Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The New Tolerance or The Old Intolerance?

Note: We have apparently had some academic bullying at our local college by some science teachers against Christians that has been personal and vitriolic in nature. Quite a bit of discussion has occurred in the newspaper's editorial section on this. The person who brought this to light (Pastor DuSoliel) has been both vilified and applauded by his stance. Below is my letter to the Editor to try to weigh in on this issue on a less emotional level and more of a philosophical level:

Mr. DuSoleil's recent letter concerning 'Atheistic Bullies in Academia', specifically noting certain issues at GBC, highlights a greater issue that is reflected in society. The word tolerance has subtly shifted meaning from "accepting the existence of different views" to "acceptance of different views." In other words, our society has found it more and more acceptable to move from a place of recognizing other people's rights to have different beliefs or practices to a place that the only acceptable practice is accepting the differing views of other people and no longer opposing them.

To put it another way, we have moved from allowing the free expression of contrary opinions to the position that all opinions are of equal value and worth (as well as truth). Thus, any opinion that makes any sort of exclusive claim is then widely viewed as intolerant.  This especially becomes evident in a subject such as the origin of the universe/life discussion. One position that states there is intelligent design (thus, an intelligent Creator) and another position that attempts to explain away through natural mechanisms and causes any need for such a Creator are at odds because they are mutually exclusive positions.

Under the older view of tolerance, a person is likely to still be considered tolerant even if that person believed strongly in their views and they insisted others had the right to hold a dissenting view. The newer view of tolerance has now become the belief that you must accept my view on something (or at least accept that it has the same validity)--failure to do so automatically labels you as intolerant.

The problem with the new tolerance is that it becomes intolerant of views that don't match their own. The denigrating and devaluing of those that hold views inconsistent with the new tolerance (which is really the old intolerance) have thus become guilty of hypocrisy at the most base level--truth is defined as to what they state truth is.

But not all truth is found in a Petri dish. Is it possible that there may be other sources of truth out there? As a Pastor, I certainly think so.  To automatically dismiss an opposing view (as apparently is happening with some in academia at GBC) because one disagrees, is unable to 'prove scientifically', etc. is academically dishonest because one is now behaving as if they believe that they are the holders of all truth. To deny the right of a person to believe something different and devaluing that person is the ultimate in intolerance.

John Schmidt
Pastor, Cornerstone Baptist Church

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