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If I have a soapbox, it's simply this: tolerance and acceptance are not the same thing.
Conversely, that also means the singular act of failing to accept something isn't the same as intolerance.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion regarding pretty much anything. Our country has sent millions overseas to die for all of our freedoms, with the freedoms of speech and religion towering tall upon their flag stand of priorities. While our laws dictate to some degree what is right and wrong â€” such as actual criminal activity that openly causes detriment to another citizen â€” our country leaves certain other moral choices to the individual, and rightfully so.
The Bible says even God, whose words the book touts as the empirical and infallible truth, wants people to choose to believe in Him because, without making that decision, there is no true "belief."
The social struggle that arises when people are given the freedom to believe different things is that they tend to do just that. And everyone believes their beliefs are somehow a part of absolute truth, lest there would be no sense in them holding them. Even if you believe there is no absolute truth, that to you is itself an absolute truth.
Hate fuels intolerance. It defines it, and it drags the hater down with it. Intolerance is either ignorance or willful stupidity, and it, like many of the things intolerance targets, is a choice. To choose intolerance is to wish ill on someone who believes or practices differently from you, rather than show them love in spite of those differences. And to practice this way in the name of God or Christian principles is nothing more than blasphemy.
On the other hand, to "accept" a belief or practice is to say you think it is true or you condone it as appropriate. That, however, is relative to the individual, and it cannot be forced.
Homosexuality has become the apparent front where these two lines most often blur, and the Boy Scouts of America has become the most recent lighting rod sparking the debate. The BSA enacted a policy allowing openly gay scouts to join and participate. In response, the Southern Baptist Convention has officially opposed the policy â€” as one of its core beliefs is that homosexuality is a sin â€” and has apparently called upon churches within the organization to cut ties with the Scouts in general.
This issue has infuriated the emotional members of both sides. On one hand, you have the contingent who believes being gay is wrong and "queers" are essentially domestic terrorists who are ruining our once great country. On the other, you have people crying relentlessly for gay acceptance and claiming that groups like the Southern Baptists are essentially domestic terrorists who are keeping our country from being great by staying on the wrong side of history.
Homosexuals are entitled to tolerance under both American law and what I believe is moral code. They are entitled to equal protection under the law, the right to walk the streets safely without fear of random Bubbas chasing them with torches, the right to apply for and obtain jobs without consideration of their sexual preference, and the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness supposedly afforded to us all.
Their lifestyle is not entitled to universal acceptance, meaning that its supporters force the rest of the country to wholesale abandon any personal reservations they may have about the lifestyle's moral merit. They can't demand it, and they can't demand an organization like the Southern Baptist Convention â€” that is entitled to its own opinion â€” support organizations that support that lifestyle.
Holding onto a belief so concretely that you disagree with those who do not is perfectly acceptable and it happens all the time. This issue just tends to get more press than others. Taking measures to stop someone from holding or expressing their beliefs is intolerant, no matter what side it comes from, and should be considered intolerable.
So if you're gay, then so be it. Wave the rainbow flag as high as you like. Just don't resort to beating the non-accepters over the head with one when you start trying to pass them out.
And if you hold to the belief, through the Christian vein or otherwise, that the lifestyle is wrong, so be it. Just remember to love your neighbor as yourself and do unto others as you would have others do unto you.