Negative Christian Stereotype: Are Christians Intolerant?

Negative Stereotype: Non‐Christians believe we are Intolerant.

Attempting to force our beliefs on others, setting up laws/systems to benefit Christians or exclude benefits from non‐Christians, silencing opposing views or denying they exist, treating others as less‐than, disowning friends/family with different beliefs, work‐related discrimination based on religious beliefs, condemning others with different beliefs.

 What’s your definition of being intolerant?

A Few Stories to Make It Real: (from research conducted at thinkatheist.com)

From David Schumacher: “My sister posted on Facebook that ‘this is one nation under god and if we didn’t believe that, we atheists should get out of their Christian country’”.

Thomas Stacey‐Holmes: “I know that when I was Christian I struggled with condemning all the other folks that believed in other gods.”

Rob: “Basically, a Christian will argue that ‘since I believe so and so, everybody should follow these rules’. Of course if the shoe is on the other foot, the cries of persecution are plentiful.”

Dale Headley: “In 6 US states, atheists are prohibited from holding public office.” (Although the 1st & 14th amendments of the US Constitution invalidate and make such religious tests unconstitutional). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Religious_Test_Clause

Examples: (Do you have any stories to share here? What’s the impact of our intolerance?)

1. Only allowing a Christian prayer before a public (secular) school football game, even though the players and fans are made up of different belief systems.

2. Demanding that Judeo/Christian creationism be taught in schools, but excluding other beliefs or scientific theories from also being taught or discussed. Note: this type of intolerance works both ways, such as when schools don’t allow the mention or discussion of non‐evolutionary theories to the origin of human life.

3. Pushing to have the Bible taught in school, yet opposing the inclusion of other religious texts from discussion.

4. Refusing to acknowledge or discuss opposing views.

5. Refusing the idea that other people have any valid points on a subject we disagree with; suggesting that there is NO truth or redeeming quality of any opposing belief.

6. Discouraging challenging questions from being asked about our beliefs/church doctrine.

7. Suggesting that there is only ONE correct view or interpretation of scripture (even though the multitude of Christian denominations is a direct result of different biblical interpretations and practices).

8. Saying “I’m right! You are wrong!” without taking the time to even consider and evaluate another person’s views or beliefs.

9. Not tolerating the PERSON who holds an opposing belief. (Thinking they are obviously not as bright as you, because they don’t agree with you).

10. Any other examples you can think of?

Discussion:

1. How open would you be to participating in a public/group prayer led by a member of another religion? (Muslim, Hindu, etc…) How would it make you feel if a Christian was never allowed to lead the prayer to OUR God?

2. In order to allow the Bible to be taught in public schools, how willing would you be to having other religious texts taught or reviewed at the same time? (Koran, Book of Mormon, etc…)

3. How would you respond to someone who challenged your beliefs with sincere yet challenging questions?

4. Have you ever witnessed work‐related discrimination based on religious beliefs?

5. Have you ever benefited from a situation by being Christian, where non‐Christians were denied such benefits or excluded in some way?

What God Say About It (The Bible):

People who object to Christianity sometimes hold the view that the Old Testament portrays an intolerant God; suggesting that the Israelites exterminate nations that occupied the Promised Land He was giving them as part of His covenant with them. Jewish law and tradition also encouraged Jews to be separate from other groups…and to not associate with them. However, this Biblical Jewish history should not be interpreted as teaching us how we should act towards our neighbors today.

Jesus instituted a new covenant and spoke plainly about how we are to treat others. However, the Bible doesn’t teach directly on the topic of tolerance or intolerance. In either case, the following verses can provide guidance on how to relate with others, including those with whom we have ideological disagreements.

Acts 10:28-29 (NIV)

28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.”

Jude 1:22-23 (NIV)

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Luke 6:27-31 (NIV) (also see: Matthew 5:43-48)

27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

1 Peter 3:8-12 (NIV)

8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. 11 He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Romans 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?

Verses for further study: Romans 13:1, 1 Timothy 5:1-2, John 4:9, Matthew 9:10-13, John 8:3-11

Closing Thoughts on Intolerance:

Hold to the truth. And keep in mind that we don’t have to agree with others, or deny our own beliefs, to be more tolerant. Strive to be more tolerant while maintaining the Biblical truth we seek to preserve.

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV) “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

Action:

1) In the coming weeks, raise your awareness of how you might unintentionally be intolerant through your thoughts and words, and take notice of similar intolerance from others.

2) Study these Bible verses for greater depth and meaning.

3) Seek to be more loving, graceful, compassionate, merciful, and understanding of those people who disagree with our Christian beliefs.

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