Christianity, Diversity, and Tolerance

A common myth surrounding Christianity, at least traditional Christianity, is that it is boring, monotonous, and composed of old white people. Even though Christianity is the most diverse faith in the world, somehow, it has gained the reputation of being ethnocentric; or to use a different phrase, Christianity (traditional Christianity) is intolerant.

However, as it is with most things in the modern world, perception does not match reality. Christianity, true Christianity, is and always has been a celebration of diversity, especially when compared to the modern secular system calling for “tolerance.” Christianity is special in that we are the united body of Christ, yet still diverse, which is a reflection of our God. The core of our faith, the Trinity, teaches that while God is one, God is many. God is one in essence, but three Persons. In turn, his Church is one unified body, but composed of different persons and nationalities. This is why there is no such thing as a Christian culture, because Christianity itself has no culture. Rather, just as Christ became incarnate within our world, so too do Christians become incarnate within their culture. Christ did not condemn human nature by taking it on, but instead He transformed it into something better. Likewise, Christians do not condemn culture, but instead transform it into something better.

Such a transformation requires true tolerance. True Christianity requires Christians to allow other ideas, other beliefs, and other religions to function within society. For one, we believe in significant human freedom, so we cannot restrict the choice of an individual (so long as the consequences of that choice don’t negatively impact the common good). If an individual chooses to engage in an illicit sexual activity with another consenting adult, while we can say it’s morally wrong, we cannot really do anything about it. While we disagree with Islam, we should allow Muslims to build their mosques because we support their right to be wrong. That is true tolerance; allowing beliefs and actions to occur even though you don’t necessarily agree with those beliefs and actions.

The modern secular world, however, is solely about unity and not diversity. While it may preach diversity, the reality is that all secular societies end up being monotone. The reason for this is that diversity is seen as disagreement, and disagreement is seen as intolerance. Take, for instance, Marilyn Sewell’s piece in the Huffington Post. In it she states that she cannot tolerate Christian fundamentalism because, “I believe those who teach it and preach it are doing great harm, and I in no way wish to be an ally.” In other words, because she cannot ally with the belief she therefore cannot tolerate it. That’s not tolerance, that’s bigotry. Yet, this is the direction of the modern world; if I don’t agree with you, then I can’t tolerate you. There is no allowance for differing opinions, not if we deem them to be dangerous even if we have no proof of the danger.

In considering how Christianity is truly multicultural, look to the teachings of V.S. Soloviev;

“Does Christianity abolish nationality? No, rather, it preserves it. Nationality is not abolished, but nationalism is. The bitter persecution and killing of Christ was the work not of the Hebrew nationality, for which Christ was its supreme flowering, but this was the work of a narrow and blind nationalism of such patriots as Caiaphas…The fruits of the English nationality we see in Shakespeare and Byron, in Berkely and in Newton; the fruits of English nationalism are worldwide robbery, the exploits of Warren Hastings and Lord Seymour, destruction and killing. The fruits of the great German nationality are Lessing and Goethe, Kant and Schelling, the fruit of German nationalism – is the forcible Germanization of neighbors from the times of the Teutonic knights right up to our own day. (Politics, Law, and Morality, p. 11)

Christianity recognizes the accomplishments of each nation (and race) and gives praise where praise is due. But it doesn’t seek the monotony of nationalism, the teaching that all groups should conform to one group.

The secular world is a new type of nationalism. When we think of nationalism we are tempted to think about Hitler’s Germany or Mussolini’s Italy. We think of fascism along with nationalism, of neo-Nazis and, to an extent, the modern preachers of American exceptionalism. But there is another type of nationalism in the materialistic world that has gone unnoticed, and that’s the nationalism of ideas. Karl Marx would have undoubtedly hated Hitler’s physical nationalism, yet still taught conformity to Communism. Whereas Hitler believed all nations should be conformed to the Germany way of life, eradicating all cultural differences, the Communists believed in a worldwide revolution to overthrow the bourgeoisie and install a common culture around the world. Seeking a world without borders and a monolithic culture, is not a repudiation of nationalism, but a different type of nationalism.

This same type of nationalism is found within Sewell’s use of the word “tolerance” and even within secular society in general. Cultural differences and religious differences are hidden from the public view because they may be offensive to some. A Jew cannot place a menorah in the public square. A Christian cannot display the cross. A Muslim must fight to have a community center built in a major city. An atheist student struggles to form an atheist club at his high school. Black History Month is viewed as racist in and of itself for extolling what black people have contributed to society. Saying that people of European ancestry have helped progress the world is viewed as racist because it ignores all the harm Europeans have caused in the world. In the name of tolerance and multiculturalism, we have become intolerant of anything that offends us and anti-diversity in our practice. Christianity seeks to be tolerant – that is, we allow things to happen – of all things do not directly harm others. We may condemn the actions and beliefs, we may speak out against them, but when it comes to those who are not Christians, we simply let it occur (at least in traditional Christianity – historically some Christians have attempted to ruin human freedom and impose moral regulations, but this is in contradiction to the central Christian message).

