There is no objective reality. We cannot know right and wrong definitively; what works for me may not work for you and I am okay with that. There’s more than one road to an unknown destination that we may or may not call “heaven”, and the route that I choose to take is the best route to take. To call something “evil”, “wrong” or “sin” is to fall into the trap of bigoted judgmental elitists, hypocrisy and the lie of religion.
This is the line of thought that penetrates our culture today. In my third semester as a student at a large state university, I worked as a residential advisor for my school. During our training, we had several hours-days actually-of what the university cleverly titled “Tolerance Training”. The instruction opened with our director stating the university’s recently mandated policy that “we will not tolerate intolerance”. When he said this, I chuckled and scanned the room to see if anyone else had gotten it, until I realized it wasn’t a joke. Later, while filling out the final evaluation for my training, under the question “how could this training be improved?” I wrote: “next time, please provide a solid wall and fifteen minutes for every hour during which I can bang my head against it”. Okay, I didn’t really. But I wanted too. This is because I’m terribly intolerant.
Across the country and world this past week countless people were equally intolerant as they watched the horror unfolding in Newton, Connecticut . Amidst our tears, cries of agony and prayers for healing, the inevitable questions arose: “how could God possibly allow this to happen?”, “how could a good God have made this world?” and “where is God in this?” The answer to all these questions comes in the form of a man stretched out on a cross during the most climatic moment of all history. It was a moment that transcends all time and space, a moment in which He spread out His arms on a cross and bore the sin of a world that couldn’t bear it’s own.
But we can’t stand for this; in fact, we hate him for it. To make our point, every day we stand before him, observe His pain and agony, and spit on his face…because that man refused to tolerate sin, and we cannot tolerate intolerance.
Through our despise of this man, we’ve built ourselves a wonderful society in which tolerance is slowly becoming king, though an undeserved king indeed. We have attributed to tolerance many victories that he himself never won, the war against racism, oppression of women, fundamentalism and homophobia. These are all battles that have been fought and will continue to be fought; everyday, small victories are being won over the hatred and hypocrisy that intolerance brings to the table.
And with tolerance as our king, we’ve built ourselves a wonderful little kingdom of denial. We deny that the response to the question “what is the meaning of life?” might include the created and Creator and a deep intolerance by the latter for the sin that separates them. We deny that this God might actually give a diddlysquat about what happens in our lives, because such a prospect might impress upon our lives the necessity to live for someone other than ourselves and our American dream.
We deny these things, and we whistle a happy tune as we mow our lawns, build up our 401k’s and eventually save enough money to pick out a really nice coffin. We deny that evil exists, because if evil exists then the opposite of evil must exist, and logic will conclude that we will have to live for one or the other. But we don’t want to live for anyone but ourselves. And everyone else needs to tolerate that.
But here is an undeniable reality: on Friday morning a man in western Connecticut woke up and decided this life of denial wasn’t worth it anymore. Not only that, he decided, for reasons we may never completely know, that the lives of dozens of children weren’t worth it either.
This was a man who wasn’t much different than I, we both were raised in America, both somewhat introverted, both confused, lost and (I’m going to wager) felt a little small in this world of denial. So he walked into an elementary school down the road from his mother’s house and started pulling the trigger, which is when we realized our mistake: tolerance doesn’t stop bullets.
Love, on the other hand, does because love is the exact opposite of tolerance.
“I’m sorry,” says the chorus, “how can you love someone and not tolerate them at the same time?” Under such logic, to point out the sin in another’s life is a direct violation of loving them. Of course, our fear of such arises from countless examples of religion’s misunderstanding of intolerance along the lines of the Inquisition, Scarlet Letter and Salem Witch Trials. But now the pendulum has swung the other way. We don’t love the sinner and hate the sin, we deny the sin and tolerate the life, hope and soul out of the sinner. We watch a child stick their hand in hot coals for fear an objection may offend their choice to do so. We forget that Love doesn’t deny the existence of sin; true Love accepts the reality of sin, and with arms spread out, takes that reality upon Himself. True Love tells us we have sinned, and then refuses to tolerate the consequences those sins have upon us. We in turn, scoff at His intolerance.
But there are certain things in life that we simply cannot bring ourselves to tolerate; the mindless slaughter of innocent children is one of them. When viewing the newsreels of crying children running from their elementary school, where evil reared its ugly head and had just shot their teachers, principal, classmates, along with any grasp on innocence we’d hope our children might have, one cannot deny the existence of evil. If there’s someone out there who would examine that situation and proclaim we cannot know for sure if what took place inside that building was “sin”, then I’m not sure I can stand to meet them. And I’m not sorry for my intolerance.
Gun control, mental illness, these are all issues worthy of being discussed, yes. But they aren’t the issue. The issue is our hearts, and the motive behind every decision we make in this world. It’s in moments like this that we must look ourselves in the mirror and truly ask ourselves if we want a world that’s tolerant. We must ask ourselves if we want to live in a society in which morality is sacrificed for plurality. We must ask ourselves if we want a world teetering on the foundation of tolerance or grounded in the reality of love.
I, for one, choose the latter.
Dearest LORD, Maker of Heaven and Redeemer of Our World,
I pray for the town of Newton, Connecticut. I pray that your love, your hope, your light would shine in the midst of this darkest hour. I pray for your comfort, your peace, and your mercy to flood the residents of that town and drown out any illusions of victory evil may have. I pray for your healing, your forgiveness and your redemption to enter every home that sin has invaded and cleanse them all with the blood of Your Son, who came to save us all.
Adonai, I pray for your mercy upon the soul of the killer. I pray for Your mercy upon his soul as I pray for my own; for I am as deserving as death as he, and it is only through the sacrifice of your Son that I can approach your throne with confidence to make this appeal. I pray for his family, who lost their mother as well as any hope for a normal life this past Friday. I pray for your mercy and forgiveness on all of them, and I pray this forgiveness would come through those whom Adam killed.
I pray that your peace and love would free the families of these victims from hate. I pray their hearts would turn towards you and that the moment they seek you, they might find you.
I pray that what looks like a victory for Satan, will show itself to be a victory for you.
I thank you for heros like Vicki Soto. I pray for comfort and hope for her family, and I pray that her sacrafice would never be forgotten, that the memory her selfless, Christ-like act would remain with us long after we’ve forgotten the killer’s name.
I pray for your love and mercy to save us all from ourselves.
Save us, Oh Lord, by your mercy. Save us.