John Livingston

Tolerance vs Intolerance

Growing up in central Ohio and in a community dominated by Irish and German Catholics and Scotch Irish Evangelicals I was exposed to many media evangelists. Billy Graham, Sister Angelica, and the Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen were favorites in my family and in the homes of many of my friends. I read many of their sermons and homilies even today and I find them more inspiring and relevant now than I did then.

All three of them at various times opined about the issues of tolerance vs acceptance. All three proceeded from a Biblical predicate that I find missing today and that our modern-day pastors seem to be forgetting—in my most humble opinion. A quote from Bishop Sheen makes my point better than I ever could. It was written in the early 1950s:

“America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance — it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.”

There is a difference between tolerance and acceptance. Go to countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or China if you want to see societies that don’t embrace either concept. When our religious principles do not conform to the political narrative or agenda of the political left, we are called names like “bigot” or “homophobe”, “misogynist” or worse of all CHRISTIAN! Name callers are anything but tolerant —in my most humble opinion.

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As Christians we are called on to “love our neighbor” and “love the sinner and hate the sin” but we are not called on to accept acts that are sinful and destructive. We are asked by the secular progressives to stand by when a mother destroys the life of her child. The moral predicate for our beliefs? —”Mary said yes”. Ronald Reagan once said: “that it seems to me that people who favor abortion have already been born”!

We are asked to allow and tolerate for men to compete as women against women. We disagree with their premise. The moral predicate for our beliefs? —Genesis 2: I paraphrase if you please, Man and woman were made “for each other” – not that God left them half-made and incomplete: he created them to be a communion of persons, in which each can be “helpmate” to the other, for they are equal as persons (“bone of my bones. . .”) and complementary as masculine and feminine. This “complementarity” can be expressed in the vocation of marriage, the religious life, or as a single person. Men and women are not the same in their bones and flesh, nor in their unique spirits that are made in the image of God.

As a Christian medical doctor, I am told to be “tolerant and accepting” when I see young girls having mastectomies with a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” before they even go through puberty. I didn’t have a very mature understanding of sex, love, or gender issues until I was well into my adulthood. Neither do most people. Neither do those young people whose parents are making life-changing decisions for them and denying them their own free will that they should be allowed to exercise when they become adults themselves. I am neither tolerant or accepting of any form of body mutilation except when used to justify a procedure to remove a cancer or to mitigate an acute traumatic event that would be an indication for the procedure. Gender dysphoria is NEVER and acute diagnosis that would require an emergent pharmaceutical or surgical intervention.

I am not against “civil unions” —they have existed since the time of “contract law” and have been upheld in courts of “equity and law” long before they were codified. I am against marriage in the church being anything other than being between a man and a woman because it is my religious belief that marriage is a sacrament and a covenant to which God is a party. There is no law, code, or statute that can make me believe otherwise. When our US Congress codified “same sex marriage” and at the very same time failed to support and amendment supporting “religious liberty” it said a lot to me about which side is “tolerant”.

Like an umpire making a bad called third strike—I must “tolerate” the call, but I don’t have to “accept it”. In one of his later sermons Bishop Sheen summed up the situation:

“Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil … a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons … never to actions or truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error … Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory or operating room. Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things, we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.” — Fulton J. Sheen.

One final word from Fr. Sheen that informs us today especially considering what happened in Congress last week:

“A religion that doesn’t interfere with the secular order will soon discover that the secular order will not refrain from interfering with it.” — Fulton J. Sheen


Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him about his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.

Galatians 6:1 “Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted.”

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 “We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good.”

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