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Is tolerance of intolerance really tolerance, or is it ...

Posted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:50 pm
by ImperfectSikh
... intellectual lethargy or worse, stupidity ?

Please bear with me as I describe the situation. One of my Sikh relatives (she is a cousin twice removed) got married (very young) 10-15 years ago to a Southern Baptist Christian guy (he and his family are very conservative). As may be expected, she ceased to be a Sikh upon marriage in any religious terms, and joined a church (more correctly, a megachurch, in Florida). They genuinely love each other, and while I feel a little sad for her loss of faith, I have maintained cordial relations with her.

I am much closer however to her father, who is one of finest people I know, except in one thing. Like a Sikh is supposed to be, he is very open in religious terms, and respects all ways of life and treats non-Sikhs he knows as followers of the same Waheguru that he and I worship. I agree with his opinion and follow it in my own life. His wife (my cousin's mother, who is my mother's cousin), did not approve of the match and has disowned her only daughter. He has not, and goes to visit his daughter and her children (they have two girls) whenever he can.

Last week, he came back a little troubled. Apparently, his granddaughter, who is obviously being raised as a Christian, asked him if he is afraid that he is going to hell as he does not believe in Jesus (the way a Christian is supposed to). I was not surprised, since I have spent a lot of time on campuses where they try to "harvest" souls for Jesus, but I could tell that he was.

I asked him if he thought that his tolerance of his son-in-law's religious views was wise in retrospect. He could not give me an answer. Essentially, he has become, thanks to the indoctrination that his grandkids undergo in church, an object of pity and slight fear instead of an object of love, as grandparents should be.

His daughter is, to her credit, trying to teach her kids all about her heritage that she can, but all this gossamer talk about theories of tolerance goes only so far, and the harsh reality is that her kids are essentially being raised to pity (if not despise) the faith of her birth. And given that they are the only descendants that this fine Sikh will ever have, his religious views, in a familial sense, die with him.

So, I thought I would pose this question here, and invite comments from people far more knowledgeable about the subject. By accepting the loss of faith of kids under the guise of tolerance (which has, in my opinion, been stretched beyond the point of any common sense, since tolerance is by definition, reciprocal), are we simply not "tolerating" ourselves out of existence ?

I am not opposed to interracial relationships (or even relationships between people following slightly different beliefs) since my girlfriend is a white ex-Catholic herself. But at least I am thankful that should Waheguru ripen our love for each other into marriage, our future kids will not similarly pity / despise my parents.

Re: Is tolerance of intolerance really tolerance, or is it .

Posted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:13 am
by Theodorus
ImperfectSikh ji,
So, I thought I would pose this question here, and invite comments from people far more knowledgeable about the subject. By accepting the loss of faith of kids under the guise of tolerance (which has, in my opinion, been stretched beyond the point of any common sense, since tolerance is by definition, reciprocal), are we simply not "tolerating" ourselves out of existence ?
I think the problem is not sikh tolerance for other religions but the intolerance that other religions have towards a different religion.
Your twice remove cousin has married to a Southern Baptist Christian guy and her father still can visit his grandchildren. That is great as I do know of situations in which this would not be possible at all. So despite being pitied (or even despised) he should count his blessings.
I am not opposed to interracial relationships (or even relationships between people following slightly different beliefs) since my girlfriend is a white ex-Catholic herself. But at least I am thankful that should Waheguru ripen our love for each other into marriage, our future kids will not similarly pity / despise my parents.
Just make sure your kids will not similarly pity / despise your girlfriends parents either.

Re: Is tolerance of intolerance really tolerance, or is it .

Posted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 5:36 am
by Pwetty Sweet
I am so sorry to hear about this situation, but I do know a little about different religious beliefs. I was raised Catholic, and I was taught the same thing, if people didn't believe in Jesus, they would not be saved. I believed this until I was about 14, then I began to question. How can a God so pure not save His very creation? I know I don't have the experience of having your same situation, but when children are growing up, they need a structured religious upbringing. However, I think it is important to share the different beliefs to the children of their own family. To celebrate different holidays with them, Sikh and Christian. And, when the children are old enough, they should be able to pick their own way to God.
All in all, I wish you and your family all the best of coming together!

