Intolerance and Egalitarianism: A Follow Up

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous asks me in regards to my post from earlier Friday, The Intolerance of Egalitarianism:

[I]s toleration really enough, especially in the body of Christ?

This is a good question. And one that needs some thought.
The emphatic, simple answer is: NO. Mere tolerance is not enough for the body of Christ. Acceptance isn’t even enough for the body of Christ. Inclusion is what the body of Christ is and does to those Jesus gathers to himself. I am included in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in baptism in the way all of the baptized are included. I cannot be more emphatic about this.
But … There is a nuance to this emphatic.
Those who see themselves as called to be the body of Christ in the world — those called to be the church — must be careful about what exactly it is they are accepting and including into. It’s easy for people to come to believe that the cultural and social norms of their time, place and class are the norms of the Kingdom of God and of the Body of Christ. What are people expected to adhere to, to conform with, to be included in? What does it mean to be the body of Christ? Are the ideals and values and practices had in the community the values of the kingdom or merely the values of the community? And how do you tell?
But … There is nuance to this as well.
Because (as a Lutheran) I believe in an incarnational God, a God enfleshed in time and space. That means God is also present in community and custom too. And thus, in some ways, the values and customs of the sanctified community ARE the values of the kingdom. Because God is present in the physical articulation and assembly of God’s people. And, to an extent, God is present AS that very community.
But .. There is yet more nuance to this. 
Because the majority will, practice and custom of the community is not all there is to the articulation of God on earth. Or even on some cute little green acre of earth. (Or benighted, dusty acre of earth.) It’s demands are not God’s will for all people. Or even all people within its reach. The guest, the stranger — that person is also the presence of God on earth. That person is also God incarnate.

And so, both those welcoming and the one being welcomed must remember that they meet God in the other. Yes, among any group of people, there is a “This is how it is done here.” And it would behoove a wanderer or a guest to learn those things. (It would also be nice of those in the majority custom do this teaching with tolerance, patience and kindness, as opposed to cruelty and cluelessness.) Especially if the wanderer is settling down. But the settled community would also best remember that “This is how it is done here” has its real emphasis on the “here.” “This is how things are done here” is NOT the same as saying “this is how people do things.” And God help the community that mistakes the “This is how things are done here” with “This is how all well-adjusted people should or should want to do things.” THAT is the true intolerance of the liberal.

And the settled community should also remember that there are true and honest differences in individual human beings — and not merely abstract groups, because we are children of the Living God, and not merely the sum of which Venn diagrams we belong to — that, because those differences, even differences of “choice,” reflect the many ways in which God is present in the world and to the world, should at least be tolerated.

Because too often the demand for conformity (and the mistake that conformity within the community of the faithful is THE proper practice of the sanctified community) is an end in and of itself. And this gets me back to the original part of Millman’s claim, that the more egalitarian the community, the less defined and visible the hierarchy and thus the identifiable place within the community, the more the community needs and enforces conformity. And the less tolerant that community is of actual, individual human difference.