Intolerance – Our Kryptonite
By Tihut Tefera with commentary by Deacon Gerry Palermo
I am a faithful Greek Orthodox Christian who is not in the habit of announcing that to all that I encounter as a way of validating my membership but rather worship privately and try my very best to live my life in keeping of the scripture. I am also UNAPPOLOGETIC about my faith and have ZERO tolerance to those who will either try to ridicule my belief system as nothing but a cult or attempt to silence my expression of it to appease THEIR disdain for it.
Liberty of Conscience
As a fierce defender of liberty, I would picket with the best of them any day of the week to defend one’s RIGHT to not believe and to be free of any discrimination in the name of religion or any law/governing impositions as a derivative of MY religious beliefs – secularism.
Friend to All
I am an ally to all citizens of the world that chooses to live their authentic self in a way that is true to them than what is agreeable with my chosen way of being or believing. This is not a lack of conviction but rather an introspective understanding that the vastness and wonder of the world God created for us is quite sufficient to host ALL of us to live exercising the freewill HE conferred onto us. To me this is the very tenet, the “Golden Rule” of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Matthew 7:12. This maxim is NOT an exclusively Christian concept so where is the reciprocity from none-believers or disillusioned ones being extended in kind to the faithful ones? Now that the framework for this article is somewhat established let me delve into my observations.
Just to set the tone from the start, I am not sitting on some soapbox like someone who is above it all (i.e. the subject of intolerance to be discussed at length below). No, in fact I am painfully cognizant of the fact that when a finger points, three points back. So I am not lecturing as if am the “Master” – as contrary is true for me in that I am an eternal work in progress – but my approach here is more a call (or an invitation if you will) for reflection & for the obvious need of self-evaluation & subsequent awareness. It is my unprofessional but rather observant diagnosis that MOST of us suffer the consequences of insufficient reflection. These consequences are both detrimental and generational if not remedied in time.
Small Event – Big Impact
A negligible and in truth an inconsequential, i.e. on personal front, encounter on Tweeter inspired me to make this post because it is a microcosm of the human phenomenon we are and have been experiencing on a more profound & consequential way. Therefore, I feel it is worth my penny.
Intolerance – Our Kryptonite
Though the encounter that inspired this article was an intolerance to expression of faith, my observations of prejudice is an all-encompassing of the many facets of our lives. We are incredibly and almost startlingly INTOLERANT of one another. We are so entrenched and dangerously encapsulated in our way of thinking, believing & being bubble that anything remotely different becomes almost an existential threat that is poised to POP our protective bubble into nothingness.
Primal Fear – A Root
This primal fear & paranoia; born almost exclusively out of intolerance, is leading us into the madness we see spilt on to the streets, in our work place/market, schools, place of worship or non-worship, politics (election, SCOTUS hearing, policies, governing) etcetera. It is in effect driving us into the abyss! We cannot seem to stand or have respect for those who think differently than us, love differently than us, worship differently than us, or not worship at all and live differently than us. YET we beat our chest in a feigned “social activism” for “Equality and Justice” and fancy ourselves to be among the #WOKE.
Superiority – A Menagerie
We regard ourselves as being enlightened and among the “elite” and looked down on others that differ from us because we have fancy titles that validates for us of our presumed “superiority”. Our unfortunate historical precedents have given us false notion of our “supremacy” so we climb over those less privileged without so much us a pause to consider what it means to walk in their shoes. YET all the while, we scream for “UNITY” while we are as divided as we have ever been. YET we want and demand change and say “VOTE for the change you want to see” every four-year election cycle while we remain STUCK in our ways of INTOLERANCE. While it is a catchy slogan that fits nicely in a bumper sticker, how many of us are we doing the real substantive work that embodies and supports the passion behind these catch phrases in a more significant & meaningful way?
We Are the Change We Want To See
Well here is the hard reality of it, WE ARE THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE.
No single elected official, party or governing body is going to magically make the world fairer and more just. It is the collective US. It is in how we treat our neighbors & strangers; it is in how we raise and teach our kids to treat their neighbors & strangers. It is in the moral values, beliefs & principles we hold dear that forms & informs and ultimately is responsible for how we interact with one another, how we live with one another.
The Fruit of Introspection
So, to me the ONUS & WORK IS ON US.
