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Sometimes Religious Tolerance Is NOT Love, It's Laziness Instead!

alec vanderboom

When I was 25, I lived in an interesting housing situation. I was a member of "St. Francis House", an experience in "religious tolerance" at the University of Wisconsin. Twenty students lived in the basement of a beautiful old Episcopal Church in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. We received practically free room and board in exchange for doing tasks around the church and participating in Sunday Mass.

It was so much fun! Most of my roomies were international students from Africa, Asia or Europe. I think there were only three or four Americans in the bunch. It was a huge blend of different religions: Shinto, Buddhism, Muslim, Catholics and unfamiliar (at least to me) Protestants like "the Dutch Reform Church."

Every weeknight we took turns cooking massive dinners for the whole community. I will probably never eat so well again in my life. I developed a special fondness for "Blue Crab Soup" (from Japan) and "Pineapple Mashed Potatoes" (from Columbia).

After three months of living in this diverse religious community, I (a firm Christian) imagined that I was "Miss Tolerance Herself."

Every Faith had something valuable to contribute to world. Each of us were "equal" in dignity. No spiritual path had a "monopoly on truth." Yada Yada Yada.

Then I met Jon.

My tall, thin boyfriend was a Catholic. No surprises, there. He had some odd New Age/Buddhism influences in his Christian thought. No surprises. Jon never said anything odd about Jesus that I hadn't heard a thousand time before by other college students.

The surprising thing, was that I, Miss laid back Christian girl, suddenly cared deeply about he thought about this Jesus Guy. I wanted to correct my sweet boyfriend's mistakes.

So I started arguing with him. I mean, it was INTENSE. One time I remember fighting so intensely about this crazy issue of "if Jesus said no to dying on the cross could God have found a replacement." Jon said "yes." I started yelling at Jon in the car "God only had ONE son. No one could have taken over his place." We were arguing so passionately that neither recognized that we took a wrong turn on the high way. After one hour, we suddenly saw the Mackinaw Bridge in front of us--telling us that we had gone North on a central Michigan highway instead of South!

I didn't recognize this "formerly" laid back girl who was suddenly fighting so hard with her boyfriend--as if it matter what he personally thought about God. In fact, when we got engaged, I remembered our atypical fights over religion with shame. "What if this fighting spreads to other areas?" I worried.

Now that dear husband and I are both Carmelites, I laugh.

I think my deep interest in my boyfriend's personal thoughts about Jesus and God because I loved him! His religious viewpoints directly mattered to me! Jon was about to become my husband. My fellow Carmelite. The Father of my children. In our joint vocation- matrimony-- it is intensely important that BOTH of us are pointing in the right direction in matters of faith.

Sometimes fighting over Faith is a sign of True LOVE and "Tolerance" is simply lazy, self-interest.

(inspired by thoughts from He Adopted Me First and Little Catholic Bubble).