A Plea For Intolerance

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   I read a news story a few years ago that was so shocking that it astonished even me. The story was about school testing and what happened in a few places where pressure on administrators was so great, that in order to record higher scores, they changed students grades or gave students the test answers. 

   Why did they do it?  Because funding was based on test scores and job security on students getting good test grades.  But worse than that, in the middle of the story was the account of a parent who realized what was happening and confronted her school officials.  She was challenged by angry home owners in the community and was told to be tolerant, and not to make trouble. Why? Because the owners were concerned that if the true test scores were known, the school district would not be considered desirable, and high property values might drop.  Would people actually put their property values ahead of childrens’ education?  Apparently so.  

   For more than two-hundred years, the greatest danger to our nation was considered to be “national security” and threats from outside our borders. Today, most people will agree that we are more threatened from within than from without.  Moral decline, the loss of respect for human life, and the breakup of the family, all define the direction our country has digressed. But what should trouble us most is the loss of character that spells even greater danger.  Maybe what our society is revealing is not indifference to unethical behavior, but a new definition of ethics that allows for virtually anything-and a society plagued by tolerance. 

   Today, many of our Christian people are being told that the way to solve the world's problems is with tolerance -- the easy way out. To speak the other man’s language, a sort of blurring of the line between right and wrong, not sitting in judgment of anything. 

   Tolerance is a nice word that has become an especially prized virtue and sole absolute of our land. Yet, few of us understand what it really means. Enlightened people want to “live-and-let-live,” to be known as “open minded,” “easy-going” about beliefs and lifestyles, and of course, tolerant. Even most professing Christians today believe tolerance is the Godliest virtue of all.

   The traditional definition of “tolerance” means to recognize and respect others’ beliefs, practices, and so forth without necessarily agreeing or sympathizing with them. This attitude that everyone has a right to their own opinion is what tolerance has meant to most people since the founding of our country.

   But today’s definition is vastly different. It no longer means simply agreeing to disagree. The new tolerance considers every individual’s beliefs, values, lifestyle and truth claims as equal value (Thou shall not think).  This represents one of the greatest changes in history.

   The slightest expression of personal moral conviction is now considered as “intolerant.” Like a powerful acid, the accusation of intolerance eats away at traditional morality, leaving only threads of past convictions behind.  By redefining absolute truth as “intolerant,”  the goal of this deception is to appear open and accepting. But we must realize the most difficult form of evil to recognize is deception itself (Galatians 6:7).

   When tolerance means being patient with other people, listening to their points of view, and allowing them the freedom to follow their consciences, tolerance is a virtue necessary to every citizen in a free society. But tolerance is not the only value in the book. In fact, there is a grave danger when we separate tolerance from other important righteous values such as truth and justice.

   If tolerance means we cease to challenge false beliefs and unjust practices around us for fear we might offend someone, then misguided tolerance actually weakens the bonds of our community. This kind of tolerance does not show an open mind to our neighbor; it shows indifference.  It says, “We don’t really care what he / she believes or how he / she lives. All beliefs and practices are the same.” 

   I heard about a member of the clergy who, while on vacation,  checked into taking his family on a boat ride. The sales representative at the desk told him that if he would sit and listen to a sales presentation, they could go on the ride for $15, which he was willing to pay, instead of $60, which he wasn’t willing to pay.  All he had to do was sign something saying he made a certain amount of money each year.  When he explained he didn’t make that much money, the sales person said, “No problem, nobody will check. Just say you do. It’s okay.” 

   When the pastor politely clarified that it wasn’t okay with him, the congenial atmosphere suddenly transformed. The pastor had blown his cover as a modern enlightened human being.  He’d shown his true colors as a moral dinosaur.  He was a fossil from the dreaded age of Puritanism. 

   The representative’s associate stepped in at this point, indignant at the pastor’s irrational insistence on truth-telling.  “Look, these people (for whom he worked, and who paid his commissions) would rip you off in the blink of an eye -- they’d lie to you in a second. It’s no big deal.” He made it sound like it was a matter of principle. The pastor was supposed to feel guilty -- or at least stupid-for-refusing to lie. 

