More than tolerance...

The word "tolerance" appears countless times in Scripture... said no one ever

I did a BibleGateway search recently for the word tolerance within the New Revised Standard version, the translation we use at seminary and that is utilized by many United Methodist congregations. And guess what: the word doesn't appear once. Not a single time.

Then there's the word love. In the NRSV, excluding the Apocrypha, it appears 641 times; including the Apocrypha, it shows up 731 times.

And yet there are those who would tell the Body of Christ that it is enough to simply tolerate members of the LGBTQ community, who advocate that such a mentality is completely within the expectations of living biblically.

Are you kidding me?!?!?!

If I want tolerance, I know plenty of places where I could have such an experience. Sadly, more than any other place that comes to mind, there is the Church. Granted, I'm not talking about congregations belonging to those denominations that are typically thought of as being more "progressive." I'm talking about faith communities where the emphasis is overly placed on personal holiness and where the necessity for justice is almost completely overlooked.

I realize that, when it comes to conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity, we have 2,000+ years of "tradition" that must be sorted out, discussed, and addressed. It's not easy, I'll admit. Even I struggle with how my sexual orientation impacts my faith, my relationship with God and others, and my own personal morality. But still, I try. I ask the questions, knowing that there is a chance the conclusion I reach might not be the easiest to face, much less merge into my life.

I know people who are trying to engage the "evangelical" world on issues of sexuality and gender expression. I know the pushback they experience. However, in my experience, if you tell the average run-of-the-mill Christian exactly what to do, delineating what their specific endpoint should be, once they reach said endpoint, they stop moving, stop growing. They become stagnant, complacent, and complicit. They stop asking questions. They think that what they're doing, how they're living, is enough. They're all set. There's nothing else to do, no other goal for which they should strive.

In the life of a person seeking to follow Christ, there is no such thing as enough. From my perspective, if a believer's mission is to love God and to love neighbor, which according to the Big Guy himself, it is, then there is always a way to love better, to love more. No one has enough love in their lives. No one has loved to the end of his or her limits, and if they think they have, then there is more to be bestowed upon them. More love for them to dole out.

Who wants to simply be tolerated? Not me!!!

It's human nature to want to feel sincere, authentic, unconditional love. We want to feel accepted, embraced. We want to be known for the fullness of who we are. When we enter into relationship with a person, we don't want to hide it. We want to shout it from the rooftops. This is the nature of love. It wants to move outward.

Tolerance on the other hand is isolating and insulating. It strives to set clear divisions between those who belong and those who are deemed undesirable. Don't get me wrong. Part of the human experience, as I see and have experienced it, is annoyance. In our closest relationships, there are frequently traits and quirks that others express that we find obnoxious. Hell, I can think of some of my own traits that I'm often annoyed with (like the fact that my vocal pitch goes really high when I'm excited... we're talking dog whistle high). But still, usually, we still love people regardless of these quirks and annoyances.

This isn't the kind of tolerance I'm referring to. I'm talking about the fact that there are people giving evangelical Christians permission to merely put up with LGBT persons, as if it is enough for these Christians to let queer people come to their churches, eat their foodsing their songs. It's enough to have them around. But by not charging the church world to truly, deeply, and authentically love queer people, these "advocates," these "allies" are giving conservative Christians a cop-out way of living up to Christ's commandment to love God and to love neighbor.

Just so you know what I'm talking about, read now the words of Matthew:

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

Just as there is no end to the love offered to us by the Creator, neither is there and end to the love we are called to live into. Notice in the above passage the lack of footnotes, asterisks, commentary. It's simple, clear-cut, and concise. It's direct. It's concrete. When it comes to love, there is no such thing as enough. We can never stop loving, and the call to love pushes us beyond the compromise of tolerance. If we stop at tolerance, we never make it to love, not really. Tolerance allows us to be lukewarm, fence-straddling cowards.

...Don't just put up with me, with queer people

Don't pretend to love us without really loving us. Don't exploit our gifts without getting to know our person. Don't be afraid to tell us what you think—we certainly won't be afraid to express how we feel. If you don't really want us around, as much as it might hurt hearing it, tell us. We're strong. We're resilient. We can cope. We've done it before. We don't want tolerance. We want acceptance. We want to be affirmed. We want to be loved for the fullness of who we are. All of it.