What is tolerance? We hear a lot about it—but I think many people are sadly uninformed as to its meaning. The left claims many principles as its own, and the idea of ‘tolerance’ in its modern definition is no exception.
You won’t hear this out loud, but when the left says tolerance, what they really mean is unconditional acceptance or compassion. They distort this word to mean tolerance. Now, the Christian understanding of tolerance goes as follows: “I am morally opposed to your behavior and I fully disagree with it because the Bible condemns it; however, I do not feel the government should interfere in your personal life, so who am I to interfere with your personal life as long as your behavior doesn’t affect me or my family in any way?” This is a textbook example of tolerance. It isn’t exactly fun. It basically means, “Dude what you are doing is gross, but I will live with it.”
No matter where you look—take the Oxford Dictionary for example, tolerance is defined in a negative way. Let’s supposing you invited me to dinner—and I accepted. Now, after our meal, my wife called me on the phone and you heard me say these words in response to her question about dinner: “It was ok. I tolerated the food.” And, “I didn’t mind spending time with (your name); (he/she) was tolerable. I tolerated their company.” Is this what you would want to hear?
Is tolerance really what people seek? Is it really a virtue worthy of praise? No.
Because tolerance is negative, it has been redefined over several decades to mean something entirely different. Let me show you how tolerance has been distorted by the left in their effort to redefine morality and specifically, traditional views:
Here is Leslie Armour, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Ottawa, “Our idea is that to be a virtuous citizen is to be one who tolerates everything except intolerance.”
The United Nations Declaration of Principles on Tolerance (1995) asserts, “Tolerance…involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism.”
Thomas A. Helmbock, executive vice president of the national Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, writes, “The definition of the new tolerance is that every individuals beliefs, values, lifestyle, and perception of truth claims are equal…There is no hierarch of truth. Your beliefs and my beliefs are equal and all truth is relative.”
These three definitions all have one thing in common—they reject any absolute truth claim—except their own. I would suggest that once a society decides that there are no absolutes, then that society has just become absolute. These three quotes repudiate anyone who claims to know truth, yet, they expect us to believe that their statements are true—right?
I would like to suggest that tolerance (in its new definition) means that you cannot disagree with anyone. If you disagree, then you are not tolerant. To be labeled ‘intolerant’ is nearly as hideous a designation as being labeled ‘racist.’ There is no way that you can prove you aren’t racist or that you aren’t intolerant once you are named such. Frankly, this is the point—to intimidate those who aren’t “all accepting and believe that truth is relative” into quiet submission—or else. No one wants to be called intolerant—and this is unfortunately a frightening threat to many.
The Judeo-Christian ethic never talks about tolerance. You will never find the new definition of tolerance in the Bible. The Bible does not say that all ideas are equal, but people are not. Instead, it teaches that all humans are equal, but all people are not. This is a stark contrast to the modern humanist idea of egalitarianism.
Instead, what I think the Bible would endorse is the idea of respect. We can respect each other but still disagree. We cannot tolerate each other but still disagree. I would submit that freedom, justice, and tolerance cannot coexist.