“Faith, hope and tolerance. And the greatest of these is tolerance.” 1 Corinthians 13, in the “Bland British Values” version, soon to be taught in schools across the country alongside that version of history in which we simply tolerated workhouses, feudalism, Nazism and duck houses.
Is tolerance even a value? Yes it is, and it can be a good one. Is it one of the greatest? No. As Jeremy Hardy said on the News Quiz, “Are we really going to teach an orphaned, traumatised refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo to say ‘mustn’t grumble’?”
Tolerance can be a virtue. Surely we’d rather be known as tolerant than intolerant. Except. Except. We are intolerant of injustice. We are intolerant of persecution. We are intolerant of bullying. Of slavery. Of domestic violence. We are intolerant of political ideology that squeezes private profit from anything that moves, even Child Protection services. We are intolerant of NHS managers getting pay rises before nurses. We are intolerant of the elite ruling political class being vacuous of compassion and labour rights and a sense of collective responsibility.
We are intolerant of the fact that we have reduced the call to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God into a bland aspiration to merely tolerate each other, and for that to somehow be a good thing.
Tolerance. It has it’s place. But it’s got nothing on sacrificial love, thirst for justice, unending kindness and generosity of heart. Those are values to be proud of.