If you say you are a tolerant person, do you practice what you preach? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I’ve had some time to think about the notion of tolerance lately after an event on my wife’s Facebook page over the week. She posted something about the transgenderism issue going on that I and many others found humorous. The first comment however referred to her as a judgmental, well, I don’t speak that way. Naturally as a husband, I don’t stand by and let my wife undergo a severe insult like this. Had it been something milder, we would have a discussion about it, but not in this case.
What strikes me when something like this happens however is that the people who complain the most tend to be the ones who are the champions of tolerance the most. Ironically, the ones that I find who want to champion tolerance the most turn out to be the least tolerant, and this is because our culture really doesn’t know what tolerance is any more. We have confused tolerance of persons with tolerance of ideas. We have also confused tolerance with acceptance.
For instance, I think Islam is really a very wicked system. I do. At the same time, I know there are many Muslims who just want to live peaceful lives and do not support what goes on with ISIS or anything like that. Now I will be glad to debate these Muslims on the nature of Jesus and the reality of the resurrection any time. I think their belief system is wrong and the evidence shows that. Despite that, if some want to build a mosque in my city, I think they have every right to build a mosque and I will defend that. That’s what freedom of religion means in America. As long as they’re observing the law peacefully, they have the right to worship as they see fit. I would also support them if they were being forced to sell pork to someone or even if a Muslim bakery was asked to make a cake for a homosexual wedding since they disagree with that as well. That’s their right.
Note I will tolerate the people and I will accept them as people, even if I think their belief system ultimately is a source of great evil today. I will not accept their belief system. I cannot see it as entirely true or as the way of God, but the people are still people.
I have many friends who are atheists. Will I be able to put up a meme about what I see as poor argumentation on the part of many atheists? Sure will. Don’t have a problem with it. Humor and satire are a powerful tool. Many of my friends who are atheists will either ignore it saying this is a difference they accept because they know who I am, or some of them will say “I know what kinds of atheists he’s talking about and I’m not one of those.” At the same time, this doesn’t mean that if an internet atheist type went into cardiac arrest in front of me that I would ignore them. I recently had a dialogue with an atheist who was posting things and saying he had a hard time posting while driving. I told him to please wait. The debate can go on later. A dialogue with me is not worth him risking his life. I really meant it. I would mean it for anyone like that.
Where tolerance exists, there must first exist a real point of disagreement. There is something you do not like. Yesterday, my wife wanted to get some peanut butter cookie mix at the store. Why? She doesn’t like peanut butter, but she knows her husband loves it. That is not something I tolerate. That is something I celebrate. Tonight, after a couples’ connection meeting, we are going with a couple to the Cheesecake Factory to discuss our upcoming fifth wedding anniversary. Now the last time I was there, with my finicky eating, I did not care for the menu too much and I was surrounded by people and everything was really loud. I honestly thought this must be some idea of what Hell is like. So tonight, I will instead be tolerating that. I would much rather go elsewhere, but I know Allie really likes the Cheesecake Factory. I can tolerate it for her sake.
The more I thought about tolerance, the more I thought how ironically, true tolerance really does deliver everything false tolerance claims to give. The false tolerance is this idea that you must accept everything and if not, you are being intolerant and we will shut you down for your intolerance. True tolerance says you have a right to what you think and we can discuss it, which is what I always prefer. While I do believe in a firm hand for many, my far better conversations always are with those who I think are honestly open to false ideas. There were many people who disagreed with Allie’s meme she put up. That’s fine. I expect that. We talk about it then. I have no problem with that. Believe it or not, that’s the kind of dialogue I do prefer.
Our false tolerance today says you’re not even allowed to have a dissenting opinion. If you dissent from the group, we will label you as intolerant, a bigot, hate-filled, etc. I hardly enter any debates I see today on the homosexual issue because I see the words of homophobe and all of the others above thrown around. I always get amazed to see that when a group comes out saying they support traditional marriage any more, that you can just go to their Facebook page and see the vitriol being spilled out. It’s amazing that at the same time, the people doing this are talking about how hateful the other side is and how intolerant they are.
While those who champion tolerance say they value diversity, it is those who allow dissenting opinions who are the true valuers of diversity. While I do not consider myself a part of the ID movement, I have had people say before “Well if you wanted ID taught in the classrooms, do you want all other creation accounts taught?” My response to this was always “Why not?” You see, if someone comes from a Muslim or Hindu culture or any other people group and wants to stand up and share why they think their account of creation is true, let them. Just let them be ready to answer questions about it as well. Why do I care about counter ideas being presented? I’m convinced Christianity can win in the marketplace of ideas, so bring forward the competitors!
True tolerance also values open-mindedness. Now this is not the same as saying you can’t have a strong opinion or be sure that you’re right. If we are arguing for a position, then we will be sure that we are right. Of course, there are ideas you hold with a greater degree of certainty based on the evidence. If every belief you hold is a hill you’re ready to die on, you’re going to have a hard time. This is a problem I see with modern fundamentalism for instance. On the Christian side, you have inerrancy, young-earth creationism, and any other belief being one that we have to stand on this hill and not let it go because if this hill goes, the whole thing goes! On the atheist side, you have this idea that you can’t admit there could be anything whatsoever historical about the Bible or that anyone could be justified in believing God exists. This is one reason I think Christ mythicism is so popular.
Of course, there are some positions on both sides that if they are shown to be false, the position will crumble. If you show that God does exist, then yes, atheism is dead. If you show that Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is dead. However, you can be absolutely certain of your position on these issues and still say “But I am willing to hear what argument you have on the other side.” The problem with too many people is that there cannot be an argument. If you’re a Christian, well you’re just a mindless fool who is irrational and anti-science. If you’re an atheist, well you’re just sold to sin and your eyes are blinded by the devil and you hate God.
True tolerance is also the most loving to people. It admits we have differences between us. These are significant differences. We can even think the position that the other person holds is remarkably ignorant in some ways, but at the same time we still value the person. In fact, there is unlikely to be anyone on the planet that we will agree with 100% on everything. My own wife and I disagree on some issues. She knows that my eyes roll with the futurist position which she holds. It’s okay. We can have discussions on that and we can disagree. (Actually, for some reason, she likes to see me debate with futurists.)
If you reject a friend because they do not disagree with you on a particular topic, one has to ask what kind of friendship you really have. Unfortunately, I have seen this kind of thing happen. Generally, if someone gets a block from me on Facebook, they have to do something really severe, or they just have to be the kind of person in the debate arena who is a time drainer and that if I keep interacting with them, I will be wasting my time on them. Yes. There are actually some Christians on that list of mine because they are too much of a time drainer when they get on their own soapboxes.
What many of us see with the modern tolerance movement is that they are not tolerant at all. No dissent and questioning will be allowed. You are not to oppose the tolerati! For all the time that we’ve heard the good news of this Gospel of tolerance, one would think the proclaimers of it would practice it.
True tolerance is to be valued. We can value the person always and care for them, but we are not to tolerate true evil that is done. I am convinced that the shooter from Charleston in the recent news needs to get at least jail for life for what he did, at least that much. That is an evil we cannot accept in our society. At the same time, I with many others hopes that he will get the Gospel in prison and find forgiveness and that we can pray for him. I would also be willing to admit that prayer is something I need to work on anyway, hence I could soon write a blog series on it as that is often the best way I teach myself as well.
Disagree by all means, but if you want to proclaim yourself a champion of tolerance, be sure to practice what you preach.