Tolerance and the Quest for Justice

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Desmond Tutu

We must not forget that, even while we aspire to accept and encourage every person who enters a UU space, whether online or in person, we are a covenantal religion; covenant means that responsibility and respect must go both ways. While we affirm the worth and dignity of every person, we do not need to tolerate every action or even idea. In fact, to do so would be a grave mistake.

If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

– Karl Popper

If we allow bigotry to go unrebuked, then we embolden the bigot. It is not enough to be tolerant and open-minded yourself if our goal is to make the world more compassionate and just. In a society where bigotry is entrenched and systematic, it is not enough to not be a bigot one’s self; we must stand actively against bigotry in all forms. We must not only not be racist, not be sexist, not be homophobic; we must be active in breaking down racism, patriarchy, and the oppression of the LGBTAQ community.

It is not enough not to disparage or mock those who are different from ourselves, we must be ready to defend them.

We must not be neutral in our actions and our words. We must not let our silence be mistaken for one moment as permission. We must never be silent when our words or deeds can defend the rights, the dignity, or the humanity of another. It is not enough to claim to be egalitarian while others in our community or indeed our world are being actively oppressed.

We are called to be more than quietly tolerant. We must stop merely standing by and make Love our verb of choice. We are covenanted to affirm and promote the worth and dignity of all people, and that cannot be a passive pursuit. We must stand visibly and speak boldly against oppression, marginalization, and bigotry.

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