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Tolerance isn’t enough

Tolerance isn’t enough

British Film Institute featured Love Free or Die and an interview with Bishop Gene Robinson:

Speaking after the screening of the new film about his life and work as the first openly gay and partnered bishop in Christendom, Bishop Gene Robinson talks about the role of religious institutions in civil liberties, explains why tolerance isn’t enough and gives everyone who sees the film a mission of education.


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When there is no conflict, there is peace.

Nicole, where there is no conflict, there is no conflict. There may be peace, but, then again, there may not be peace. A state of simmering resentment is hardly peace, though there may be a lack of open conflict. Mind, I do not refer to you when I speak of simmering resentment.

And I believe the Gospels show that Jesus disturbed the peace on a good many occasions, so I rather doubt that Jesus thought peace was all that matters.

The heart of the Gospel, as I see it, is Jesus’ teaching to love God and love our neighbor and to do as we would be done to. Living out these teachings is about how we act, our practice of accepting people as they are, and, of course, we cannot force acceptance by others in return.

June Butler

Nicole Porter

I attend a parish in a diocese that the majority are highly liberal (at least on the surface). Some of those people in my parish in fact are LGBT. My beliefs have not wavered despite this fact. As my family and place of employment are not in dioceses like Central FL and Albany (and don’t have a desire to transfer and move), I tolerate what goes on and choose my associations in my parish wisely. When there is no conflict, there is peace. Peace is all that matters in my opinion.

David da Silva Cornell

Bill, re needing everyone to celebrate/approve us: That’s not actually what I was saying, and you and I very much agree on that. But there’s a serious difference between (a) “needing” everyone to celebrate/approve and (b) fighting homophobia and transphobia and laying the groundwork for societal change, change within the Church, etc. — for which acceptance and embrace by others *are* in fact needed.

Do I need my fellow Floridians’ approval for me to be personally OK with being gay? Of course not. But do I need them not to vote against my civil rights and those of other LGBTs and their families? I sure do, and leaving Aunt Betty comfortable in her voting choices (say, on the anti-same-sex-marriage, anti-civil-union constitutional amendment we had here a few years back) is not going to work toward justice.

Moreover, as I noted in my preceding comment to Nicole, the data supports not just being out to Aunt Betty but engaging her about the legal, political, etc. realities of one’s life. I have a number of years of involvement in leadership with national, state, and local LGBT civil rights organizations, and I’ve seen the data from all levels: Having those conversations with Aunt Betty — no coercion, just honest chat — *does* in fact, on the aggregate level, change hearts and minds — and so change the world.

And frankly, in a world in which LGBT kids are still offing themselves, due in no small part to messages many of them hear at church, I and many others can’t just not attempt to get through to Aunt Betty. The stakes are too high. It may or may not be effective on her in particular, but in the aggregate those conversations *are* changing the world.

In short, in urging those lunch conversations with Aunt Betty, +Gene has empirical data on his side.

David da Silva Cornell

I did listen, Nicole. I listened before I first posted, and just for certainty I listened again before this post. And I don’t at all take from it what you are taking from it. Perhaps it’s because I’ve had the benefit of having read and listened to him a fair amount in the past, but I don’t think so. The only way I can get your interpretation out of it is to project in things that just aren’t there.

You may disagree with our view — well, no, you apparently *do* disagree — but for those of us for whom the non-embrace of LGBT people, as we are made by God, is fundamentally the same as not accepting and embracing women, or members of visible minorities, or left-handed people, or whomsoever, in each case as they are made by God, *of course* we are going to seek a future in which folks have all moved past exclusion, then past “tolerance,” and right into genuine “embrace and celebration,” as +Gene puts it.

+Gene, of all people, surely understands the pathway to that embrace. I’d encourage you to read “In the Eye of the Storm” (his autobiography) and see this film; those may provide context for you.

But purely as a matter of empirical data, +Gene is right about the cumulative effects of those conversations with Aunt Betty. Again, we’re not talking “forcing” anybody into anything, as you originally framed it. We’re talking about — and what +Gene was talking about — is the simple effect of “coming out” to family and friends as LGBT and then having the honest conversations that clarify for those loved ones what our lives are like and how their votes and other behaviors collectively affect us. Poll after poll, study after study, have shown that the single greatest factor in supporting LGBT equality — in law or in church — is having at least one LGBT person as friend or family. It humanizes the questions, plain and simple. And analyses of state legislatures show that when there is at least one openly LGBT legislator in the body, who speaks of her/his life with her/his colleagues, votes change. It’s simply harder to vilify LGBT families on the floor of the legislature when your colleague Jane has told you of the kids she and her wife adopted. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera — the evidence from a variety of contexts is in fact that familiarity breeds not contempt but compassion for LGBTs.

Is it 100%? Of course not. But the effect is real. Where do you think the sea changes in support for LGBT rights have come from over the past several decades, and especially the last few years? It comes from the cumulative effect of untold numbers of comings-out, and the having of conversations with family and friends.

I’m honestly amazed you perceived all that coerciveness in what +Gene says here. It’s only for a minute on the video, after all, and he just says that the world would be changed if all LGBTs had those frank conversations with their own Aunt Bettys. No coercion, just lunch and chat. And disbelieve as you might, the data, and the tide of history over the past several decades, says that +Gene is right.

Bill Dilworth

David, parse it however you want; I’m sure that if I told Bishop Robinson, “No, tolerance is enough” he would probably disagree and reiterate that it’s not. I’d call it insisting, you evidently call it something else.

I think that “winning hearts and minds” is perhaps what we ought not to try consciously to do. We should be living our lives with integrity, and give the people for whom tolerance is all they can manage some room. Leave Aunt Betty alone. Stop telling her how good gay is; let her see it in your life for herself.

I did notice that in focusing on my word choice you passed over my point about not needing everyone to celebrate/affirm us. I honestly think the need for exterior approval is a very unhealthy way to approach life. Other “minority groups” (in quotes because some places are in fact minority majority) don’t seem to voice that need or expectation, or to find tolerance unacceptable. Why do we insist – oops, excuse me, gently suggest – that others need to affirm us?

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