Tag Archive for intolerance

“Hate” – A Word Like “Atheism”

His name was Polycarp, and he was a disciple of the apostle John. He later became the pastor of the church at Smyrna. When he was very old, the vicious persecutions of Christians in Smyrna turned on him. He was arrested and told to deny Christ. He refused. He was brought into the stadium to be killed before the audience of unbelievers.

The governor looked down on him and said – “Consider your age, and be sensible. Swear and say, ‘Down with the atheists'”. Polycarp looked at the pagan audience in the stadium, and said, “Down with the atheists.” The governor said, “Swear, reproach Christ, and I will release you.” Polycarp answered, “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?”

Polycarp’s dialogue with the governor requires a bit of commentary to be understood. When the governor told Polycarp to say “Down with the atheists”, he meant for Polycarp to renounce Christianity. Atheist was a pejorative term that pagans threw at Christians. To a polytheistic society awash in gods, goddesses, temples, and all their paraphernalia, Christianity seemed, at first glance, a religion of denial. They denied these gods existed, and denied the reality behind the statues and figurines. To pagans, the Christians were unbelievers, deniers of their gods. They were atheists, not in the modern sense of the term, as materialists or naturalists, but as those who refused belief in the gods.

Of course, to Christians, the real atheists were those who denied the existence of the one true and living God: the triune God of Scripture. To fail to believe in Him is to fail to believe in the only God who exists. Pagans were the true atheists. Polycarp’s response was dripping in irony. He repeated the precise words required of him, but everyone understood that he meant the opposite of what they intended him to declare. Pagans called Christians atheists. Christians denied the charge and called the pagans atheists.

Perhaps something similar is happening today with the word hate. Unbelievers are very free with the word haters. Christians, particularly those of the conservative kind, are said to be haters. Why? They do not endorse homosexual marriage. They do not recognise transgender pronouns. They do not accept Islam as a road to reconciliation with God. They hold to the Bible as God’s Word. This makes them purveyors of hate, people without tolerance, acceptance, and affirmation.

Christians would deny that charge, as we have done in this series. We would explain our understanding of love, hate, and tolerance. We would affirm that we pose no physical threat to those who differ with us, nor are we disturbers of the peace. Conversely, we might counter the slander with a question: who are the real haters? If people vandalise our businesses, make false allegations about Christians being elected into high office, pour vitriol of the most unsavoury kind upon us in print and in person, and attempt to limit the exercise of free speech among Christians, should we call these people tolerant of Christianity? Should we say they are open and affirming of our beliefs? Should we say they practice inclusivity when it comes to Christianity? No, we will say, at least among ourselves, that they appear to hate what we believe and stand for.

And there the impasse will remain. I doubt that Polycarp convinced pagans to stop calling him an atheist while they remained pagans. He understood their blinded condition and simply taught who were the true atheists and the true worshippers.

I doubt we will convince the rabid left that Christians are not haters, while they remain committed to their radical notions. Best to recognise their blinded condition, and keep teaching who truly loves, and who is practising real malice.

Perhaps one day, if you are a Christian, you will be called upon by some authority and told to say, “I renounce all bigoted, intolerant and hateful forms of speech and religion.” With Polycarp, wave your hand at the assembled unbelievers and say, “I renounce all bigoted, intolerant and hateful forms of speech and religion.”

Rehabilitating “Tolerance” (3)

How do we rehabilitate this word?

First, we must insist that tolerance does not mean agreement, nor does disagreement mean intolerance. Tolerance actually suggests disagreement, for when you agree with someone, you do not merely tolerate him, you agree with him and welcome his opinions. We must patiently explain that disagreement or disapproval of one another’s opinions and actions is expected in a secular society where we have been thrown together through the involuntary forces of birth and economics. Peace is preserved by tolerating the other person’s opinion, and even action, though we may, and should be permitted to, voice public disagreement or disapproval.

Second, we must distinguish between private intolerance and public intolerance. Private intolerance may be disassociating with someone, switching off the radio or closing the browser window, refusing to purchase or sell somewhere, or refusing someone admission to your home. These intolerances are part of the freedoms of individuals. For a government to mandate or forbid these freedoms for the society at large, or for individuals to call for such, is tyranny. I cannot expect a secular society to outlaw what I refuse in my own home or private company, if such is not destructive to the society at large, nor can I insist they mandate all that I tolerate or choose. Conversely, unless my speech or activity is physically destructive to persons or property, no government should outlaw what I tolerate in my private capacity. We must maintain a clear distinction between the private freedom to disagree and disassociate, from what governments get to do through force.

Third, public intolerance (for that is the kind people are really talking about) can only be enacted by human government. What a society deems to be intolerable to its existence (murder, theft, treason) can only be removed by the rule of law. Human government is established by God for the preservation of order in human society. However much Christians feel the evil of abortion, no Christian is authorised to enact some form of public intolerance: harming doctors performing abortions, blocking access to abortion clinics, or sabotaging the private property of such places. Vigilante justice only increases the chances of anarchy, which is always followed by tyranny. In times of confusion, Christians of all people should make it clear that public intolerance belongs to the civil authorities.

