Facing the Claim of Intolerance

September 06, 2022

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Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello, friends and welcome to the Foundation Worldview podcast, where we seek to answer your questions, to equip you, to get the kids that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they have encountered so they can understand the truth of the Christian worldview. I'm Elizabeth Urbanowicz your host. And today we're gonna dive right into our question. This question says in our culture, Christians are automatically categorized as intolerant. How do I equip my kids to face this claim? Such a good question, because we know that this is true, that in our culture, Christians are consistently faced with the claim that we're intolerant, which actually, when you think about our cultural context makes a lot of sense because our culture just has this mantra of you. Do you? Okay? However, your heart leads you, whatever your inner world is saying, that's, what's the most true.

So what's the one thing that no one should do. No one should tell another person that what they believe or what they feel or what they think is wrong. Where we know that Christianity teaches that there is one true form of reality, and that there is one author and sustainer of that reality, God, the God of the Bible and that Jesus, God, the son is the only way to the father. So our culture views Christianity as very intolerant. So then the question is, as this questioner wrote in, how do we prepare our kids to face this claim? Well, one thing that I always love to encourage parents and pastors and Christian educators, anyone working with children to do is to get our kids to pause and ask, what have I just heard? Or what have I just seen? Or what have I just been confronted with?

Because if we can train our kids to step back and to take a breath and to think through what they've just heard, the chances of them thinking clearly and responding well are so much better. It's the same for us as adults as well. So when our kids hear any word, we want to just train them to ask, how is this word being used? How is this word being used? Because for those of us who have been alive for more than 20 years, we know that the classical definition of tolerance is disagreeing with someone yet choosing to still respect and care for that person. Despite our disagreements, where in modern culture, the word tolerance, the definition has shifted rather than meaning disagreement plus respect. It's shifted to mean celebration of an idea that someone else believes where we know as Christians, if we believe that someone is living in a way, believing something that is not true, that idea is going to harm them.

So if we're genuinely loving that person, we can't celebrate their belief in a false idea. So if we can train our kids first to pause and ask that question, how is this word being used? Well, if we're gonna train them to do that, we also have to directly teach them definitions of words, classical definitions of words. And then the modern versions of those words. For example, a word that we know that has the definition has just radically altered over the past two decades is the word love. And so we need to directly teach our children. Okay. What is the biblical definition of love? And when we look throughout scripture at how God has loved the world at how God's son has given himself for us, that greater love has no one than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. We can help our kids see, okay, the biblical definition of love is sacrificing for another sacrificing, for the good of another cuz that is what Jesus has done for us.

He gave of himself to pay for our sins. And when we're called to love others, we are called to sacrifice for the good of another. However, our culture has drastically changed. That definition, that love is making someone feel good. That's a radically different definition than the biblical definition, because think about this the way Jesus has loved us by paying for our sins, finding out that I'm a sinner that I continually sin against the holy God, I gotta be honest. That doesn't make me feel good. That makes me feel shame. It makes me feel embarrassed. It makes me feel less then. But even though those feelings we might categorize as negative feelings, those feelings line up with reality that if I have sinned against the holy God, I should feel shame. That feeling of being less than is accurate because I have failed to line up with God's perfect standard.

So Jesus has revealed that to me. And then he has laid down his life to make propitiation for my sin. So we want our kids to see the difference in definitions like that, that love sacrificing of yourself for the good of another versus making someone feel good. And we can do the same thing then with tolerance. Okay. The word tolerance classically has meant, like I said, disagreeing with someone, but still choosing to respect and care for them, which is drastically different than the modern understanding of tolerance, which is celebrating someone else's idea whether or not that idea is true. So we want to expose our kids directly, teach them these two different definitions and then we wanna give them examples. Okay. When we're watching a movie, when we hear a conversation on the street, you know, when we're reading a book and we hear the word tolerance, or we hear the word love or any other buzzword out there, faith or justice, any, any word where there's been a classical definition and then it's been altered.

We wanna ask our kids, okay, how is that word being used so that when they hear that they are intolerant, they can stop and think, Hmm, okay. How is that word being used? If I say that Jesus is the only way to God. And then I am labeled as intolerant that person, isn't saying, oh, well you're disagreeing with me, but you're still respecting me. That person is saying you are not celebrating my idea. So we just wanna give our kids just this time to be able to think through words and to train them, to ask themselves, how is this word being used? Because you know, when we face a claim like you're being intolerant or you're hateful, or you're a bigot or you're homophobic or anything else like that, those words can cause us an emotional reaction because we want to love others. We want to be tolerant of others.

