I was challenged recently to write a piece for a competition to become a new voice on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought.
The challenge isn’t just writing a coherent thought, it is also writing one that can deliver a spiritually based message within the allotted 2 minutes. Then there is the challenge of potentially reading it live on a national radio station to hundreds of thousands of listeners.
It didn’t take long or much prayer to know what to write about: tolerance, and the lack of it, is something that has been placed strongly on my heart for some time now.
Last week alone saw some high profile examples of a lack of tolerance. Caroline Criado Perez received death and rape threats, amongst other abuse, for expressing her view that there should be a female on at least 1 British bank note; the Bank of England had announced that the only current female on a bank note (Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note) would be replaced by a picture of a man. The Bank of England relented and Jane Austen will appear on banknotes in a few years time (see Related Articles at the base of this blog for her account of it).
Vicky Beeching, a social-media theologian also involved in the English banknote campaign, tweeted about her support for those campaigning against Lads’ Mags and tabloid newpapers’ Page 3 models (for those reading this blog outside of the UK both are sources of images of scantily clad, almost naked, females that are sexually suggestive at their best, pornographic at their worst). For that Vicky Beeching received threats and abusive language thrown back at her (again, see Related Articles at the base of this blog for her account of these incidents).
Though both of these have been perceived as feminist issues and not overtly spiritual, both of which are debatable, they are just 2 high profile examples of a lack of tolerance in our societies. Yet these issues do affect Christians.
Tolerance, or the lack of it, affects how Christians can engage with society from a Biblical point of view. Christians have been arrested, detained and taken to court and employment tribunals over comments or practices that others don’t like or agree with. It isn’t just Harry Callahan, aka Dirty Harry, that has shown zero tolerance.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is my Pause for Thought. I would love to hear what thoughts it prompted in you, and I would very much appreciate your prayers for the message’s passage through the competition. Who ever wins, may Christ be glorified.
My ‘Pause for Thought’:
If there’s one thing I can’t stand… it’s vegetarians.
Okay, I am being a little extreme, but don’t give me a salad and expect me to be eat it with a smile on my face.
Our society holds freedom of speech and expression as core values. We commend countries around the world to follow our example.
We also live in ‘the country of me’. We treasure our individual right to thought, belief, and lifestyle.
Sounds good… but a country of ‘me’ can be a country of conflict.
You may not like what I like. You may not want what I want. You may not believe what I believe.
It seems that we are finding it harder and harder to live in harmony with people different from us.
Just watch the news.
How often do you see a debate between 2 groups being respectful and constructive? Not often enough.
Frankly… debates are more entertaining when polar opposites are put together. They become a competition. Tensions are raised, defences are put up. Often all they do is to push people further apart.
But is that very different from conversations we have had with people who don’t agree with us?
How often have you found yourself doing everything you can to win an argument? How often have you felt anger rise up? For me… too many times.
In a country as diverse as ours we need to learn, value and practice another thing if we are avoid conflict in our lives.
We need to learn, value and practice tolerance.
Tolerance isn’t only accepting people who say, think and do what you say, think and do. Tolerance means accepting people with different views from our own, even the ones we don’t like.
It means doing our best to understand other views too. It doesn’t mean having to agree with them.
Jesus did that better than anyone. He calls us to love people who don’t speak, think and do like we do. He even calls us to love our enemies.
How tolerant are you feeling today?