My Turn by Ken Reed: Tolerance is a two-way street ...

  • Posted: Monday, May 6, 2013 12:10 a.m.
Rev. Ken Reed
Rev. Ken Reed

... Or at least it should be. Sadly that is not the case. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines tolerance as a “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.”

Unfortunately, the definition of tolerance has evolved into a one-way street of non-acceptance.


Many who oppose public prayer, many who refuse to name and acknowledge Islamic terrorism as a national threat and many who support same-sex marriage plea for tolerance. However, the cry for tolerance has been incorrectly re-defined and used improperly as a buzz word to forward one’s position while chastising those who believe differently.

Criticism of one’s beliefs is wrong regardless of which side one resides. It should always seek understanding knowing that agreement is not required and not always possible. If my view is different then I expect the same courtesy. Tolerance is a two-way street of understanding, not agreement.

Local and national conversations on these and other issues have been unfairly slanted by promoting a one-way street of tolerance followed by a rejection of those who have differing opinions.

Example: On Tuesday ESPN gathered two journalists for a televised face-to-face conversation on the recent issue of an NBA player disclosing his sexuality. CNN/ESPN columnist LZ Granderson spoke on-air with ESPN’s Chris Broussard. It was an equal exchange of two viewpoints and ideologies.

However, Broussard, a Christian, was immediately criticized by ESPN for couching his comments in the context of his Christian faith. Aware of his conservative Christian views, ESPN immediately apologized, stating that his comments were a “distraction” and that ESPN was committed to “diversity.”

Broussard brought diversity to the conversation and provided a necessary counterpoint that balanced the discussion. However, Broussard’s opinion was not popular, was uncomfortable and not tolerated by ESPN. Why does the media desperately desire honest discussion on social topics, and then brazenly criticize honesty when opinions differ?

Does that promote tolerance and diversity? I think not. What happened to the open exchange of ideas?

Therefore, I invite all who have differing view points on social and faith issues abandon use of the terms tolerance and diversity unless they are absolutely willing to make it a two-way street (hence the real definition of tolerance).

That is my hope and desire. The better way provides a safe space for all sides to listen and speak. A true conversation (a mutual sharing) can take place without stereotypes and harsh judgments. Speaking as a Christian, I think you might be surprised how understanding and grace-filled people of faith can be to those who see things differently.

My beliefs are strong on many social and faith issues that are shaped by my Christian faith. I do not apologize for that. And neither should people with opposing viewpoints apologize for theirs. I am grateful for the opinions of others. To have a stand on any issue is not being close-minded. It’s simply being honest. I pray that my beliefs will be tolerated, just as I am equally willing to tolerate others. That is a two-way street. That is tolerance.

The Rev. Ken Reed is pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, China Grove.

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