The Possibility of Tolerance

I have a friend who is a walking enigma. He was born in India and looks like someone born in India. He was also born into a Catholic family (there is a lot of history in that area of western India that was settled by Portuguese many years ago). He’s also an electrical engineer who founded a company and then sold it.

Jim Pinto wrote articles about automation for me for 10 years. His writings now have broadened into a more general social commentary. His latest blog post is an impassioned plea for tolerance.

He says, “Tolerance is the appreciation of diversity and the ability to exercise a fair and objective attitude towards those whose opinions, practices, religion, culture differ from one’s own. Genuine tolerance is respect for the dignity of others. It focuses more on our common humanity than on our differences.”

The early Christians understood how to live in a diverse society. The apostle Paul once said that what happened to people outside his communities, his ekklesia groups, was God’s business, not his. He was concerned with building the faith and knowledge of those in the community and attracting new people into the faith.

But Christianity eventually became the official religion of the Roman empire, and then of many countries even until today. Many today don’t know what it is like to live in a diverse society. Everyone around them is the same race, color, religion. Sometimes they are intolerant of others simply through sheer ignorance and lack of experience.

I routinely interact with people whose origins are from most places around the world. They may reflect at least a half-dozen religions, not to mention all the varieties of Christian flavors.

Toleration does not mean bending my faith. It means, like Jim said, treating other human beings with dignity and respect. It is like Martin Luther King, Jr., said that his dream was that we’d all judge others by the strength of their characters, not the color of their skin.

Jesus related to Jews, Samaritans, Greeks, Romans. But he blasted things such as hypocrisy, self-righteousness–in other words, weakness of faith and character. He’s a good example.

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