Re: Is tolerance of intolerance really tolerance, or is it .

Posted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:51 am
by ImperfectSikh
Theodorus wrote:ImperfectSikh ji,

I think the problem is not sikh tolerance for other religions but the intolerance that other religions have towards a different religion.
Your twice remove cousin has married to a Southern Baptist Christian guy and her father still can visit his grandchildren. That is great as I do know of situations in which this would not be possible at all. So despite being pitied (or even despised) he should count his blessings.
I think he does, but his ability to talk to his grandkids at length is limited, and either his son-in-law or his daughter's mother-in-law (who lives very close to them) ask him to stop trying to "ruin their kids" as soon as the discussion even touches upon Sikhi, or other Indian religions. The sense I get is that his visits are tolerated for his daughter's sake, but are not really welcomed. I have no idea about, but can imagine, the stress that it must put on her marriage. In that sense, his wife's decision to disown their daughter almost seems to be the wiser one at times.
I am not opposed to interracial relationships (or even relationships between people following slightly different beliefs) since my girlfriend is a white ex-Catholic herself. But at least I am thankful that should Waheguru ripen our love for each other into marriage, our future kids will not similarly pity / despise my parents.
Just make sure your kids will not similarly pity / despise your girlfriends parents either.
I do not think that there is any danger of that happening. As you said, we Sikhs tolerate other ways of life pretty well.

Re: Is tolerance of intolerance really tolerance, or is it .

Posted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:00 am
by ImperfectSikh
Pwetty Sweet wrote:I am so sorry to hear about this situation, but I do know a little about different religious beliefs. I was raised Catholic, and I was taught the same thing, if people didn't believe in Jesus, they would not be saved. I believed this until I was about 14, then I began to question. How can a God so pure not save His very creation? I know I don't have the experience of having your same situation, but when children are growing up, they need a structured religious upbringing. However, I think it is important to share the different beliefs to the children of their own family. To celebrate different holidays with them, Sikh and Christian. And, when the children are old enough, they should be able to pick their own way to God.
All in all, I wish you and your family all the best of coming together!
Sat Sri Akaal Pwetty Sweet,

Thanks for your perspective. I have heard similar things from my girlfriend. I think that while religious structure is important, barring exceptions (such as yours), the my-way-or-the-highway religions (as I refer to many sects of Christianity, and some others) often close the minds of the kids at a very young age (its the same way in other things - if you are raised to despise people of a certain skin colour, chances are that you will carry that attitude to at least young adulthood).

I do not think that celebrating Sikh holidays is an option for my cousin's family as they are pretty close minded in religious terms. Hard not to be when you go to a Southern megachurch and listen to all those fire and brimstone sermons every week :)

Re: Is tolerance of intolerance really tolerance, or is it .

Posted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 2:28 am
by Jesse Davis
ImperfectSikh,

One of two things seem to be going on here -

either A.) his daughter also believes in what she's hearing at church
or
B.) she's simply allowing the husband and his family to effectively control the spiritual life of her children as a
condition of the marriage.

If she genuinely believes what she's hearing at church, that's one thing. At least she's raising her children to share her beliefs. If it's B., then she's putting herself in a situation where she's going to feel a lot of resentment. It's gotta be hard to look your father in the eye, the person who raised you and loved you and gave you the best part of themselves, and see someone else walk all over them. It has to be even worse when you're an accomplice in it. To take it one step further - how her father has been treated is a reflection of how her husband and her in-laws feel about how she was raised (and therefore, who she is). No matter how much your cousin and her husband love one another, there's some real potential for disaster there.

Now, for her kids, they're going to live in the same world as the rest of us. Their beliefs are going to be challenged. Hopefully they'll prove spiritually adaptable enough to find a way to God (whatever that looks like for them). If not, they'll take the easy way out and either accept what they hear or just give up on God altogether.

Honestly, I think Sikhism loses a lot if it starts to sound like some fundamentalism. It takes courage and discernment to have your own convictions and realize that this does nothing to negate the beliefs of anyone else. When someone starts feeling like they have something to prove, or that they need to take away someone else's sense of certainty to build themselves up, most of the time, they're really just looking for security. And that's really what most dogma is.

