Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"You're a Bigot!"

I was recently told that I was a bigot because I "woship a being who would punish people for holding a different opinion." The conversation devolved into us talking around each other because we were operating from different understanding of "intolerance" and "bigot." Not to mention this person's complete misunderstanding of Christian doctrine.

The issue of "tolerance" is addressed in another post, here. Essentially, to be tolerant of someone there has to be a disagreement in place. If you agree with someone's opinion, position, or behavior, then it is not "tolerance." It's just plain ol' agreement. Being tolerant has to do with how you treat people you have differences or disagreements with.

"Bigotry" similarly deals with how we relate to people who are different, or have different beliefs, than ourselves. According to, a bigot is "a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion." Also, "a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, esp on religion, politics, or race."

So, in order to qualify as a bigot you would first have to be describable as "intolerant." Remember, simply disagreeing or thinking the other person is wrong does not make you intolerant. Disagreement is required in order to be tolerant. Intolerance is expressed in how we treat others. If you treat others different from yourself with toelrance - not wishing ill for them, or thinking them less of a person,  but giving themdignity and respect due any human being since we are all created in the image of God - then you cannot be a bigot.

As followers of Christ, we are commanded to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44), consider others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), treat others the way we'd want them treating us (Matt. 7:12), and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). Also, Scripture tells us that we should not judge those outside the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 5:11), and then we are reminded to have humility becauswe we were once sinners just like them (1 Cor 6:11).

We are commanded to be tolerant and treat those different than us with love and grace.

So how is that bigotry?

Well, according to the individual I was talking with, the very fact that I think God is just when He punishes unbelievers makes me a bigot. But that does not follow.

I love my country, and I think our court system (generally) acts justly when it punishes criminals. Does that make me a bigot? Absolutely not. I am not "bigoted" against criminals because they are of the opinion it's ok to break the law and ignore governmental authority. Now, if I TREAT them differently because of this or think them lower than me or somehow less human, .. that would then be bigotry. But simply acknowledging that lawbreakers get punished does not make one a bigot.

In the same way, those who break God's laws or deny His authority, trying to take His place and be their own god, get justly punished by the rightful, "governing" authority ... God. Accepting the reality of this, and even believing it is just, does not make one a bigot.

Bigotry is only when you allow that knowledge to shade your opinion of the person such that you view them as less than you or somehow unworthy of the basic dignity and kindness due to any human being created in the image of God - and treat them as such.

Simply having a different belief does not = bigotry.