True Christianity seeks out tolerance and diversity, but in the truest senses of the terms. We don’t seek to change one culture into another culture, but to redeem the culture through Christ. We don’t seek to eradicate beliefs and actions through legislation, but to tolerate them and let people make mistakes, so long as those mistakes don’t directly harm others. This runs in opposition to secularism, which ruins culture and removes all that makes us distinct and happy. True Christianity is not the lack of diversity, but the beginning of all that is diverse.


Why is Our Society Overreacting to Bullies?

Me as a child, around 8-10 years old. When your head is almost 1/3 of your body, you tend to get picked on.

Apparently the modern thought on bullying is that if you’re picked on for a certain attribute, the onus is on you to give in and change that attribute. At least, that’s what the parents of 9 year old Trenton Vance thought when they elected to give him plastic surgery so he could avoid being picked on at school for his ears. As shocking as that is, if one were to read the comments (both on their site and on Facebook), one would quickly deduce that hardly anyone is shocked by the parent’s actions. Almost every single comment is one in support of what the parents did. Which leads me to believe that I need to explain why the parents are wrong before going on in this post.

First, the parents are wrong because they just told their son, “The bullies are right, your ears are really bad, so we need to change them.” They admitted to their son that he had a defect that needed to be fixed. What kind of message does this send to him for the rest of his life? “When going gets tough, just change whatever it is about you that’s making it tough.”

Secondly, what message does this send to the bullies? It tells the bullies that they actually do have power over him, enough power that he’ll change to whatever they criticize. But take it from someone who was bullied as a kid, no matter what you change about yourself, you’re still going to get bullied. That’s because that’s how kids are – it’s how they were in 1500BC, it’s how they were in 1200AD, it’s how they were in 1950, and it’s how they are today. They’re going to see something different about someone and immediately start bullying the person for it, so when you undergo surgery to change that aspect of the person you validate the criticisms the bullies had.

Third, there’s a scene in the movie Bruce Almighty (I can’t remember if it made it into the movie or if it’s a deleted scene) where Bruce is shown the consequences of saying “yes” to every prayer request. One of them is that he said “yes” to the prayer of a young boy to stop being bullied. “God” points out to Bruce that by being bullied the kid would grow up to write great poetry based on those experiences. And there’s a lot of truth to this sentiment, especially with bullying: A lot of people make positive comments on the stuff I say or the poetry I write, but had I not been bullied then none of this would have come about. When I was bullied as a kid I ended up reading books on history, a ton of Star Wars novels, and even engaged in writing fictional stories. Through that pain I developed a love for learning and art. Today I am on my way to an advanced degree, contemplating writing a fantasy novel and a science fiction novel, and have a very bright future ahead of me. I wish I could tell some of those who bullied me “thank you,” but last I heard one of the most vicious bullies (who did hit me quite a bit, yet shared the same first name as me) was in jail.

As you can tell from the picture, I was a very awkward looking kid (some would argue I’m a very awkward looking adult; I would argue it’s impossible to be awkward looking if you have a glorious beard [see: James Harden]). The reality is when you have glasses that take up half your face and your head takes up a third of your body and you’re growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, you’re going to get bullied. I know it’s popular to think that we can somehow change this, that we can end bullying, but we can’t. So long as humans exist and begin their lives as children, there are going to be bullies.

The difference is how we handle bullying. Rather than overreacting and calling for lawsuits against the parents of bullies (who sometimes don’t even know what their kids are doing), or getting plastic surgery, or telling the victims of bullying to “never befriend those who bully you, ever” (yes, this is actual advice that I’ve seen given quite a bit), we need to look at the causes of bullying and handle it that way. In most cases, a kid is bullied because he is different. Due to our fallen state whenever we encounter someone who is different our first reaction is fear and the way we handle fear is we mock it. Thus, in most cases of bullying, a kid is picked on because the other kids haven’t learned what tolerance is. It’s up to the parents, teachers, and other adults to teach these kids that it’s okay to be different and that we shouldn’t mock people for these differences. In this manner, bullying is a natural part of growing up because that’s how humans develop, it’s how we learn (or should learn) to tolerate those who are different from us.

