Is Boston the most intolerant city in America?

A Challenge to NSCBC

In our sermon this week from Will Cottrell we heard the challenge to be people who reach across the divide and make bridges with people who are not like us. In Luke 19, Zaccheus was a despised and a hated outsider, but Jesus went to Zaccheus, invited himself into his life and brought God’s love and grace to him, changing Zaccheus forever! Hear Will’s sermon here.

The challenge in the sermon was so strong because we know that in this area it is easy to live our lives in largely homogenous silos, with people who think like us, dress like us, talk like us, and be comfortably isolated from people who are different to us.

A Particularly Local Problem

Will shared with us some nationwide statistics about how the majority of evangelicals admitted they aren’t comfortable talking to people who think differently to them, for example members of the LGBT community.

But statistics for our own area show that prejudice towards people different to ourselves is especially strong here. A recent article in The Atlantic sought to find which counties in America were the most politically intolerant. The findings? Suffolk County MA, which includes the city of Boston, was the most intolerant county in America, with our own Essex County being in the 99th percentile of intolerant counties. See the report here.

Can the Gospel Change this?

It is sad that these statistics show that our area is particularly intolerant of difference because we know that God’s Kingdom, the way things should be and one day will be, is a Kingdom of unity in diversity, of every tribe, tongue, and nation giving glory to God.

But intolerance doesn’t have to be the case for our county. As we pray for a Gospel Movement on the North Shore we are praying for divisions in our county to be healed and for God to give us the resources to be people who reach across the proximity gap to people nearby yet distant from us. As we pray, things will change!

First, as we pray, God will give us his heart, a heart to reach out to people far from us and far from him. We all have known what it is like to be distant from God, even hostile to God, yet God reached out across that gap to us to make things right, even though we didn’t deserve it and it cost God so much.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because ofyour evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. Colossians 1:21-22 (NIV)

Second, as our hearts are transformed, we will want to take action! We will want to be people who bridge the gap. We will begin to see people differently, with a love for those who are different to us rather than a fear or animosity. And we will want to share with them the love of Jesus that we know through the gospel. The gospel is good news for all people, not just people like us. The church was never meant to be a club of clones, we want to see people from all backgrounds and cultures making up our church, having a beautiful unity in our diversity.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28 (NIV)

It is by reaching out to people who are different to us that we will see a little bit more of God’s good Kingdom come on the North Shore.

Next Steps

  • Pray that God would give us the same heart and love he has for people far from us and far from him
  • Pray that God’s Kingdom would come here and that he would heal divisions in our towns across the North Shore
  • Think about someone who is near to you in proximity but distant from you relationally and think of a way that you can become a good friend to them