I don't know, man. I'd rather not freak out because my kids might grow up and disagree with me. Your cousin and her husband shouldn't be shocked if her kids grow up and get burned out on their particular brand of Christianity. And when they do, you shouldn't be surprised if they start asking questions about the sikhism of their grandfather. Who knows what's going to happen in time?

Re: Is tolerance of intolerance really tolerance, or is it .

Posted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 1:24 pm
by ImperfectSikh
Jesse Davis wrote:ImperfectSikh,

One of two things seem to be going on here -

either A.) his daughter also believes in what she's hearing at church
or
B.) she's simply allowing the husband and his family to effectively control the spiritual life of her children as a
condition of the marriage.

If she genuinely believes what she's hearing at church, that's one thing. At least she's raising her children to share her beliefs. If it's B., then she's putting herself in a situation where she's going to feel a lot of resentment. It's gotta be hard to look your father in the eye, the person who raised you and loved you and gave you the best part of themselves, and see someone else walk all over them. It has to be even worse when you're an accomplice in it. To take it one step further - how her father has been treated is a reflection of how her husband and her in-laws feel about how she was raised (and therefore, who she is). No matter how much your cousin and her husband love one another, there's some real potential for disaster there.
Sat Sri Akaal Jesse,

Thanks for your response.

Obviously, I am not privy to what is going on in their personal lives. My sense is that it is mostly B. She was a pretty strict Sikh before she met this guy. I think she converted out of her love for him, and may not have thought things through. However, they have been together for a long time, so I think that they have come to some sort of an understanding (or at least an equilibrium). So, despite all the signs, we can probably rule out disaster.

She does not attend any Sikh ceremonies any more (and even misses the weddings of many of our relatives because of the religious aspect of Sikh weddings), but it is probably out of not wanting to ruffle any feathers. She does send her father gifts on various Gurpurabs and on Vaisakhi. From the few cards I have seen, they are always signed by her, and never by her husband.

I have met her husband a few times. He is a polite fellow. My only visit to their home was cut short because I could gather that his friends from work did not really approve of my presence (I wear a turban and have a beard). Though I have been invited back, I have declined each time. There is no point in making her life difficult.

I agree with your assessment that he and his family hold Sikhism in significant contempt. I do not think they are racists though (after all, he is married to a girl who is ethnically Indian).

Now, for her kids, they're going to live in the same world as the rest of us. Their beliefs are going to be challenged. Hopefully they'll prove spiritually adaptable enough to find a way to God (whatever that looks like for them). If not, they'll take the easy way out and either accept what they hear or just give up on God altogether.

Honestly, I think Sikhism loses a lot if it starts to sound like some fundamentalism. It takes courage and discernment to have your own convictions and realize that this does nothing to negate the beliefs of anyone else. When someone starts feeling like they have something to prove, or that they need to take away someone else's sense of certainty to build themselves up, most of the time, they're really just looking for security. And that's really what most dogma is.
I am not arguing that Sikhs should be intolerant and fundamentalists like these people. I think that our tolerance of other ways of life when it comes to forming familial bonds should be based on strict reciprocity. Maybe that means that Sikhs and Jews/Buddhists/etc. (for instance) can get along, but Sikhs and Baptists/Muslims/Methodists/Catholics/etc. can't.

Otherwise, all this "tolerance" is simply a stupid suicide pact.
I don't know, man. I'd rather not freak out because my kids might grow up and disagree with me. Your cousin and her husband shouldn't be shocked if her kids grow up and get burned out on their particular brand of Christianity. And when they do, you shouldn't be surprised if they start asking questions about the sikhism of their grandfather. Who knows what's going to happen in time?
My kids will disagree with me on multiple things when they are born and grow up. I would not have it any other way. But disagreement, and being despised in the sense of being considered less than human, are very different things.

As to his grandkids, I do not think they are ever going to be anything but highly negative towards Sikhism, given the way they are being raised.

Re: Is tolerance of intolerance really tolerance, or is it .

