I wrote the following article a couple of years ago, so I realize that it’s dated in context. However, you will quickly understand the issue, and the timely discussion that follows…I trust you to see the bigger message that came from a small less-than-relevant-or-noteworthy event of a moment and how it applies to a very important and relevant dialogue taking place in our country right now. As always…read at your own risk, knowing that I’m with you at the mirror.
You may have heard about Adam Levine’s unfortunate faux pas on national television this week. (Don’t tune out now even if you have no idea what I’m talking about!!) He muttered a comment under his breath in an obviously emotional moment that revealed his heart. He said, “I hate this country”. If you watch The Voice, you know how intense the eliminations can get and how attached these judges are to their contestants. Adam’s comment revealed his commitment to and respect for his team. It also revealed his bias and his humanity.
Here’s the thing. Adam has taken a very vocal stand in his personal and professional life against the intolerance he sees in other places and people, and he practices an attitude of tolerance. He seems to be a truly, genuinely nice guy; the appearance of tolerance is certainly attractive. The problem is that it’s a lie. None of us is truly tolerant. Adam’s comments expose the lie for what it is. What he really said, reading between the lines, was, ‘I hate that people liked country music more than what my team sang today’. ‘I hate the diversity represented by the democratic process’. ‘I hate that not everyone thinks the way I do, nor shares my taste in music’. ‘I hate that I did not get my way because other people are different from me.’
That is not tolerance. It’s…preference…partiality…prejudice. These are traits common to the human condition, but (pardon my personal opinion here) this is a truth that a tolerant philosophy will not own. Humility is required in order to admit that we favor certain people over others and dislike entire groups of people for no good reason. Just try admitting it out loud in your next Bible study meeting and you’ll see what I mean! (Oh…did you think I was talking about “them” and not you?) Jesus condemned this attitude of partiality as sin – God condemned it long before Jesus came. If a tendency to show partiality didn’t exist within us, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning, would it?
Get real with me here. If you will shake out your ruffled feathers for a minute, I’ll bet you could easily name 10 groups of people you dislike or who make you suspicious.
1. Bad drivers
2. People who talk too loudly on their cell phones in public
4. People who are overweight (ouch)
5. Muslims (now we’re gettin’ real)
6. Liberals /conservatives
7. Democrats /Republicans
8. The president (too close to home??)
9. Illegal aliens (hurt your feelings now??)
10. Unbelievers (you know it’s true - just think Chik-fil-A!)
Plus car salesmen, ‘customer service’ reps, those people selling magazines door to door, insurance salesmen, computer hackers, telephone solicitors, financial planners, men who work in day care, Catholics and the whole Catholic establishment, people with tattoos and nose rings, school administrators, the Los Angeles police department, Disney, New Orleans –all of it –, televangelists, faith-healers, prosperity preachers, Joyce Meyer, Calvinists and Armenians (take your pick) people who don’t know the difference between there/their/they’re, people who can’t form possessives using apostrophes (is this just me?), stay at home dads, working moms, the press. The list is as unique as the person making it, but we all have one – a list of people toward whom we are surely intolerant.
The problem with wearing an air of tolerance (whether as a part of your Christian practice or otherwise) is that when you have one of those difficult encounters with diversity, your tolerance is unmasked and revealed to be prideful hypocrisy and false humility. There’s no backpedaling. What Adam said was not so much, “I hate my country” as it was, ‘I hate people who are different from me’. Making him as intolerant as the guy he points his finger at. And if you just thought something along the lines of, “Yeah! All that and a bag of chips!” then you’ve just revealed your own intolerance for Adam and people like Adam. Making you as misguided as you think he is. Shazam.
We would all – believer and unbeliever alike – like to think of ourselves as accepting, loving people who don’t wash after we shake hands with the poor (You may bump elbows with them at the lav – wouldn’t that be something!). We would all like to congratulate ourselves on our holy enlightenment by giving away our Abercrombie to the homeless as if that’s not insulting to them (I digress). But reaching around to pat ourselves on the back makes us too busy to notice our sin. And too full of pride to admit and confess it, turn from it in repentance, and become a debtor to grace. That is the sad condition in which those who practice a philosophy of tolerance find themselves. And, Christian, that is the sad condition some of us find ourselves in. No pointing fingers and saying, “Ah-ha!” unless you’re standing in front of the mirror.
So if I were face to face with Adam I might pat his back and tell him how sorry I am that his philosophy has been proven false and that he has been unable to carry it out and that his idols have feet of clay. I would welcome him to the human race and say that we’re all in this together and we’re all in need of a Savior. I would agree that it’s almost intolerable in its weight, but true none the less. And I would assure him that I’m still a fan.