November 19, 2007

To Some, Tolerance Has Narrow Definition

“Hyde Park Baptist Church hopes that the AAIM and the community of faith will understand and be tolerant of our church’s beliefs that have resulted in this decision.”

That accompanied a statement from Hyde Park Baptist (mega)Church that they would not allow an interfaith Thanksgiving gathering to use their facilities this year. Even though the space had been booked in July and the organizers made clear that this was an interfaith gathering, HPBC rescinded the availability of the space a week before Thanksgiving because the even would include Muslims exercising their freedom to worship in Islam.

There was no rental space free for this interfaith gathering, but even for an atheist like myself it is hard to imagine that some other Christian organization wouldn’t step forward and offer space. Instead, Austin’s largest synagogue responded, and will be providing the space for the event.

It’s almost like a semantic game, how some people use the word “tolerance” to attack others and defend their own intolerance. It’s nice to know that some people aren’t interested in playing that particular game.

Of course, the Christians who are involved with this event are saddened by the reaction of the Baptist megachurch.

Flowers said she was disheartened by the church’s decision. “As a Christian, my first response is, what would Jesus do in this situation?” she said.

There are Americans who can help you with that question, and in the city of Austin, they’re Jewish.

Posted by James at November 19, 2007 8:02 AM
Create Social Bookmark Links
Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Edited to add link to the story.

Posted by: James at November 19, 2007 9:47 AM

Awesome. Even more awesome that it was a synagogue that stepped up. Christianity in general has strayed so far from the teachings of its proclaimed Messiah that I don't think Jesus himself would recognize it anymore.

Posted by: pippa at November 19, 2007 10:38 AM

JP, I read this to G... his first thought was that they should have held at the TXRD track. /shakes head

Posted by: pippa at November 19, 2007 10:40 AM

Yeah, hmmm.

I think most sane people acknowledge to some extent that the Baptist-flavored Christians do not live by the teachings of Christ, at least the Christ from the Sermon on the Mount.

But I can't take very seriously the Christians who defensively claim, "They don't speak for all Christians," when they're not doing anything about it except verbally distancing themselves from the rabble. It's sad a "true Christian" church couldn't pony up a venue.

Posted by: Maggie at November 19, 2007 12:29 PM

Color me unsurprised. :(

Posted by: leslie at November 19, 2007 1:13 PM

When I was a kid, and a Catholic, I remember eventually hearing from some protestant Christians (who didn't like the Catholic Church) that we weren't actually Christians.

This was not based on our actions, but on the Church.

As a person, I feel I've learned a lot of good things from Christianity -- specifically from the writings which are attributed to Jesus, but not nearly as much from the organizations.

There may not be a lot of impetus to judge other Christians, but I would find it appropriate for Christians to note that this is not what they view as Christian behavior. Invariably, however, many would rather talk about their rights, and not their behavior.

Who is to say who is a Christian and who is not? Might just as well argue over what the right recipe for BBQ sauce is. However, even the most liberal BBQ enthusiasts would probably object to basing a BBQ sauce on dish soap. It may make it easier to clean the pans, but it isn't going to be BBQ sauce. It's possible to modify a recipe beyond the point of recognition, and, in fact, to the point where the original meaning is lost.

Your new directive may be to keep the pans as clean as possible. But don't expect my stomach to tolerate your sauce, when you seem to be intentionally make it unpalatable for human consumption.

Posted by: James at November 19, 2007 1:30 PM

So, some religions are just unpalatable BBQ sauce? I like that. It has a sound bite quality to it that today's American can relate to.

And organized religion has taught me plenty. About hypocrisy.

Posted by: briwei at November 19, 2007 1:39 PM

Unpalatable BBQ sauce made with objectionable ingredients.

Posted by: James at November 19, 2007 2:06 PM

Saying "you're not a Christian," "they're not Christians," or "they don't speak for all Christians" is silly, in some cases obvious, and doesn't get you very far.

Everybody (who's religious) has their own flavor of religion, which they label as "Christian," "Muslim," "Jewish," whatever they were taught, in order to get blanketed in under some appeal to authority ("what I believe is true because my god, this guru, and all these other people say so too, even though we don't agree on many things") or to label what most closely represents the way they were brainwashed as a child or the brainwashing they chose to undergo as an adult.

So where does that get you? Why is anyone mad? I guess the Christians who try to follow the teachings of Christ are bummed that such a large and vocal group of Christians act like such anti-humanist assholes, but I guess it's too scary to do anything about it (because what if all of Christianity falls apart, that would be worse because then that appeal to authority dissolves away and now you're just a nut talking to yourself with folded hands (or into a blow dryer, whatever)), or maybe they feel there's no reason to do anything about it. What will happen if they don't? Nothing... at least nothing related to God, the afterlife, etc. What will happen if they do? Then they have to engage themselves in a very silly argument about who their mutual imaginary friend is going to beat up after they're dead. The abortionists? The so-called Christians? The Muslims? How do you argue such a thing? I realize that religious scholars have managed to occupy time and money for years with such nonsense, but I don't know how well it plays in the world today. This is why we must all walk on the eggshells of "respecting belief" -- because if I criticize your belief, my belief is exposed for the fragile invisible nonsense that it is.

Posted by: Maggie at November 19, 2007 6:07 PM

Organized, and even semi-organized religion is eventually about political power (i.e. forcing other people to live by your beliefs), but you can't have organized religion unless you convince many good people that it isn't about political power.

Minority religions seem better, but as they gain political power, they do the same things.

I have a boring essay about this that I should finish one day. But this is where conservatism (in the form of limited government) overlaps with religion (pick any religion you wish, but it's Christianity here and now). If the government doesn't help people, they have to turn to religion. This gives religion political power. If conservatism wanes, people look for secular social solutions involving government, and fewer people are forced to turn to religion in desperation (or for consolation). And so the political and social power of the organized religion wanes, because it's based on people and/or money.

So, if you can strangle the government, and make the people desperate, you have a better chance of filling the churches. And, without government interference, you can use your power to impose your beliefs on neighborhoods and states. You can make life difficult for people who don't agree with you.

Posted by: James at November 19, 2007 6:23 PM

Kind of sheds further light on the whole governing by fear and incompetence, eh?

Posted by: briwei at November 20, 2007 1:45 PM

Copyright © 1999-2007 James P. Burke. All Rights Reserved