Wax on, wax off: the world’s increasingly shaky understanding of tolerance

A man who says he is a woman is using the BC Human Rights Tribunal to make life difficult for Vancouver-area estheticians. “JY” (the Tribunal has prohibited the publication of his real name) has approached female estheticians who only offer services to women, and asked them to give him a “Brazilian” bikini wax – a hair removal treatment for the groin area. When they’ve refused he’s filed complaints against them with the Tribunal. To this point, JY has done this to 16 different estheticians.

Lawyer John Carpay and the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has been helping two of the women, free of charge. In an article, he wrote for The Post Millennial Carpay noted legal representation could otherwise have cost the women $20,000 to $30,000 each. A bill that size could put a small business out of business.

But, as Carpay explained, with at least one woman, “JY was willing to withdraw his complaint in exchange for $2,500.” That’s quite the motivation to settle – either spend $20,000+ on legal fees with no assurance you won’t be found guilty and also fined, or settle for $2,500 and the problem goes away. If he made a similar offer to the 14 other women, JY would look to make $35,000 from his human rights complaints.

However, with the Justice Center backing her, Shelah Poyner decided not to settle. In September, they informed JY, that they were going to call in an expert who was going to note the treatment JY was after – known as a “Manzilian” wax – is very different than a Brazillian, involving a different wax, and using a different process that this estheticians didn’t know and didn’t want to do.

Once JY understood he was in for a fight (and not simply a payout) he withdrew his complaint.

This highlights a huge problem with the Human Rights Tribunal: its process has become the means by which a complainant can extort cash settlements: pay up now, or, whether guilty or innocent, you’ll have to pay much more later.

But the bigger issue here is how we are going to treat those we disagree with. This dispute is over the question: “What sort of tolerance do we believe in?”

Christian tolerance

God calls on us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31) and to do to others as we would like done to ourselves (Matt. 7:12). That’s the Christian basis for tolerance. We would like to enjoy the freedom to act as our conscience demands, so we give that freedom to others so much as we are able. Under this Christian understanding of tolerance, we would allow conscientious objectors to avoid military service, let Sikhs wear kirpans, and try to ensure Jews weren’t called to Saturday work, even though we think their views are mistaken or wrong.

Another basis for Christian tolerance is that we know we can’t make anyone Christian. God hates hypocritical worship (Matt. 23:27-28) so there is no point, then, in forcing people to go to Church or forcing them to, in other ways, outwardly observe the Christian religion. Christian tolerance has limits – if we could, we’d ban abortion or euthanasia no matter how sincerely the practitioners might believe in it. But Christians are willing to tolerate other religions, philosophies, and beliefs that we disagree with, so long as they aren’t harming others, because we understand the alternative – coercion – won’t yield the inward heart-change that God is after.

The secular version

The West’s Judeo-Christian heritage means that the godly type of tolerance will still pop up from time to time.

But in rejecting God, our society has had to come up with a new basis for tolerance. And the best secular justification is relativism: there is no single Truth true for everyone, and since there is no truth, no idea can be better than any other idea, and we should, therefore, tolerate them all. The irony here is that the world only tolerates those who agree with them that there is no one Truth. Christians who think there’s a real right and wrong are denounced as arrogant. And, of course, the world isn’t willing to tolerate our arrogance!

We can see this worldly “tolerance” in how JY isn’t willing to let these 16 estheticians alone. He’s demanding that they treat him as if he really were a woman with only woman parts….despite the fact he still has all his male bits. This sort of tolerance doesn’t accommodate those who think differently, but demands, “Do what the guy in the dress says, or else!”

And while God hates hypocrisy the world is happy to have us say what they want to hear, whether we believe it or not. Oh yes, they’d love it if we truly believed men can become women, homosexuality is fantastic, and abortion empowers women. But so long as we’re willing to wear a rainbow lapel pin when the office celebrates Pride Week, and we keep our Bible in our desk, not on it, they’re willing to let us continue thinking our secret thoughts…if we keep them to ourselves. They aren’t much worried about a mere show of outward compliance because outward compliance is all they have to go on.

The Devil also isn’t put off by hypocrisy. He knows that we are either for God or against Him. So if we bow a knee to the gods of political correctness, sexual freedom, career advancement, homosexuality, sexual freedom, and more, it doesn’t matter if our hearts weren’t really in it. Our outward compliance to these gods is an inward denial of the supremacy of Christ in our lives, because we are placing job security, status, our income, or our business as more important to us than God.


Understanding the Devil’s strategy makes it clear what we need to do. It’s what we’ve always needed to do, and the blessed opportunity God has given us to have a part in the spreading of His Gospel. Instead of bowing the knee to the world’s gods, we need to profess the Name of the one True God. And one way we can do so is by showing our friends and neighbors and coworkers and family how Christianity’s tolerance compares and contrasts with a worldly tolerance that would have these women either agree to give an intimate treatment to a man’s private parts or have to pay up one way or another.

It comes down to this: whereas Christians are willing to tolerate other religions, philosophies, and beliefs that we disagree with, the world only tolerates those who agree with them that there is no one Truth.

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  1. John Moerman

    November 30, 2018 at 4:27 am

    “…Christians are willing to tolerate other religions, philosophies, and beliefs that we disagree with, so long as they aren’t harming others, because we understand the alternative – coercion – won’t yield the inward heart-change that God is after.”
    Something wrong here. Christians ‘tolerate’ in ways the world doesn’t understand. As it’s put above, you set up a false dichotomy. We neither ‘tolerate’ as the world expects, nor do we coerce. We actively engage in the marketplace of ideas. We cannot be ‘tolerant’, precisely because harm is the issue. Certainly eternal, but in a real way on earth as well.
    We don’t tolerate. We don’t coerce. We talk, appeal, argue, discuss. There are wrong ideas out there that need to be challenged… and challenged vigorously.

