Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Virtue of Intolerance


These are crazy times we live in.  It seems that the whole world is falling apart and there's little we can do about it.  Right now, that crazy little man in North Korea is threatening a nuclear strike against the U.S.  Economies throughout the world, including our own, are faltering and failing and doing crazy things like taxing your savings.  Americans are debating the legality and constitutionality of same sex marriages, abortion, and government-mandated healthcare.  It's a swirling vortex of insanity out there.

No matter the discussion taking place, I always here the cry for "tolerance".  We must be tolerant of differing opinions.  We must be tolerant of different religious beliefs.  We must be tolerant of different governmental systems.  We must be tolerant of those who want to be heard.  It seems to me that "tolerance" is the word du jour and it's bantered about quite freely.  The implication behind each instance of a call to tolerance is that "intolerance" is disgusting and shameful and an abomination.  But, is it really that bad to be intolerant?

I'm going to argue that as much as tolerance is a sought after and desired state for some, intolerance is as much a virtue.  How in the world can that be?  Let me explain.

As a practicing Roman Catholic, I have to look at the teachings of my church and, more particularly, the teachings of the Bible for my guide.  I understand that the whole world is not Christian and certainly not Roman Catholic.  I tolerate those people quite well and, in fact, I love many friends and family members who are not Roman Catholic.  I even know and love a few friends who are agnostic, atheistic and of Protestant beliefs as well as different belief systems.

My belief that Intolerance is as much a virtue as Tolerance is rooted in the idea that there are certain moral and religious imperatives that don't allow for tolerance.  These are so clear and so certain that to defend the opposite of them is to deny the morality and certainty of the very belief and its source.

If you've been watching "The Bible" series on The History Channel, you may remember the scene where Jesus walks into the temple and sees the money changers and market place being held inside the temple.  Remember that the temple in Jerusalem was "the holy of holies".  As he looked on in anger and horror, he admonished those engaged in these act, turned over the tables and flat out told them that they were defiling the most sacred of places.  He became intolerant of their beliefs and customs because they were the opposite of those from the Old Testament.  I can see politicians today excoriating him for being intolerant of others beliefs.

In another instance of biblical intolerance, Jesus sends forth his disciples and tells them to go and teach the good news to all who will listen.  He also tells them to shake the dust off their sandals if they leave a town that won't listen.  He is, in effect, telling them that being intolerant is acceptable and he commands them to act in an intolerant manner.  Can you imagine someone today trying to convince him that he needs to be more "open-minded"?  I wonder if he would be labeled a "racist" and a "bigot"?
Perhaps a third example of biblical-based intolerance comes when we see Jesus being crucified.  The Jews were intolerant of him because of his teachings and the Romans, in order to keep the peace, were forced into crucifying him.  It's not really so different today.  People aren't crucified but they are certainly vilified and admonished for their differing beliefs.

If I disagree with someone who supports gay marriage, I'm labeled a bigot, a hate-monger, homophobic, and a host of other pleasant names.  If I disagree with the pro-choice crowd, I'm labeled as a woman hater and I want strip women of their basic civil liberties.  If I disagree with gun-control I'm a redneck, a hick, a hoosier, an idiot, an extremist and a variety of other things.

It seems to me that tolerance isn't so much a virtue as it is a vice.  Tolerance has caused us to move from a world of moral absolutes to a world of moral relativism.  Tolerance has actually caused us to become less tolerant of others because my disagreement with your beliefs makes me all of these horrible things.

I think we need a little less tolerance and a little more intolerance.  A little less moral relativism and a little more moral absolutism.  A few generations ago, they didn't really call this tolerance or intolerance.  They called it "doing the right thing".  We need to return to that.  We need to do the right thing based on the belief system this country was founded upon.  The constitution, the bill of rights, the amendments and all of the other documents that were written as this country were formed lay it out for us.  It seems to me that we and our elected representatives need to go back and read all of those documents and make decisions based on what they profess our country was designed to be.  

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