Another cause for bullying is that the bully is seeking attention, which is often caused by problems in the home. I’ll never forget getting picked on by this one kid in the fourth grade, he was relentless. I found out that his parents were getting divorced during the time he was bullying me (some other kid mentioned it) and so one day, when I had enough, I simply said, “Well at least my parents aren’t getting a divorce.” I remember this instance very well because the kid broke down in tears and I felt horrible about what I did. But the truth behind this is that the kid as bullying me because he didn’t know how to handle the situation he was in. Now, the victims of bullying (at a young age) aren’t typically going to understand this, but the adults should. The adults should pick up on this and address the situation. In some situations the kids are bullies because they’re abused by a parent or both parents. This is really when adults should pay attention.

The overreaction to bullying, however, simply has to stop. The biggest irony is that in overreacting to bullying we’re promoting bullying. We tell the victims to not befriend the bullies, ever; we say we want the parents to go to jail or face fines for their kids being bullies (because parents are responsible for how their kids act when not under their supervision?). These are overreactions. We hate bullying not because it leads to adult intolerance, but because it hurts a kid’s “self-esteem,” which is the highest virtue one can have in our society (it’s the only virtue really). To be quite honest, I’m not all that concerned about a kid’s self-esteem because I think it’s more harmful than helpful to try and develop it; America ranks the highest among industrialized nations in terms of self-perception among teenagers, but near the bottom for anything related to education. We feel really good about ourselves, yet we’re failing more than any other generation or nation. What concerns me about bullying is that the kids who do the bullying need to learn to celebrate differences and realize that these differences are a good thing.

So yes, bullying is wrong and needs to be addressed, but it’s not this epidemic that we think it is. Furthermore, there’s no reason at all to ever undergo corrective surgery because you’re getting picked on for a physical attribute, especially at 9 years old. We need to teach our kids to fight through difficult times, to ignore what the naysayers say, and that they’re fine as they are and don’t need to change a thing about them.

More Random Thoughts for the Day

– Liberal ethics: everyone is the victim…except the victim

– “I”m raising awareness.” So what? If I am aware that my neighbor’s house is on fire and he is trapped inside, I can still go to jail if I don’t take action on that awareness.

– Pop culture is full of emptiness because it has forsaken God. It is not that God has cursed them with being empty; it is more that such a culture has, in forsaking God, forsaken their purpose in life, thus all other pursuits are done in vain, which leads to emptiness.

– Postmodern ethics: everything is subjective, except tolerance…and traditionalist beliefs are always wrong

– One can have all the money in the world and the latest technological devices, but still feel incomplete. Happiness is found in the simple things in life; love of God, love of family, and love of virtue are what make a man happy.

– Congress has an oversight committee. They are called the American people. Americans have forgotten that they are the final “check” and the final “balance” in the check and balance system.

– Wearing a t-shirt or putting a bumper sticker on your car to bring about “awareness” is the greatest form of narcissism. It lets everyone know that you care, that you are aware, that you understand human rights, and gives you the self-satisfaction of doing something good without actually doing anything. Everyone wants to appear to be Mother Theresa without doing any of the things she did.

– Prosecuting people in the Bush administration at this point in the new administration is not an accident. It is Obama’s “Wag the Dog.” The health care initiative is becoming more and more unpopular – if he can focus the attention back to Bush, he knows he can get support for his plan. It is a dishonest way to pass a bill.

More Fun with Modern Sayings

I went over three modern sayings in a previous post that are popular to say, but just don’t make any sense. After writing it, a few more have come to mind.

1)   “What someone does in his/her personal life doesn’t affect me.”

To a certain extent, such libertine sentiment is true. What type of food a person chooses to eat doesn’t affect me. What kind of drapes a person puts up in his home doesn’t affect me. But often times so-called private actions can lead to public consequences, which does affect me.

This whole privacy matter generally deals with privacy in the bedroom. For instance, how many liberal protestors who advocate homosexual rights based on “My personal life isn’t the government’s business,” but quickly turn around and want to place limits on how big my “carbon footprint” is, or dictate if I can smoke or not, or even dictate how much electricity I can use? There’s a double-standard – they’re willing to let the government intervene on those issues, but not on sexual issues.

Regardless, what goes on in the bedroom can affect me by affecting society. What we do is often reflected upon our children. As I pointed out in a previous post, sexual immorality tends to go hand-in-hand with other forms of immorality. Thus, if one is engaging in sexually immoral acts in the bedroom, then one is more apt to perform immoral acts in public.

The connection to public corruption, however, is almost irrelevant. Though it may not be the government’s business what goes on in the bedroom or in a person’s personal life, as a human being I have an obligation to point out immorality when I see it. I have an obligation to point out what is wrong (in a loving way) in the way someone is acting. By being human, a person’s personal life is my business.

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