Tolerance as a virtue is easy to confuse with the word “tolerate.” As in I can’t “tolerate” the way he treats her. That word suggests that immediate action is required to do something about a situation. But tolerance implies something quite different and is rarely demonstrated in the present political and religious climate of the United States. I suppose that a colloquial way of putting it would be embracing the idea of “live and let live.”
What would it mean to show tolerance about another person’s religious or political beliefs? Why am I contrasting it with being patronizing towards those beliefs? Tolerance suggests, I think, an ability to respect another person’s ideas without agreeing with them. I think that a patronizing attitude shows that I am pretending to respect another person’s ideas but really know that they are wrong. I think people can tell when we are patronizing rather than showing tolerance.
For me this is more of a challenge politically than religiously. It took me many years of exploration to finally plant myself in a Catholic church. I actually do respect other religious views or the lack of them. I am not patronizing in interactions with others about faith. But I evidence much less tolerance about political views different from my own. I am not including racist or anti-Semitic views, just run of the mill conservative outlooks. Here I seem to be having an internal discussion in my mind as I question the person’s intelligence at holding those views! I get flustered and have trouble recognizing their right to disagree with me. I have shown much less tolerance recently, joining with too many Americans in an increasingly polarized country.
May I learn to practice tolerance in politics as I do with religion. May we all.