Posted: Sun Jun 13, 2010 10:17 am
by Jesse Davis
My kids will disagree with me on multiple things when they are born and grow up. I would not have it any other way. But disagreement, and being despised in the sense of being considered less than human, are very different things.

As to his grandkids, I do not think they are ever going to be anything but highly negative towards Sikhism, given the way they are being raised.
Imperfect,

Glad to hear that you want your kids to challenge you.

But that said, kids aren't simply machines. Your cousin's kids aren't simply going to reflect their upbringing - they're also going to have their upbringing challenged. From the sound of it, they're young and haven't gotten to a point where they have had their beliefs significantly tested. That was my point. Life, particularly life nowadays, where so many lifestyles brush up against one another, is bound to push their limits outward.

I was raised to believe that people outside of my particular faith group were wrong. But then you realize that among the people you care about there are perfectly good, nice, and sincere Buddhists, Hindus, Republicans, vegetarians, carpenters, homosexuals, base jumpers, homebrewing enthusiasts, what have you. Some groups are easy to assimilate to the previous existing framework. Some take some effort. Some call the framework into question. You see this going on right now within many religious groups. Many people who have bought into "religious tradition" and find it heavy laden with attitudes and prejudices accrued over time are having a hard time reconciling their social doctrine with their experience of the world. Some have the guts to rethink it for themselves. Some prefer the security of their doctrine.

But, as I see it, it's a thought process that everyone has to encounter - because factually speaking, there are perfectly good, nice, and sincere Buddhists, Hindus, Republicans, vegetarians, carpenters, homosexuals, base jumpers, homebrewing enthusiasts, etc., out there who are worth caring about and whose presence I would miss in my life if I was too narrowminded to have a place for them in my world.

And maybe I'm starting to get your point here - your cousin's family's intolerance for her father comes without a cost. They can heap insults on him, and he stays around, trying to smile and do what he sees as caring for his family. Meanwhile, his daughter does little to defend him and doesn't make respect for him a condition of respecting her within the relationship. It does sound like there's a lot of "selling one's self out" - her conversion for the sake of love, while he gets to believe what he always believed - her father getting walked all over, for the sake of being around the grandkids and staying in contact with his daughter. Meanwhile, the grandkids, the husband, the in-laws get to go on living in their bubble because no one has the self-respect to pop it for them.

My big point then is that I think you have to deal with people on an individual basis, give it a chance, and have enough respect for yourself and the other person to not make the wrong compromises and be honest when the relationship isn't working. Intolerance should come at a cost. Otherwise, you're right, it's a tacit agreement that they're right to think that our beliefs aren't worth as much as theirs.

What I got out of your initial post was a question about whether or not tolerating the "loss of faith of kids" equals tolerating your religion out of existence. I was trying to say that it doesn't. Some will stay and some will go in any religion. Finding oneself unable to meaningfully respond to the challenges of loved ones certainly doesn't help them grow, though. I guess I'm not sure what you meant then by "loss of faith of kids" if you don't have a problem with your possible children growing up and disagreeing with you. You did state having a problem with the possibility of the grandkids despising Sikhism, but this sounded like part of a larger discussion on what to do about attrition, so I took that to be your specific concern. Was mutual respect as a necessary element of tolerance your main point or was your question about attrition? I just want to really get your point.

All the best,

Jesse

Re: Is tolerance of intolerance really tolerance, or is it .

Posted: Mon Jun 14, 2010 2:19 am
by AM
Can I say I am glad to finally read a discussion to open about the kids in a mixed marriage. My own is mixed and no neither of us have changed for the other.

The issue here I see is respect really. Tolerance too of course but mostly respect. The grandad is indeed gracious and kind and loving for wanting to be so involved in his grandkids lives. His daughter should also be commended for maintaining that relationship as best she can in her particular circumstance. The father daughter relationship seems like the one in need of mending here. The daughter is going through her life the best way she can for the moment. While yes she has walked away from her upbringing she is seems very keen to maintain some connection, cards and visits etc. Grandad being elder and more mature might just realise this is also a phase his daughter is going through. She if figuring out how to manage her life in a completely different form to what she and him might have thought of when she was a kid. Patience and understanding from him is probably something she holds onto dearly right now as he might be the one thing from her own 'life' that she feels is entirely hers and that might be bringing her some comfort.

