Love and tolerance by Dianne Reilly

How’s your tolerance level?

I recently heard of a new study out of the UK that found that Gen Z (today’s 13–24-year-olds) are “less open-minded and more intolerant than older generations.” Which, as the parent of one such Gen Z, shocked me at first because I cannot think of anyone more tolerant and accepting of others than she is. Indeed, her entire cohort of friends are the most caring, accepting and socially just people I know, often putting us adults in our place for our small-mindedness and bigotry.

However, the report went on to say that Gen Z “have very little tolerance for people with beliefs they disagree with. They don’t believe in unrestrained free speech, with nearly half agreeing that ‘some people deserve to be cancelled’ (by cancelled they mean having their social media accounts shut down, nothing more sinister than that).

Further investigation into the report actually identified that Gen Zs are most intolerant of, well, intolerance itself – and that the voices they wish could be cancelled are those that are oppressive, discriminatory, biased, cruel, abusive or unaccepting of difference. Gen Z are arguably the most liberal, progressive, socially just, and accepting generation to date.

One article I came across was vehement in its criticism of Gen Zs for their ‘humanist’ approach to life, claiming that they obviously hate God and called on these misguided youth to cloak themselves in ‘God’s armour’.

When we consider why the numbers of church goers is dwindling, we need go no further than this mentality, because these are the views that turn Gen Z, X and Y away from religion, the church and from faith. With rising levels of mental health problems, anxiety and suicide among Gen Z, is it not time to find a better way? To be not only tolerant, but accepting? To actually put “love thy neighbour as thyself” into practice?

This view that humanists are somehow against God bothered me, until I came across the term “Christian humanists”. These are people who value universal human dignity, individual freedom (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else), social justice, love and acceptance, arguing that these principles are the essential components of the teachings of Jesus.  

Was Jesus the first ‘humanist’ then? Maybe it was the Good Samaritan?

While considering these questions, I checked my own tolerance level, and found that it is at times lacking and could be better. It is not that hard to test. Ask yourself how you love thy neighbour? Do you accept others as they are? Especially those you love. Not, as you would want them to be but completely as they are because, inevitably, wanting others to change leads only to disappointment.

I think we have a lot to learn from this ‘intolerant’ generation, about what it means to love others in the way that God loves us. Maybe in listening, we will give them a reason to come.