Intolerance is Not Enough

Intolerance is not enough.

A functional ethic requires more than mere opposition to perceived abuse. If my ethic is, “I will be mean to the mean people; I will be intolerant of the intolerant people; I will hate the haters,” then I have no ethic. I simply have a prejudice that I believe is justified by virtue of the perceived character of those whom I oppose.

Is racism evil? Yes. Why? Too many people who have vocalized anger over the events that have unfolded in Charlottesville have no basis for their anger other than their perception that racism is mean, and that they themselves are not racist. In other words, the only reason that they can muster for their opposition to racism is their own self-righteous pride. Is that all? Is there no more substance to our protest?

There is more. Racism defies the Scripture.

Racism repudiates biblical teaching about Creation, flatly denying the truth stated in Genesis 1:26–27:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” . . . So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

All human beings, regardless of skin color or ethnicity or place of origin bear the image of God. There are no exceptions. Racism repudiates this biblical teaching about Creation, ascribing less value — and therefore less humanity — to particular groups of people, or ascribing greater value to others.

Racism also repudiates biblical teaching about redemption.

In Galatians 3:16, the Apostle Paul teaches that God made promises of salvation to Abraham. “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” Jesus is the promise of salvation made to Abraham, and to all who, like Abraham, trust in the same promise. Paul therefore continues in verses 27–29, declaring, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

Jesus has come to redeem peoples from all nations of the earth, and in His Kingdom stand a kaleidoscope of human colors and forms and ethnicities. Racism rejects this biblical teaching about redemption, denigrating the full humanity of men and women for whom Christ died.

Intolerance is therefore not enough. If my only line of defense against white nationalism or racism is to hate the haters, then I have no ethic other than self-righteous pride in the fact that I am not among them, which is little more than a prejudice against the prejudiced. Moreover, if the day comes that someone else perceives me to be the hater or the intolerant one, I will have no defense against their attacks, for prejudice admits no argument.

If, however, I am grounded in the Scripture, and if I stand in Christ by faith, then I have solid ground, not only for evaluating and opposing unbiblical forms of thought and behavior, but also for defending myself against the prejudice that resides at the root of all self-righteousness.

Intolerance is not enough.