesus' love. He started a group to build bridges of understanding between the evangelicals and gays. Christians from his group attend gay pride parades holding signs saying, "I'm sorry," for the ways Christians have abused gays.

Sometimes, an apology is the only way love can start. So let me begin by saying sorry, to the gay pride marchers at the Canada Day parade, for even thinking of not greeting you. Why don't we get to know each other better?

This article was originally submitted for the Clergy Comments column of the Fort McMurray Today (July 13, 2012).


  1. Another individual like Andrew Marin is Wendy Gritter a Canadian! She runs a ministry called New Direction and has a blog called "Bridging the Gap".

  2. Very cool. It looks like Exodus Internation is now following her new direction, just 5 years later on.

  3. Not sure I see it the exact same way, David! But I appreciate your perspective. I think there is a difference between greeting a PERSON you may disagree with, and greeting a group that is openly supporting an agenda you do not. I'm sure that were a group to march by, promoting another sin you do not agree with (say, a group of burglars, to use a rather harmless comparison), you would probably not be eager to "greet" them. Maybe I'm wrong though!

  4. Not sure if I'd be "eager" to great them, but I hope I would. Burglars need love, too. If, on the other hand, I found a group of your hypothetical burglars breaking into a home, they would get a somewhat different greeting from me. ;)

  5. Love is not always warm and fuzzy after all.

  6. Pastor Brace, if you are still at the stage where you are making (not harmless) comparisons between homosexuality and burglary, then I believe that you have a lot to learn about the nature of homosexuality.
    I would suggest you get in contact with Wendy Gritter and not a moment too soon, as this issue is on the ballot in your state.

  7. Otherwise, Inge Anderson of the Sabbath School Network and Gladventist is just about the only SDA I know who understands this issue.

  8. I know this is a sensitive subject among Adventists, especially the more traditional/conservative SDA's out there. I consider myself a conservative but libertarian Adventist, which is a pretty complex label to slap onto myself, so here goes:

    I'm sure that the scriptural perspective - the only correct position I know of - is to 'hate the sin but love the sinner'. I agree that kindness and respect toward the PEOPLE who identify themselves as 'LGBQT' should be the foundation for any dialogue, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that the behavior here is condemned by God as 'an abomination' in His eyes. Very few things in the Bible are condemned as actually being worse than 'typical' sin. God saw fit to annihilate & obliterate two entire cities because of their moral degeneracy, in this regard, even after The Flood.

    With this in mind, I find myself compelled by the Holy Spirit to resist the political demands of the 'LGBQT Community' to accept, approve and condone them - because they represent an unrepentant collective that actively flaunts God's design for human sexuality.

    Yes, there's a difference between greeting a PERSON you may disagree with, and greeting a group that is openly supporting an agenda you oppose. To disagree with that agenda does NOT constitute a 'hate crime', intolerance, or bigotry. But Christians are being pressured - and in some countries, persecuted by laws - to submit to the will of people rather than the will of God. "It is better to obey God than men". The U.S. Congress has on several occasions nearly voted on proposals to prohibit the preaching of the Bible against sexual perversions, particularly the command of God for men to not lay down with men, or women with women; which is tantamount to nullifying the Free Exercise clause of the 1st Amendment. Ellen White said this repudiation of the Constitution will eventually come to pass, but we should guard against it nonetheless and speak truth to power.

    I find it amazing that rather than using Scripture as our Shield and our measuring rod, there are Adventist congregations that are apparently willing to put political correctness first & allow people who are openly unrepentant (about whatever, but for the purposes of this discussion, sexual sin;) to become members of the Adventist church and their local congregation.

    While I believe that we need to minister to the unsaved, welcome them into our houses of worship and share the Word with them, we should obey God's admonition to not become 'unequally yoked'. In short, be loving but firm!

    People may disagree with my observation, either because of my conservative conviction that God's Law cannot be watered down - or my libertarian belief that we should welcome these sinners into our midst at worship and break bread with them at our potluck meals. Of course, repentance and salvation is the goal.

    The same could be said about drug users / alcoholics, (hetero) sex addicts, or others whose behavior is outward evidence of a sin-sick soul. How much we would be blessed to consider the counsel of 'Ministry of Healing', among other manuscripts. We are all sinners, we all fall short of His glory, we all have room for improvement!

    In the end, I do not believe that one class of sinners should be treated any different than other sinners, but that all should be judged according to the Word. We know the day is fast approaching, and that it is up to us to choose whether we will stand on this judgement day.

    *May God bless you and keep you!*

  9. David, thank you for the way you addressed this very important subject.

    Yes, we are called to love even our enemies, not just "tolerate" them!

    The least that love demands is that we listen and try to understand those different from us. And the anonymous poster who commented that a comparison between gay people and burglars is not "harmless" was right on.

    And perhaps it was the same anonymous poster who mentioned my name. Thank you. :)

    To truly understands what love demands is the study of a lifetime. After all, genuine love is the essence of God's character.

    Genuine love will be willing to sacrifice her life for the sinner. Perhaps that's why Ellen White tells us that I should not try to correct another until I am willing to lay down my life for that person. If we followed that counsel, what a difference that would make! It is equally important to come close enough to the person we want to correct so that we understand the person, and so that that person knows that we would indeed lay down our lives for him/her.

    That's a tall order, but it is what love demands. And if we were known as the people who love that way, our churches would be filled to over-flowing with people seeking to experience that kind of love. And a great many of the gay people among us would be the first to come.

    Lord, make us more loving!!