    • Reformed Perspective

      November 30, 2018 at 1:58 pm

      Someone once said that apologetics is a battle over the dictionary: it is a battle over how we will define words.

      The world equates tolerance with acceptance and even endorsement – these are all seen as synonyms of each other. Under this understanding, tolerance is actually extended only to those we already agree with. And if that is the meaning we use, then Christians certainly don’t tolerate evil of any kind – we don’t find it acceptable or something we would endorse.

      But the original understanding of the word had tolerance and acceptance more as antonyms. So whereas we wouldn’t find, say, coveting an acceptable thing for us to do, we might tolerate others doing it. Under this understanding, tolerance is what we give to those we disagree with – those who are acting in ways we can’t accept as good.

  2. Nick Stuart

    November 30, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    JY doesn’t realize he got off easy.

    He wants to coerce some unwilling waxer to spread HOT wax all over his privates and YANK the hair off?? Good luck with that.

  3. Michael Wagner

    December 1, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    Hi Jon,

    I enjoyed your recent column on waxing and tolerance. I have a somewhat different perspective on tolerance, as explained in the article below.



    Yes, I am intolerant. And so are you.

    by Michael Wagner. July 10, 2013.

    The cause of homosexual rights has made tremendous gains in recent years. Numerous countries now allow same-sex marriage. Many American states have legalized same-sex marriage, and it looks like the whole USA is rapidly moving in this direction.

    People who oppose homosexual rights are often accused of being intolerant. This is especially true of conservative Christians whose opposition to homosexuality is rooted in the Bible and historic Christian teaching. Traditional Christians cannot accept that homosexuality is the equivalent of heterosexuality because they believe that God condemns homosexuality. Such a perspective is obviously intolerant by popular modern standards.

    Is it correct to see the historical Christian position on homosexuality as intolerant? Yes, orthodox Christianity views homosexual behaviour as sinful and wrong. Christianity, in this sense, does not tolerate homosexuality.

    In the modern popular view, this means that people who support homosexual rights are “tolerant” whereas conservative Christians are “intolerant.” However, when they view things this way, the supporters of homosexual rights are really just flattering themselves; they aren’t any more tolerant than Christians. The only difference is in what they tolerate and what they don’t tolerate.

    The bottom line is this: everyone has a worldview, that is, a basic set of assumptions about the nature of reality and the meaning of life. Christianity is a worldview, and it was the worldview underlying Canadian government and society until relatively recently. This is why homosexuality was criminalized until 1969 and why homosexual activists had to fight for decades after that to change other laws they considered discriminatory. Canada’s original Christian foundation did not provide any basis for homosexual rights.

    However, in the period after World War Two, Canada changed rapidly. Christianity began losing its privileged position as the foundational worldview of government and society, and a new worldview took its place. I call this new worldview “secular humanism”; others might choose a different term. But whatever you call it, the underlying philosophical basis of Canadian society changed from Christianity to something else. This new worldview is tolerant of homosexuality and many other sexual practices that orthodox Christianity deems immoral.

    But what the new worldview will not tolerate is opposition to homosexuality and opposition to the public policies developed in favour of homosexuality, such as same-sex marriage. It does not tolerate the Christian view on these matters.

    All worldviews have a concept of ethics that perceives certain things as good and others as bad. No worldview will tolerate everything.

    In Canada, some Christians (e.g. Stephen Boissoin in Alberta), have been brought before government agencies to be punished for expressing their views. In other cases (e.g. Damian Goddard), they have been fired for supporting traditional marriage. These people were punished because their views reflected a commitment to the sexual morality of Canada’s original Christian foundation.

    Clearly, the issue is not one of “tolerant” supporters of homosexuality versus “intolerant” conservative Christians. Instead, it is an issue of two worldviews (secular humanism versus Christianity) that differ over what should be tolerated and what should be forbidden.

    Many Christians consider it ironic that their views on sexual morality are shouted down and suppressed in the name of tolerance. Isn’t tolerance supposed to be about having a diversity of views competing in the marketplace of ideas? In an abstract sense, yes. But we don’t live in an abstract society. All societies are based upon particular worldviews, and those worldviews provide parameters that limit what is permissible. Within a secular humanist society, public opposition to homosexuality will be restricted to some degree. In a traditional Christian society, homosexuality will be restricted to some degree.

    It is important for Christians to understand this reality so that they don’t feel guilty about their intolerance. The people who are so indignant about Christian opposition to same-sex marriage are just as intolerant as conservative Christians. What’s different about these people is that they congratulate themselves for their tolerance while shouting down or punishing the Christian view; they don’t see the irony or hypocrisy in such a situation—suppressing someone else’s viewpoint in the name of tolerance.

    In sum, then, the debate over homosexual rights is a conflict between two worldviews embracing different concepts of morality. People on each side will consider those on the other side to be intolerant, and for good reason, namely, because both sides are intolerant.

    Theologian Andrew Sandlin has pointed out that “intolerance is an inescapable concept” for all worldviews. This is a nice way of summarizing the situation, and it helps to expose the fact that those who accuse Christians of intolerance unavoidably suffer from the same affliction themselves.


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