Finally, Christians should do their utmost to urge that civil law be based upon natural law. As societies abandon transcendent moral principles, they flounder to judge what is genuinely tolerable and intolerable to a society. At such moments, rulers are susceptible to popular opinion, particularly the increasingly vocal opinions of the liberal left. If enough people claim that Christian orthodoxy is hate-speech, rulers may imagine a real threat to society where there is none, and make publicly intolerable what ought to be a matter of private intolerance. People don’t have to listen to Christian radio stations or read Christian books, but Christians should have the freedom to state Christian ideas in public. As long as those ideas (whether implemented or merely considered) do not incite violence – i.e. public intolerance – the society should tolerate their expression. Natural law will consider whether ideas and their expression harm the public good, by considering if those ideas and expressions are good or evil, not if they are popular or current with the prevailing political correctness.

As long as Christians accept the way the word tolerance is currently used, we will become slowly strangled by its anti-Christian meanings. Let us graciously challenge error with truth.

Tolerance (2) – We Oppressed Left-Handers

It is becoming abundantly clear to many that the call for tolerance has in fact not been a call to tolerate all opinions everywhere, but to express agreement and endorsement of certain groups and positions. The LGBT community, feminists, non-Christian religions, minorities or previously oppressed ethnicities are usually those said to be suffering from intolerance from others and requiring greater tolerance from others.

This is a tad disingenuous, for two reasons. First, if there were no tolerance of such groups, their voices would not be heard in the media, and their marches would be illegal. They would be in jail or worse, as the non-tolerated often are in despotic countries. Once again, tolerance is not the same as agreement. Christians and non-Christians don’t agree on the meaning of life, but our children play in the same parks, and we peacefully stand in the same queues. This is tolerance.

Second, the eclectic nature of the group supposedly needing more tolerance or experiencing intolerance seems suspiciously close to the List of the Previously Non-tolerated produced by liberal Western professors. When Marxism was in the ascendancy, liberal professors classified everything according to class warfare and economic motives. Now the hip rhetoric is to speak of oppression, domination, and ‘ontologies of violence’. All things Western and Christian (and in some cases, white or male) tend to be cast as oppressors exhibiting physical or verbal violence on all things non-Western and non-Christian. The tolerazis posture as championing freedom for previously oppressed groups, but it is obvious to anyone with eyes to see that the crusade is not so much for freedom for all as much as it is about limiting (or extinguishing) the voice of historic Christian or Western views. The New Tolerance is not for Christians – you’ve been tolerated long enough, don’t you know – it is for those on the List of Previously Non-Tolerated. But the List is not consistent.

Here’s an example. I happen to be left-handed. Now consider just how oppressed we left-handers have been, and what sort of tolerance we are now entitled to.

First, in almost every language, the word for ‘left’ is connected with the ideas of evil, deception, inferiority, or things sinister, while the words for ‘right’ suggest trust, correctness, goodness, or ability. To think of how the rhetoric of violence has used language to prejudice the other ninety percent of the world against us just chills my blood.

Second, many societies have (and some still do) force left-handed children to write with their right hand, being told that the left hand is the dirty hand, or the hand for cleaning oneself. This has caused learning difficulties for many. We’ve been held back economically, to advantage the right-handed. I’d be richer right now, if it weren’t for this economic intolerance.

Third, the world has trampled on our rights, neglecting our needs when it has come to door-handles, scissors, cars, can-openers and potato-peelers, the direction of reading, writing, and books in the West, and computer mice. We have been struggling through a world set up to favour the right-handed.

We left-handers check all the boxes for the List of Previously Non-Tolerated:

* we are a minority
* our difference has been historically frowned upon
* people have tried to change us
* we have been at a social and economic disadvantage

To counter the vicious intolerance of left-handedness, and to promote society-wide tolerance of left-handedness, should I not march for left-handed equality? Should there not be a government-grant for left-handers to compensate me for the fact that I cannot cut straight? Should I lobby to have the terms “in his right mind” or “right-hand man” or “righteous” deemed culturally offensive and examples of micro-aggressions? Can we not classify the term “two left feet” as hate-speech? Should building codes and rezoning laws not be changed to reflect the reality of left-handers entering and exiting those buildings? Should right-handers not become automatically guilty of “handism” – a sin which I, as a left-hander, am completely immune to? Indeed, all right-handers are implicated in this systemic oppression which uses language, the media, and the economy to deny me my rights – my lefts, that is. Should they not contribute to some reparation tax?

Well, this illustration, as facetious as it is, shows the farce of the New Tolerance. The reason I don’t get to do any of those things is that left-handers are manifestly tolerated in the society I live in. I don’t need more tolerance, however much intolerance once existed. However much people might think us weird, no one imprisons us or executes us. We’re tolerated, in a secular society, precisely as many of the other groups on the List are tolerated. Perhaps some disapproval still exists. But no one, in the society I live in, is expelling left-handers from society itself by imprisonment, deportation, death-threats or execution.

More to my point, the fact that left-handers don’t make the List of the previously Non-Tolerated shows that the criteria for inclusion are eminently flexible, and ultimately, hypocritical. I have a hunch that the fact that left-handers are truly representative of every ethnicity, religion, and gender (including white Christian males) might be a reason we don’t make the List. In truth, I don’t want to be on the List – but I can’t see a very good reason, by their stated criteria, that I’m not.

To be clear, tyrannical intolerance is an evil. I am not mocking the genuine suffering that humans have inflicted on each other, or the true oppression (which God hates) that has happened and still happens. Racism, religious violence, or other acts of intimidation are evil, and Christians must shun them. What deserves our scorn is the hypocritical New Tolerance, which selectively tolerates, and is openly intolerant of Christians. It postures as a liberator, but it is a tyrant. It preaches freedom, but it means to enslave. It speaks of love, but it loves only those who love it – and woe betide those who do not.