Tolerance and understanding

The Best of Chris Rea
The Best of Chris Rea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was involved in local politics, people of other political parties were automatically regarded as misguided, to be pitied, despised or just plain stupid. Arrogance was common and I had to struggle not to be taken up by the prevailing attitudes and struggle to avoid that way of thinking. The fact is, that I have met some lovely people, whose political views may be offensive at times, but who really care about the community.

Learning tolerance is a process for me. It does not mean that I need to compromise my own views, but I must be ready to see other people’s point of view even if I can’t agree with them.

What is true of politics is also true of different belief systems concerning God. I was brought up to believe that other religions were evil, and people who do not believe in God at all were stupid. I now try to be more tolerant and more understanding of other people.

Tolerance has its difficulties

  • Does being tolerant mean that I compromise my own beliefs in God?
  • How can I seek to understand another’s point of view without my faith being shaken?
  • Can I learn to respect the views of other people even when they conflict with my own?
  • Does tolerance necessarily mean that I end up believing in the lowest common denominator?

I firmly believe that I can maintain my faith in a God who created all things, sustains all things and loves me unconditionally – but at the same time I can respect, and understand, people who believe otherwise. That includes people of other religions, atheists and people who are having a hard time believing in a God who loves them.

The opposite to faith is not unbelief. The opposite to faith is indifference. Although I can seek to understand people with views very different from my own, I find it difficult to understand someone who simply doesn’t care!

When we look around us, at an imperfect world, with greed and love, selfishness and generosity and evil and goodness we instinctively believe that somehow justice must triumph. I am very aware of the evils of poverty, corruption and injustice in the world, but it is my firm belief that love and justice will eventually win – and that keeps me sane.

Difficulty believing

But I understand that many people have difficulty in believing in a God who loves all mankind. I really have empathy for those who do not share my faith but who agonise about the problem of evil and suffering in this world.

The song below highlights the anguish many have. It is the story of a little girl, her father, her mother, her grandfather and a narrator. At one level the song is simplistic and theological nonsense. But just feel with the father who doesn’t know how to answer his daughter’s questions. He has questions himself and desperately wants answers.

The little girl, she said to me, “What are these things that I can see?
Each night when I come home from school, when Mama calls me in for tea”.

Oh, every night a baby dies and every night a mama cries
What makes those men do what they do? To make that person black and blue

Grandpa says they’re happy now. They sit with God in paradise
With angels’ wings – and still somehow – it makes me feel like ice

Tell me there’s a Heaven, tell me that it’s true
Tell me there’s a reason why I’m seeing what I do
Tell me there’s a Heaven where all those people go
Tell me they’re all happy now, Papa, tell me that it’s so

So, do I tell her that it’s true? That there’s a place for me and you
Where hungry children smile and say, we wouldn’t have no other way

That every painful crack of bones is a step along the way
Every wrong done is a game plan to that great and joyful day

And I’m looking at the father and the son
And I’m looking at the mother and the daughter

And I’m watching them in tears of pain, and I’m watching them suffer
Don’t tell that little girl – tell me.

Tell me there’s a Heaven, tell me that it’s true
Tell me there’s a reason why I’m seeing what I do
Tell me there’s a Heaven where all those people go
Tell me they’re all happy now, Papa, tell me that it’s so
(Song sung by Chris Rea)

The first time I heard this song, I was in floods of tears. Not for myself but for the millions of people who are hurting and searching for answers. We may have many stock answers for the reasons of suffering and evil in this world; but please don’t let our stock answers harden us to those who are hurting as they seek the truth.

Author: George Dowdell

I was the founder of Karuna Action (formerly Kingscare) and was the director for 24 years. I have now handed control over to younger people but continue as an advisor and trustee. My passion is to see extreme poverty eliminated and to see justice for the powerless.

One thought on “Tolerance and understanding”

  1. This is well said and heartfelt. Thanks for reminding us all. I need to remind myself of these words when I feel like I am veering off course. I keep saying to myself when I write my concerns to legislators – stick to the issues not the person. Sometimes, I fail to heed this advice. Best regards, BTG


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