Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why the Truly Tolerent can't Tolerate the Tolerance of the World

Have you ever been in the same room with a clicker? They sit there, an isle in front of you and three seats to the left, and while you are trying to concentrate on the speaker, they have this strange fascination with clicking their pen. About every second second. Every once in a while they'll break their rhythm and rapid fire a few clicks. Click . . . click . . . click click click . . . click. You're about ready to lunge across the isle and strangle them. That would probably raise too much negative attention though. So you opt for a well aimed spit ball instead.

Your friend on your right places their hand on your arm, digging their fingers into the crook of your elbow, and whispers at you to remain calm. It's a free country, they remind you, and they urge you to live and let live a little. You marvel that someone could be so even-keeled in the face of such blatant annoyingness, and you sigh as you put your straw, with loaded spitball, down.

Meanwhile, the friend to your left catches the attention of the clicker and smiles warmly as the clicker glances over her shoulder. Your left-side friend raises his own pen and starts clicking too, in a touching moment of acceptance that leaves you struck mute with horror.

In this scenario, who is truly tolerant? Is it the friend on your left or right? Before we answer, it might be helpful to look at the definition of tolerant. According to Webster, it means being "willing to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own."



With this definition in mind, wouldn't you answer that it is the friend on your right who is tolerant? He's not a clicker himself, but he's willing to give someone else the freedom to click. The friend on your left isn't exercising tolerance, but rather is converted into clickerhoodism.

If tolerance is really accepting beliefs that are different from your own, doesn't that imply that you disagree with the person your are accepting, or is it wrong to disagree at all? Should we all have the same feelings, habits, or beliefs?

The logical approach is to realize that we can't possibly all have the same feelings, habits, or beliefs. Look around you. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures, and our experiences vastly differ and have shaped who we are in vastly different ways. Isn't that a main tenant of our recent thinking in America, that we are culturally diverse? Isn't it the gospel of Post-modernism that we all have different truths shaped by our experiences?

It would seem, then, that tolerance is allowing for differing beliefs, not trying to conform all beliefs into one. So then, why do those on the liberal left try and force us to not only allow their beliefs, but to accept them? If we don't agree with them that marriage should be radically redefined, for instance, we are attacked as intolerant bigots. But by the same token, isn't their claim that we are wrong and should accept their beliefs on marriage incredibly intolerant and bigoted?

It's not helpful to our society to try and force us all to believe the same thing. What's more, it won't work! Tolerance should focus on how we differ, and how we should differ politely. Throwing around terms like "bigot" or "close-minded" is not helpful, to either side. It is more like the bickering and squabbling of middleschoolers trying to get their way on the playground. We should instead seek for the civil exchange of our different opinions and beliefs, and the common curtesy of allowing people to have different conclusions. In my own life as a Christian, I will definitely share what I know to be true with you, but I also give you the liberty of free will, just like my God does. I won't slander you as a close-minded, Christian-phobic individual if you disagree with me. I only hope you will extend the same curtesy to me, and allow me to have my own beliefs. This is America, after all, where we should have the freedom to believe what we want to believe, as long as that belief is not criminal in behavior. That is true tolerance.