We want to practice kindness. We don't want to be hateful towards others. And so we can have a strong, emotional reaction and then not think clearly where if we can train our kids to pause and ask, how is this word being used? We can curb that strong, emotional reaction and think through what is the truth in this situation. The next thing we need to do is we need to train our kids to ask good questions because the immediate response, if someone says, oh, you're intolerant or you're hateful, the immediate response, a knee jerk or emotional response would be to try to defend ourselves. Okay? Because we don't wanna be hateful. We don't wanna be intolerant, but you know, when somebody already has a very strong idea in their mind, if we try to contradict that, usually we're not gonna get very far. However, if we can train our kids to ask questions, one, we're making sure they're not getting backed into a corner because that's what happens when somebody just slings a word like that, a buzzword like that at us.

And we try to defend ourselves, we're backed into the corner, but we can actually help that other person think as well. And we can actually actually love them because you know what, if we just try to argue with people and are trying to defend ourselves, usually it's not gonna work. And also that person who's believing an untrue idea. That person is a captive and we don't want that person to remain a captive. So if we ask questions, we can actually get them thinking. So training our kids to ask good questions is really helpful because asking questions helps us gather more information. It helps us understand where another person is coming from. It helps us understand, you know, maybe is there a lot of emotional baggage behind this question? Why are they making this claim? It also helps us with it also helps us listen. Well, and I mean, who, who doesn't want a child who listens well, you know, we're commanded in scripture to be quick, to listen and slow to speak and so asking good questions, it helps us listen to others.

Well, and as I mentioned before, it also helps others think because when we just respond to someone's claim, we're doing all of the thinking where when we ask a question, that person then has to do the thinking and has to then defend their answer. I saw an example of this, um, a number of years ago now it was, um, it was sometime before 2015 because it was before the Obergefell decision. And I was living, um, in the Chicago suburbs at the time. And I was in downtown Chicago one afternoon and I was walking down Michigan avenue and there was an activist who was walking down the street, trying to engage people in conversation. And so it was very clear, um, from this young man's the literature that he had and everything he was doing, that he was really lobbying for, um, what he would term as gay rights.

And so he walks up to me and he goes, excuse me, ma'am do you believe in equal rights for everyone? And so, because I've spent a lot of time engaging with others and thinking through how to engage with others. Well, I knew that if I just point blank answered his question, it would get nowhere. Because if I said yes, that I believe in equal rights for everyone, which I do believe in equal God, given rights for everyone, he would've then automatically taken that to, okay. Then I believe that gay marriage is a right for everyone. And if I said no, because I knew he was going with that, then I would just be backing myself into a corner sounding like I actually didn't believe that there were equal God-given rights for all humans. So rather than responding to his question, I said, oh, that's such an interesting question.

Can you tell me more about what you mean by equal rights? So I was gathering more information and then practicing, listening to him. So he responded then was saying, yes, I can. He said, do you believe that people should be able to love who they want to love? Okay. Again, knew where this question was going. And this is where different definitions come into play. Do I believe that people should be able to sacrifice of themselves for the good of another, for anyone that they want to? Yes. I believe that everyone that we should all be loving one another by sacrificing for another's good. However I assumed and correctly assumed that this young man was using an alternate definition of love, that the definition of love he was using is sexual love it. Should people be able to sleep with whoever they want to sleep with?

So again, I responded with a question and I first said, you know, I would respond to your question with yes, that I do believe that people should be able to love whoever they want to love. I said, however, people define the word love differently. Could you tell me what you mean by love? And he explained, and the conversation went on and on, you know, until eventually we went our separate ways, but I got to learn a lot more about him and his views because I asked questions. I wasn't backed into a corner because I asked questions and I really hope that I got him thinking because I asked questions and then eventually asked, you know, would you be okay if I shared with you how I would define that word and why I think that word should be defined that way. So that's what we wanna train our kids to do to ask good questions.

So if you're thinking that's great, but I don't even know what kind of questions should my kids be asking. That's a good question. So some easy questions are just, can you tell me more about that? Okay. Can you tell me more about that? Usually as humans, we enjoy talking and as fallen humans, we usually enjoy the sound of our own voices and our own ideas. So if we just ask someone, can you tell me more about that? Usually that's not a very threatening question and people are usually happy to oblige. Another question is, can you help me understand how you are using that word? Can you help me understand how you are using that word? This again, will help our kids dive into how is this person using this word? What do they mean when they say love or tolerance or justice or faith? How are they defining that word?

