I just finished reading John Irving's thirteenth novel, In One Person. Irving's website says this is the most political of his novels since A Prayer for Owen Meany or The Cider House Rules but for my money it's not even close to being as good. In fact, I definitely enjoyed The World According To Garp, A Widow for One Year, A Son of the Circus, and Last Night in Twisted River much more than this one. Even so, a mediocre Irving novel is never a waste of time, in my estimation.
I'm left pondering a conversation between the narrator, a bisexual man named Bill, and his stepfather, Richard. Richard is commenting on Bill's third novel and says, "...the same old themes, but better done - the pleas for tolerance never grow tiresome, Bill. Of course, everyone is intolerant of something or someone. You know what you're intolerant of, Bill?" Richard asked me.
"What would that be, Richard?"
"You're intolerant of intolerance - aren't you, Bill?"
"Isn't that a good thing to be intolerant of?" I asked him.
"And you are proud of your intolerance, too, Bill!" Richard cried.
I am probably guilty of the same intolerance of intolerance. But as a pastoral leader, I think about it often. What are the limits of inclusion in a Christian community, or any community? Is it possible to tolerate, and even welcome and love, the intolerant, the uninformed, the bigoted ones who would limit God's goodness and God's grace?
If radical hospitality is our goal, than how do we make space at the table even for the intolerant ones? And if we don't, then how are we any different?