“Tolerance” has become “Intolerance”

by Rob Appel
Executive Director

On July 22, 2016, I wrote on my Facebook page the following: “I would appreciate it if all of my Facebook friends would check out things before they post them. We are all too quick to post something that we believe is true, without checking if it is true or not. Thank you!

Also, we are posting things about one person we don’t like and saying that they are wrong, but when the person we do like does the same thing, or worse, we keep quiet and don’t post that.

How did things in this world become so biased, and yet so ‘middle of the road’? How did we become a society that judges one another on religion, ethnicity, education, looks, or what sports team one chooses to champion?

There are a lot of things in this world that are taught to our young ones at a very early age. Hatred and Bigotry should not be in the curricula.”

This prompted our Editor, Pat Cruzan, to ask me to elaborate more on this, since the October issue is about Intolerance and Tolerance.

In John 8:7, Jesus asked those condemning the woman caught in adultery, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” No one threw a stone that day, but we have been lobbing insults at each other ever since — and they sometimes hurt more than being hit with a stone.

It seems that intolerance is on the rise in the United States. In our current, politically correct culture, tolerance is what we actually need! According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the word tolerate means “to allow or to permit, to recognize and respect others’ beliefs and practices without sharing them, to bear or put up with someone or something not necessarily liked.”

So then, based on this definition, tolerance involves three essential characteristics: (1) consenting, (2) respecting, (3) and all the while valuing the person in the process. But there is a catch: tolerance is reserved for those we think are wrong. We can’t tolerate someone unless we disagree with him. Why would we have to “tolerate” people who share our views?

These days if you think someone is wrong, you are called intolerant. This presents quite a conundrum. In order to apply tolerance, you have to think that the other person is wrong. In doing so you can be accused of being intolerant. Wait…What?

And to add to this confusion is the fact that being tolerant towards different scenarios — people, conduct, or an idea — the rules change! Wait…What…Again?

You see, tolerance of a person can be called a courtesy and can be seen as respect. In other words, the freedom to express one’s ideas without fear of retaliation. We may strongly disagree with another person’s ideas and strongly engage him in conversation, but we still will show respect for him. (This is whether his behavior is something that should be tolerated.)

The tolerance of a person must also be differentiated from the tolerance of ideas. Each person’s opinions should be listened to with respect. (Not that all views have the same equal substance, worth, or truth to them.)

The culture here in North America has had a history of an underlying tolerance of all persons. Ironically, though, there is little tolerance for the expression of contrary ideas; this is especially true on issues of religion or one’s principles. If one supports a differing view, he is soundly evaluated and possibly criticized — in other words, tolerate the behavior, but have intolerance towards someone’s opposing belief about those behaviors. (Another, “Wait…What?”) What we hear are the insults and labeling instead of, “I respect your view.” If we differ from the “politically correct” ways of today, we are told we are being too stiff, a bigot, or narrow-minded; in other words intolerant.

Most of what passes for tolerance today, is not really tolerance at all! People are afraid to engage one another with views opposing theirs. They are so narrow-minded that they will not even consider that the opposing view might be spot-on. We have become a society of name calling and putting the other person down who views things differently than we do. It becomes much easier to insult someone with, “You ignorant bigot,” than to actually confront his idea and either disprove it or (shock of shocks!) have your opinion altered by it.

Ironically, “Tolerance” has become “Intolerance”.

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