Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Why Tolerance is Not A Virtue

You see, folks, when I or others of a Christian persuasion, any Christian persuasion, attempt to analyze the trends in our society, then we are being terribly judgmental, not giving the other side a fair shake. In short, we Christians are intolerant.

The instant our society wants to lampoon what we believe, even if I would be hard pressed to describe what the Rev. Roberts teaches in his play "Hell House" as mainstream Christian belief concerning eschatology, although that is an assumption as I have never seen the material in question, then we are taking this stuff "too seriously" or acting like a "fundamentalist." We should just lighten up is the advice offered.

Look closely to see the contradiction. If I step on non-Christian toes, then I am intolerant. If they step on my Christian toes, then they are just being funny and I can't get the joke. In short, the problem is always the other person. I can't recall the philosopher/theologian who said, "Hell is other people," but it applies here. Imagine the picketing outside the theater if I put on a show lampooning abortion rights or animal activism.

Where is the tolerance of Christian beliefs and mores in our society? It doesn't exist. The same people who wail and strike their breasts, rending their garments, that Christianity proposes that actions have definitive consequences and those consequences have eternal repercussions, claiming that sort of thinking is terribly intolerant, are just as intolerant themselves. Rather than trying to understand and critique the idea, an immediate act of pigeonholing takes place. By marginalizing the speaker, we get the added bonus of marginalizing the idea. Christians have to be cautious of this as well. Since we are the recipients of the fullness of Christian teaching, we often treat an argument for or against something as already decided. For the person of faith, that might be the case; if the goal is persuasion of the truth, then we must assume nothing and try to walk through the steps anew each time the matter comes up.

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