I’d been a member of a particular writers critique group for some time. Nice people. I began to feel at home, even though all in the group didn’t share my religious beliefs. At one of the meetings, I’d submitted a piece about my walkabout in SW China with three Christian friends. Two of the other writers in the group objected to my “judgmental” comments about Buddhists … said I was being intolerant. A pause while everyone looked at me.
I said, “Aren’t we supposed to be evaluating the writing—not the content, unless it’s incoherent?”
“Well … yes, but you’re being negative. Some people might be offended …”
“You mean I don’t have a right to my opinion?” My forehead began to throb, ever so slightly. “Well, I do believe Christianity is superior to Buddhism—for many reasons. That’s my opinion. I’ve said nothing about the occasional coarse language in some of your manuscripts because that’s how you portray your characters. But some of it has offended me …”
I don’t recall what was said next but I do remember one person later apologized. Not that I needed an apology. But the incident stuck in my mind. Tolerance—again raised as a supreme virtue.
My idea of a single “right” belief system flew against politically correct views of tolerance and “fairness.” I’d seen these pc views gain ascending currency in my workplace over the previous years, so it wasn’t a complete surprise.
But was my claim of Christianity as the only true faith so bad? Why can’t I believe in the God of the Bible without being told that my religion is “arrogant and narrow … intolerant.” The problem, I knew, is Christianity’s exclusivity. Jesus is The Only Way. Why shouldn’t I believe that?
Critics say that claiming my religion is superior to others is ethnocentric. Yet that very statement is ethnocentric. Our culture’s idea of tolerance is itself a very particular set of assumptions about what is then used as criteria to decide who society will or will not tolerate. Since when have the citizenry gotten a vote on what is true and what is not?
Truly, truth is the first casualty of this tolerance thinking. The idea that all points of view should receive equal treatment, regardless how absurd, is an example of the absurdity of unbridled tolerance. To put a finer point on it—tolerance is accorded a status of higher morality than morality itself. Then it is used to exclude and regulate.
John Locke was probably the first champion of this pernicious philosophy. He wrote in 1689 that “No opinions contrary to human society … are to be tolerated.” The problem, of course, is who decides which opinions are contrary to human society.
For those of us who reject tolerance as a guiding principle but depend on biblical standards of truth, we can expect intolerance from the self-appointed tolerance police. We are seen as “over-attached” to our religion or culture and thus beyond rational line of reasoning.
We will discuss more of this in future postings.
And, dear souls, to what idea(s) are you over-attached?