Pondering tolerance

Forgive me if I fail, but I’m going to try to make this post more thoughtful and less…rantful. It’s a subject that’s bothered me for several years now that has reared up again with the election of the new Pope.

Why is it OK to bash Christians (especially Catholics) when the same people doing it would never dream of criticizing other religions? They’d never Buddhist bash, or Muslim bash, or Jewish bash, or Zoroastrian bash, but gosh aren’t those Christians/Catholics ridiculous with their hopelessly outdated stance on X or Y or their preaching about this or that or their refusal to allow so-and-so to do such-and-such or their horrible history of (some heinous thing). Oh, and what about those funny clothes and silly rituals? They believe what? They do what? Oh no way! People who buy into that must be crazy or idiots or both.

I’m certainly not here to say Christians/Catholics have done/can do no wrong, or that I agree with all the Church’s teachings. I’m as appalled as anyone by the child sex abuse scandal and cover-up. My point is that I don’t understand when — and why — it became acceptable, cool even, to openly criticize, denigrate, and yes, downright hate Christians when it’s so completely unacceptable to do so toward other religions?

The first time this struck me full force was several years ago, when I attended a performance of The Vagina Monologues, not really knowing what it was about, but thinking it had to be cool, hip, funny, women-friendly. Right? Instead, I found it so offensive in its Catholic/Christian bashing (especially given its very unfortunate timing right before Easter, during Holy Week) that I desperately wanted to walk out, and to this day am sorry I didn’t. I just sat there in my seat, thinking, “No WAY would those performers be up there making fun of other religions as they are Christians/Catholics. And no way would the audience be there laughing along if the show dared  to be so ‘politically incorrect’ toward what seem to be ‘protected’ religions and followers.” Who would (dare to) laugh at a Muslim or a Jew being maligned? I sat there fuming, and feeling sick. And I’m not even a regular church-goer or religious in the traditional sense, although I do have a strong faith and strong beliefs and, I hope, a strong sense of right and wrong.

Since then, I’ve observed this phenomenon many other times, in social media and mainstream media. I am so often told to be tolerant of others’ beliefs and not to label all with the same broad brushstroke. I’m expected to respect what are *obviously* honorable religions, around for thousands of years for goodness’ sake. I’d be labeled the worst kind of ignorant bigot if I dared to criticize “what I don’t understand.”  Just be tolerant, says Hollywood, politicians, academics, journalists — you know, *enlightened* people. (Actually, Jesus said it, too, but again, he has that Christian/Catholic thing going on, so….)

The hypocrisy is so blatant. I truly don’t understand why the offenders aren’t called out for it? Why it isn’t as unacceptable as, say, bullying or telling racial or ethnic jokes?

As a Christian, I am supposed to turn the other cheek, and really, what else can I do, except maybe question the hypocrisy, as I am trying to do here. I think I’m supposed to pray for the people doing it, so yes, I can do that. And I can pray for my own understanding, and my own tolerance. But I’d really like it if anyone out there can give me any insights on what I’m missing or don’t understand. I’m trying to view the situation objectively, though because I have strong feelings and an obvious opinion about it, maybe I’m completely missing the boat?

Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole
world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood.
~ Pope Francis I