BUT we cannot begin to work on that which we have yet to acknowledge its omnipresence. We MUST first sufficiently CONFRONT and REFLECT on our acquired & learned intolerant behaviors in order to shift to our awareness of moral truth that both demands & deserves our understanding & acceptance of the inherent good in almost all humans NO MATTER OUR DIFFERENCES. To ignore this essential work would be to perpetuate the very misgivings we decry about and it will be a perilous journey that ultimately puts us at risk of rejecting our very humanity. I am as guilty as anyone of all accounts stated above, perhaps the difference is I have long begun the inward look a while ago, though I continue to stumble & tumble…the journey is on a continuum. What if you??? I hope the answer is to either begin anew the wonderous journey of sufficient reflection or to continue its exploration to its fulfillment. Our HUMANITY depends on it.
End of Reflection.
Commentary by Deacon Gerry
I am so grateful to Mrs. Tefera for her thoughtful reflection and willingness to expand her reach beyond the immediate of her Twitter community. It isn’t our first go at navigating differences of opinion, the Great Schism of 1054 notwithstanding, so her words have the power of conviction.
Rejecting the Christian Message of Old
It isn’t the first time. In the beginning of the faith tradition was not warmly received by some. How many of these still exist?
- Atheists – (no imperial worship)
- Incest – (misuse of Brothers and Sisters)
- Cannibals – eat the Eucharistic bread/wine
- Pretentious poor! (social class uprising)
- Bad Citizens (no military service), rejection of Emperor Worship
- Unreasonable (you guys are nuts)
Modern Rejection of the Christian Message
- Enlightenment arguments – traditional (reason, individualism, and skepticism)
- Enlightenment arguments – modern (liberty, human rights, faith in scientific reason, secularism, and the freedom of public debate)
All participants in the public space find themselves with reflection to the contradictions of their own arguments.
- The arguments of reason can be unreasonable.
- The arguments of morality can be a trap.
- The arguments of liberty / human rights can be itself self-contradictory.
- Secularism and freedom of public debate clash at times.
Reflection is Key
I think Mrs. Tefera is right to point out that it is in reflection that we find our answers.
Co-existence and Tolerance as working frameworks are being redefined. What do these words mean by definition and what do these principles mean in practice?
Are we forever stuck in a tribal view of history and destiny?
At the same time have we completely discounted the wisdom of the ages as irrelevant in the digital age?
Fraternity of Adam
However we came to be, do we not have a fraternity of Adam, the first to know of himself?
What should that fraternity include? What is permissible to exclude?
- Noahide Law suggests some baselines.
- Greek philosophers suggest another set of guidelines.
Are we free to abandon any concepts of moral baseline? No, pray God, no.
Fraternity of Christians
From the first of those at Antioch to be known as Christians, have there not been a constant struggle on the definition and implementation of the dogma and the praxis of faith?
What should that fraternity include? What is permissible to exclude?
In either of these spheres of thought (Adam and Christian) forbearance is critical. Yet it is a beginning.
Forbearance presupposes my answer is right and I am to patiently await your awakening.
Seeking Truth in Imperfection
Pope Francis is proposing that we being a new chapter of seeking truth from each any every expression of truth. But to do so requires we make the journey together. Somehow I must and you must be able to hear the deepest meaning of the opinions and feelings of the other before we can have a governing praxis that is filled with peace – a functional peace not based on conquest of thought.
For myself, you know but I state for clarity. I profess Christ crucified and resurrected. I try to live the Beatitudes. I adhere to the Creed as profession of faith. My demands are on myself and those of my tradition. In the public space I want only to have the right speak and live out my profession. I want to not be forced to live out conditions laid out by the State as anathema to me. My obligation to you is not to create artificial conditions of accepting me and my way of life. My obligations is to accept you as you are and not impose anymore observations and conditions that violate our fraternity of Adam.
I invite you (the reader) to the Fraternity of Christians as observer or convert, either way. And even there the battle continues for definition so there is no simplistic answer.
Saint Augustine in his Confessions, Book One, Early Years: Hating Greek and Loving Latin.
[The truth is] that free curiosity has greater power to stimulate learning than rigorous coercion. Nevertheless, the free-ranging flux of curiosity is channeled by discipline under your laws, God. By your laws we are disciplined, from the canes of schoolmasters to the ordeals of martyrs. Your laws have the power to temper bitter experiences in a constructive way, recalling us to yourself from the pestilential life of easy comforts which have taken us away from you.
- To listen.
- To learn.
- To share.
- To debate.
- To accept.
- To decide.
- To adhere.
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
- The peace of the world is domination. I do not want to dominate you.
- The peace of the world is coercion. I do not want to coerce you.
I do ask you to see the way of the Beatitudes as an invitation to journey together. But if you make me choose. I choose martyrdom.
End of commentary.