Sunday, March 7, 2010


There's got to be a better word and approach than "tolerance" to describe what we're called to

Looking for a better word than "tolerance" to describe a response that offers dignity, civility, grace and, if need be, life-giving sacrifice for an individual or group whose beliefs, behaviors or values one doesn't share.

I am thinking of this because I heard a conservative evangelical pastor this morning seem to draw a line for his congregation about "tolerance." I think he meant well, but if you follow his logic out, it doesn't lead in anywhere I think the Bible or Christian witness goes with much validity. And, it may lead in a reactionary and virulent direction.

Tolerance may be good in some settings.  But it seems to be that Jesus called for something bigger, broader than mere tolerance.  I'm thinking, for instance, of the witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in regard to being more than "tolerant" of others. While many in the church "tolerated" Hitler while Jews they disagreed with perished (some thought justifiably so), Bonhoeffer risked his life to save Jewish neighbors.

I am convinced "tolerance" is something less than what Jesus described as our normative response to others. In his way of looking at things, enemies are to be loved. What response--what relationship--then, with non-enemies or friends who think, believe, or behave differently?

The very word "tolerance," to me, sets the wrong image and tone for our relationship and Christian witness to others in our very diverse world. Now, those know know me, know that I am no compromiser. But neither do I any longer accept false choices, either/ors, when a more valid and robust way of conveying the light and life of Christian faith and witness is possible. Why talk "tolerance" when something more dynamic is possible?

What's beyond "tolerance" that better expresses the heart of Christian faith and experience in relationship to others?

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.


  1. I agree with you that tolerance is an inadequate word. I think of the fact that sometimes as Christians we must confront our friends and let them know that they are headed in the wrong direction. And at times, we end up commending our enemies for the good we see in their actions. Both are loving things to do, right in line with the modeling of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Blessings, The Observer

  2. I am not one to try to "advertise", but I am beginning to see that "promoting" is important. And in that regard, I would promote a word that I believe is a neologism - eupan. The word is constructed based on greek roots "eu" for good and "pan" for all. So to work toward eupan is to work toward the "good for the all." To me, this word can for Christians captures a glimmer of the "euangelion" in it - but it also connects specifically with the creation story in Genesis 1 where God creates creation "good" on each day. With the most specific and deliberate construction rising out of Genesis 1 though - the idea behind the word is intended to not be exclusive to Christian identity - but to a clearly theistic position on Creation and Creator for all Creation.

    I tell people often that God did not create the creation "good" for humans, but each day had it's own unique, inherent, intrinsic goodness and when it all lined up (day 1 with day 4, etc) - then it was finally "good for all" and the "good for all" is what God finally blesses. Of course it goes without saying that God did not create "Christians" either - but I won't diverge into issues of human personhood here.

    It seems to me this idea of eupan is more than "tolerance" because where tolerance can be a passive/heartless allowing of some other(s) - working toward eupan is an achievement of effort whereby those who embrace it, I would suggest, join with the Creator in establishing the good. It is not just a peace-keeping mission - but a peace-making mission that Disciples are called to embrace.

    I think eupan is a bit awkward - as any neologism is since, by its very nature - it is new to us. But, it makes sense to me and I'll seek to advance it's meaning in this venue.

    It seems to me all that I see and hear in your life's ministry, Rev. Hay is an exemplary demonstration of one who works toward eupan.

    ~ marty


Your tasteful comments and/or questions are welcome. Posts are moderated only to reduce a few instances of incivility.