Content Warning: Mentions of violence against LGBTQ+ people and people of color

When I first saw the news about Nex Benedict, I was heartbroken. Is this really how far we’ve sunk? Kids beating other kids to death? 

Then, I was livid. We in the LGBTQ+ community have been saying for years that this is where the hateful rhetoric of certain politicians and their voters would lead us.

After the news of Nex’s death broke on social media, spiritual coach Kevin Garcia posted a video saying, “When I say ‘bad theology kills,’ this is what I mean.”

Put differently, what you believe impacts your actions. What you think of people dictates how you treat them.

This is why a theology of tolerance will never work. Tolerance is the idea that we don’t have to agree to live alongside one another. It’s an okay idea in theory but ludicrous in practice.

A theology of tolerance creates a hierarchy between those tolerating and those being tolerated. It sanctifies the idea of second-class citizenry by endorsing such ideas as “love the sinner, hate the sin,” which is simply a nice-sounding phrase that gives someone permission to judge others. 

If you believe you are better than the people you call sinners, then you treat them as if you are.

Additionally, everyone’s capacity for tolerance is limited. I only “tolerate” a migraine for so long. If it doesn’t leave on its own, I grab the Excedrin to eliminate it. LGTBQ+ folks haven’t gone anywhere and conservative religious extremists have decided it’s time to reach for the legislative Excedrin.

What we are seeing from the far right is a coordinated effort to eradicate the LGBTQ+ community. In the first two months of this year, more than 400 pieces of legislation have already been introduced across various states to limit or eliminate the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, specifically trans and nonbinary youth and adults. 

At the X Space gathering in January, Republican representatives from Ohio and Michigan expressed their desire to extend gender-affirming healthcare bans from minors to adults. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) has laid the groundwork to achieve this legislatively.

And if these hundreds of pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation weren’t enough, they also feel the need to publicly defame us by insisting that we are monsters, pedophiles, groomers and anything else they can think of to paint us in a nefarious light. 

The vitriol conservative leaders spew trickles down to parents who are manipulated into believing that they must have the same vitriol to protect their kids. Kids hear the fear from their parents and feel the need to help eliminate the threat. 

That is how you weaponize a voter base against a minoritized group. That is how you get three teenage girls to enter a public high school bathroom and beat one of their younger nonbinary peers so severely that the child blacks out on the bathroom floor and dies the next day.

That is how Oklahoma Senator Tom Woods (R) can unremorsefully comment on Nex’s death by saying, “I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma,” referencing gender fluidity– not the severe bullying, harassment and death that a nonbinary child experienced in his state. 

The alt-right extremist leaders can claim their hands are clean because they weren’t the ones delivering the punches. But where did those kids learn the ideology that fueled their swings?

Tolerance will never bring peace because it implies that you only have to deal with whatever you perceive as a problem for a short time. Eventually, whatever you are tolerating will go away. If it doesn’t go away on its own, you find a way to eliminate it. 

That mentality is the hallmark of American white supremacy and Christian nationalism; it’s as American as apple pie.

European colonists tolerated the Indigenous peoples they encountered as they settled in North America– until they got tired of sharing resources. Then, they eradicated entire Indigenous nations and forced the few survivors onto reservations. Out of sight, out of mind. 

White Americans tolerated the existence of Black communities– until those Black communities became successful, as was the case with Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Then, White Americans burned their communities down and took every possible measure, from redlining to prison reform, to ensure Black communities would never be that successful again.

From the Lavender Scare of the late forties to the Rainbow Scare of today, LGBTQ+ people have been forced to hide who we are. When we make advances to ensure our safety and freedoms, extremists turn us into the monsters under your bed– as if somehow my right to love my wife infringes upon your ability to raise your kids. 

Tolerance never leads to unified peace. Tolerance only leads to eradication.

To be clear, none of these people were harmed because of their minoritized status. They were harmed because those in power could not make space in their hearts for people they viewed as different or “less than.” 

Our identity is not the motivation for their violence against us; their lack of human connection is.

What made Jesus’ gospel so radical is that it called for the full inclusion of everyone in the kin-dom of God. When Jesus indicated that he came for all peoples, he called his tradition to move beyond tolerating the Gentiles to fully embracing them. 

When Jesus commanded them to change something about themselves so they could enter the kin-dom, it was typically a change in how they treated their neighbor– like when he called Zacchaeus out of exploitative tax collecting or told the rich young ruler to give his riches to the poor. 

After Jesus’ ascension, the first recorded baptism of someone into the life of this new church was the Ethiopian eunuch. This person was an African gender-queer person. 

They were not required to change anything about themselves to be baptized into this new faith. As Nadia Bolz-Weber highlights in her book “Pastrix,” Philip is the one tasked with changing his beliefs. 

Philip could not have baptized the eunuch if he had merely tolerated them. Philip had to be willing to welcome the eunuch as his sibling in Christ– as the eunuch was. His love had to be fully inclusive and fully affirming. That is the radical love the gospel requires of us. 

Tolerance is a slap in the face to the inclusive kin-dom that Jesus proclaims. To advocate for tolerance is to spit upon Christ’s tomb. 

Jesus called us to a much more radical love than simply putting up with someone we don’t understand. May we find the humility and the courage to embrace that radical love again.

Nex’s family has set up a GoFundMe and has stated that any excess funds will “go to other children dealing with the right to be who they are, in Nex Benedict’s name.”

Share This