One of the strange ironies of my new life in the country is that my circle of friends out here is much more diverse than it was back in the big city. All our city friends fit in more or less with the granola belt of Winnipeg where we lived. Out here, I count as friends a family preparing for the end of oil, a young fella who burns up the gravel in his monster truck, an organic farmer, a cropduster pilot, a homophobic church granny and two country mamas who have promised to be wife and wife until the end. Each one dear to me in their own way.
Somehow, "tolerance" is not nearly enough to describe either my feelings for these folks or to describe an ethic by which this checkered neighbourhood can move toward what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the beloved community." Tolerance is a rather thin value that comes out of a progressive liberal idea of freedom: Freedom as the right to be left alone. Hardly a community-building vision.
No, we need something else to stir us to neighbourliness. Against the by now well-worn warning that peace is best kept by leaving religion out of things, I am turning to Jesus: "Love thy neighbour as thyself" seems a good starting point. And maybe that's all that needs to be said. That teaching alone takes a lifetime to live into.
But there's more. As a Christian, I recall that the when the Living Truth showed up in person among us, the knives were soon out, in the name of religious purity and state security. That should give me great pause to condemn anyone whose truth looks a little different from mine, particularly if they are in a minority position.
I am discovering that the more my identity is in Christ, the less I need my identity to be propped up and reflected back to me by others who affirm my particular notions and commitments. The more I am in Christ, the more I am free to love others as they are, because I have discovered myself as loved as I am.
Jesus risked his own obliteration in his gift of himself to the world, so I don't see why I should insist my friends recognize Jesus. (By which I could mean that I might wish I could make my homophobic friends recognize the Christ in their persecuted gay neighbour, just as I might wish I could make my antireligious friends recognize the good news of Jesus' gospel.) Before any of that, I hope that in our interactions my friends are able to recognize love.
It really is a rainbow neighbourhood out here, with beauty in every colour. I can't say how all the pieces fit. I don't know how to articulate the deep unity I sense that goes way beyond unanimity.
I do know that all any of us really want is to be loved. Compare that to tolerance. Who of us really wants to be "tolerated"?