As for the kid I would suggest to ask grandad not to be too concerned. Kids will ask all sorts of questions and make all sorts of statements. If he were to break out in a smile and give them a big bear hug instead of taking these questions seriuosly, the child is definately going to remember the hug more than the answer. If possible maybe ask grandad to try to expand on it when the kids do bring it up. Maybe the family doesn't like him talking about Sikhi, so fine don't talk about it. But there is nothing stopping him listening to his grandkids talking about what they believe and the joy they might have from it. Don't ask penetrating questions, just keep them simple and let the kids share. Again the kids will remember the loving nanaji who listened and hugged and always had a huge smile. Kids want to love. They likely asked him because they feared where he would go cos they care so much for their nanaji :) A simple smile and "Nope i'm not afraid' would might have been enough for the kids to calm their concerns for their grandad.

We live our lives simply in my home. All grandparents and family from both sides join in everything we do, regardless of prayer or occasion. A belief in God and respect and love for our family is the basic premise in our home and with our two faiths showing our children that God and people come first. Awkward questions about discrepancies come up all the time but because me and hubby encourage the kids to ask and also encourage the grandparents to give true answers (not try to change it to suit our situation) we have kids that know there are differences but also know they are loved and that the two can work. We as parents then try to answer their questions about the differences as best we can and no my kids are not confused and our parents are not 'tolerated' but very much loved.

To this lovely grandad I would hope he does not change his loving relationship with his darling grandchildren. He will remain a loving and caring memory for them to hold onto (when he passes on). With his grandkids all he has to do is smile when they walk into the room, with a special smile to their mum too :)

AM

Re: Is tolerance of intolerance really tolerance, or is it .

Posted: Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:42 am
by ImperfectSikh
Jesse Davis wrote: Imperfect,

Glad to hear that you want your kids to challenge you.

But that said, kids aren't simply machines. Your cousin's kids aren't simply going to reflect their upbringing - they're also going to have their upbringing challenged. From the sound of it, they're young and haven't gotten to a point where they have had their beliefs significantly tested. That was my point. Life, particularly life nowadays, where so many lifestyles brush up against one another, is bound to push their limits outward.
Jesse,

Not everyone gets their faith questioned (or develops the tools to question it themselves) if they grow up in a society where their faith is the majority, and is culturally accepted.

I think that there is a very strong correlation between the faith of the birth and the faith that the said person follows as an adult. In this case, part of their faith is disgust of the faith of one side of their families. That, supported as it is by their official dogma, is not likely to change.

I personally do not care what these kids grow up to be. But the events so far are enough for me to raise a larger question about whether our tendency towards tolerance also predisposes us towards lack of self-respect. If my cousin had any self-respect (given the circumstances of her conversion, since it was not out of any personal spiritual convictions), she would have stood her ground and forced her husband to meet her halfway and raised their kids with a composite understanding of both faiths - Christianity and Sikhism, contradictions as they often are.

And maybe I'm starting to get your point here - your cousin's family's intolerance for her father comes without a cost. They can heap insults on him, and he stays around, trying to smile and do what he sees as caring for his family. Meanwhile, his daughter does little to defend him and doesn't make respect for him a condition of respecting her within the relationship. It does sound like there's a lot of "selling one's self out" - her conversion for the sake of love, while he gets to believe what he always believed - her father getting walked all over, for the sake of being around the grandkids and staying in contact with his daughter. Meanwhile, the grandkids, the husband, the in-laws get to go on living in their bubble because no one has the self-respect to pop it for them.
Precisely.

My big point then is that I think you have to deal with people on an individual basis, give it a chance, and have enough respect for yourself and the other person to not make the wrong compromises and be honest when the relationship isn't working. Intolerance should come at a cost. Otherwise, you're right, it's a tacit agreement that they're right to think that our beliefs aren't worth as much as theirs.
And that leads me directly to the question I initially posed:

Is tolerance of such intolerance really tolerance, or simply a fundamental lack of self-respect that leads to a values-suicide of the sort I am seeing in this part of my extended family.

I used to, but do not see these kinds of attitudes, as tolerance really.