And you'll notice at the beginning of that question, I said, can you help me? Because if we just said straight up, how are you defining that word? That can seem like a very, um, a very inflammatory question. You know, like you're trying to back someone in the corner, but if you say, if you start with, can you help me understand that saying, I need your help. Can you help me? That's usually a question that deescalates a situation. Another question is, that's an interesting idea. What makes you think that's true? Okay. So first starting off with just, you know, like an affirmative, we're not saying it's a true idea. It's a good idea. It's a beautiful idea. We're just saying, that's an interesting idea. What makes you think it's true? Because a lot of times people don't have any evidence for their beliefs. All they have is their emotions.

And so if we can ask that question, we can learn more about what are they basing this off of. And if we train our kids to ask this question, they can really dive deep and see, oh, is this person actually have any evidence for this belief? And then another question is, have you ever considered any other ideas just to ask 'em, you know, have you ever considered any idea, other ideas, have you ever considered, you know, maybe if you're wrong and then a final question that I like to ask is can I share with you why I think differently about this topic? Just so we're not forcing, you know, a conversation on someone, but just saying, you know, would you be willing to listen if I were to share with you why I think differently? So a great thing to do is just, you know, if you're at home, if you're a parent just around the dinner table, once a week practice using these conversations, okay, give your kids a hypothetical situation and you can even role play.

You know, you can play the person who is, you know, very antagonistic towards Christianity or towards the biblical worldview and just give them this list of questions and have them practice asking these questions because the more we practice something, the more ingrained it becomes in our minds. And then the easier it is to use that question when we're faced with a real life situation. So just practice that at dinnertime, if you're working in kids' ministry, you know, once a month have the kids in your Sunday school class or in your kid's ministry, give them an example and have them practice asking these questions with a partner, same thing. If you're in Christian education, if we can get our kids to practice asking good questions, we can make so much headway in their ability to evaluate the ideas that are presented in culture and also to really engage well with others.

Now, if we're, if we're training our kids to ask good questions, the next natural thing that we have to do is we have to train them to actively listen because in our fallen state, we are all programmed to be very poor listeners. Anyone who's worked with a three year old understands this <laugh> okay. We're just naturally programmed to be very poor listeners. We're constantly thinking of what do I want? What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What am I going to say next? So what an activity that I love to do, and for those of you who have, um, tuned into any of the other Foundation Worldview materials, you know, I use the example all the time. It's even in our careful thinking curriculum <laugh>. Um, but I like to take a tennis ball and use that for an active listening activity. And so what I would do if I was working one on one with a child is I would sit across the room from a child and I would have them.

I would have them ask me a question and I would give them a list of questions. Um, and they could choose one. And they'll ask me the question and then roll the ball to me, I'd catch the ball and answer that question, then roll it back to them. And once they caught it, they would say, so what I heard you say is, and they would paraphrase what they heard me say. And then they would say, is that correct? And they would roll the ball back to me and I'll catch it. And either say yes, that was correct. Great job. And then I'll ask them a question and we'll practice in reverse. Or if they got it wrong, it'd say, no, actually what I was saying was, and then rephrase it, roll it back to them. And then they'd say, so what I heard you say was, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Is that correct? And roll it back to me. If you're working in a classroom situation, you can just break the students up into pairs and give them tennis balls. Just as a warning. If you have anyone in your care who may abuse the tennis ball, Chuck it at somebody's head, you can get something that's softer to roll across the floor, but just to have this activity to practice actively listening, because we don't want our kids to ask good questions and then not listen because you know, they're not gonna learn anything. They're not gonna be thinking well, and they're not gonna be respectful towards the person that they're asking those questions. So really just encourage you to train them to actively listen. Then the final thing, just practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. Okay. Asking good questions, practice, actively listening, practice, identifying the definitions of words. All of the things that we have talked about because the more we practice these things with the children, God has placed in our care.

The more these ideas are gonna be deeply ingrained in their minds. And they're going to be able to use them anytime they encounter a claim such as Christians are intolerant or are hateful, okay. Or anything like that, or even love is love. Okay. That they can just dive down and really get to the root of what is going on here. Well, thank you so much for joining me today for this episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast, as you go forth from here, may God continue to bless you as you disciple the children that he has placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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