As I sat and listened to two college-age students discuss the outcome of the elections a few days ago, I was not surprised when I heard the conversation turn to Proposition 8. (For those not in California, Proposition 8 was the gay marriage amendment that was on the ballot for the 2008 election. Those who supported Prop. 8 were those who supported the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Those who were against the proposition were supporters of recognizing unions between same-sex partners as a legal marriage with all of the legal benefits.) During the discussion of the two college girls, it became apparent to me that they were surprised and disappointed that Proposition 8 had passed (meaning that marriage in California would be defined as between a man and a woman). They began to criticize those who voted for the measure as being “intolerant” and “bigots.” They specifically mentioned that Evangelical Christians were to blame.
As an Evangelical Christian, I ask, “Am I intolerant because I believe gay marriage is wrong?” I have always thought of myself as tolerant, but I did vote for Proposition 8.
Before you answer, consider the definition of “tolerance”. Webster’s defines tolerance as the “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tolerance)
When I voted, I voted according to my belief that same-sex marriage is wrong. I have a strong conviction that marriage is intended only for a man and a woman as defined biblically. You may disagree. You have the right to disagree. Tolerance does not mean that we have to agree on everything. It means that we must accept one another even if we do not agree.
Tolerance is a two-way street. I may not like your beliefs, but I need to respect the fact that you are entitled to them. You may not like what I believe, but you have to respect that I am entitled to my beliefs as well and can exercise those beliefs at the polls when given the opportunity. When someone says a person does not have the right to vote according to what he or she believes to be true, that is intolerance.
So, is it fair for gay marriage supporters to cry “intolerance?” Maybe they should exercise a little of the tolerance they preach. You may think I am wrong about gay marriage. That does not make me intolerant. It only means I have a different view than you.