Where is intolerance and tolerance born?

“War anywhere develops intolerance everywhere.”
(See, Eleanore Roosevelt, “Intolerance” published in the Cosmopolitan, February 1940)

When Eleanore Roosevelt made this statement it was the concept of physical combative war that took the center stage.   But when I hear the statement, “War anywhere develops intolerance everywhere.”  I can’t help but wonder if it is naive to suggest that intolerance is simple a result of war.

 Eleanore continues, intolerance is bread in fear, but does this fear only come from the physical threat of war or when people feel that problems can’t be solved.  She reminds readers that with the threat of war we forget that we are a community and we separate ourselves from other groups.

 “Is this intolerance only a response to the fear of war or inability to solve problems?” I ask.

Mrs. Roosevelt also identifies that intolerance is bread in rough economic times, when there is not enough work  and people are made uncomfortable.

 “Is intolerance only a response to a persons problems with money?” I ask.

Mrs. Roosevelt spoke a lot about intolerance and it seems that according to her way of thinking intolerance was a response to some outside stimulus that threatened the existence of a persons way of life.

But what I would like to consider is…

What if…  the war is the war we have within our own selves?                                                         What if…  the war we have is with our own sin, that prevents us from being a neighbor. What if…  the war we have is a war with our own intolerance of ourselves?

You see I believe intolerance, although it can be exasperated by outside stress factors like national wars or economic hardships, is a part of the original sin of man.  It is something that is innately who we are as sinners.  It does not start from the outside and seep into an individual, but is in us and is brought out into the open under stress.

Adam and Eve were intolerant of their own flesh and had to hid from God.  Cain was intolerant of the relationship Able had with God because he, Cain, was intolerant, not able to accept, his own unique relationship with God.

It is this intolerance,  an individuals inability to live in the dynamic relationship with God, specifically a loving and forgiving God,  that spurs and festers and grows into intolerance of others and prevents people from living into a harmonized community.

How might this happen.  Let’s see.  If I do not understand Jesus as dying on the cross of all people and all sins, and understand God’s promise of forgiveness, righteousness, and salvation as a gift for all people, then it is easy to see God as a judge who condemns the world.  And if I believe that I am condemned for the sins I have committed then I expect God to condemn others as well.  What we are then saying in a subliminal way is that we believe God to be intolerant to us and to add to the intolerance it is taought by some that the only way for God to be tolerant of us is if we work to earn favor with God.

But this is not who God is.  God is so tolerant of us that he sends his son to die for our sins. God is so tolerant of us that from the cross he asks for forgiveness for the ones who crucified him because they did not understand the ramifications of their actions.  God is so tolerant of us that God send the Holy Spirit to be an advocate for us and bring us into relationship with God.  God isn’t asking us to work for God’s love but to respond to God’s love and if we respond in love than we respond with the love we were first given and tolerance is born.

One comment

  1. I too made a mental note of Eleanor’s quote about intolerance. I thought of it in much the same way that you did. Intolerance, is usually bred by a lack of understanding. I found it interesting that Eleanor also saw one of the biggest ways out of these problems was education. So, what does that say for us as Christians? I think that we too must pledge to become educated on issues so that we can act as Christ would have us act in the world.

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