   So the pastor went down the street to get another price quote. The sign said “Children twelve and under half price.”  “How old are your kids?” the sales person asked.  The pastor said one was eleven, but the other standing next to him was thirteen. “No sweat,” the sales person answered him, “Just say she’s twelve. They’ll never know.”  “But it’s not true,” the pastor replied.  “Look, what’s the difference?  Just say she’s twelve,” the sales person again insisted.  “No, it’s wrong to lie,” the pastor said. “I’m trying to teach my children that telling the truth is important.” The sales person gave him the strangest look, utterly bewildered. Finally he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Okay, that’s cool.” At least he was willing to abide by the pastor’s wishes. 

   In 1931, then Msgr. Sheen wrote the following essay, “A Plea for Intolerance...” 

   “America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance -- it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded. 

   “Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil ... a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons ... never to truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error ... Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory. Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.”

   So what does tolerance have to do with Christians, abortion and the cross? 

   On April 18, 1775, the night of Paul Revere’s famous ride, influential churchman and politician Jonas Clark entertained John Hancock and Samuel Adams at his home in Lexington, Massachusetts.  These two great patriots asked him, “If war came, would the people of Lexington fight?”  Reverend Clark refused to tolerate oppression.  He is said to have replied, “I have trained them for this very day!”

   The next day the “shot heard round the world” was fired on his church lawn as the British drew first blood in the opening battle of the Revolutionary War.  Eight men were killed, all members of Reverend Clark’s congregation. As he looked down in great anguish at the bodies of those who had fallen, he said, “From this day will be dated the liberty of the world.” It began in a church that would not tolerate evil, and with a pastor who was not afraid to speak out on political and moral issues of the day. 

   During this same period of time, another event was transpiring that was destined to further change American history. Within the American Revolution, “Light Horse Harry” was the soul of the revolt. His exploits made him a lieutenant colonel and gained him the respect of Washington, Hamilton, and Madison. His name was legend. When the war ended, he married a plantation heiress and served as a governor as well as in Congress. But he burned inside.  A dreamer and a gambler, he took big investment risks which often failed. 

   When his wife of five years died, he married another daughter of wealth, Ann Carter. 

   Ever chasing elusive schemes and speculations, he often strayed from Ann and their children. In order to pay his debts, he sold her entire fortune. Then, to make matters even worse, Ann discovered she was pregnant again. She already had five children to care for by herself How could she handle a sixth?  Without money to even keep the house warm, she lay desperately ill, and once wrote to her sister in-law that she dearly wished not to have this baby.  For many women today, without welfare and in a similar situation, abortion would seem to be for them the logical answer. But Ann Carter would not tolerate the thought.  On January 19, Ann’s baby was born; a boy whom she named after her two brothers Robert and Edward ... a boy who grew up to be the legendary Robert E. Lee. 

   An unwanted baby and the son of a man he never knew, young Robert was born into a world of pain as are many children today. But that did not destroy Robert’s spirit. For he learned to rise above his past and became one of the most respected leaders our country has ever known. 

   What do you think about tolerance?  I read about a pastor’s definition of tolerance as “man's attempt to remove himself from God.” The pastor went on to say, “God is never, never, tolerant. He is merciful. There is a difference. Love forgives, but is never tolerant. We must realize that God sent Jesus to the cross because He was merciful, not because He was tolerant. People who claim to belong to Christ do not have the right to condone or tolerate what God says is wrong. An intolerant God has been merciful to me.” 

   So many forces battle for the destruction of human life in one form or another. After many years of involvement in the center of the pro-life movement I have become thoroughly convinced that political activities alone will not save us. The only real hope for the future is a return to the spiritual foundation on which this country was based

   To be involved in evangelism, we do not need to cross the sea, as much as we need to see the cross. In His Great Commission Jesus didn’t only tell us to evangelize.  He told us to make disciples, which he said involves “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28: 19-20).  If we fail to do so, then we fail to fulfill the Great Commission!

   If you have not already done so, please call on Christ today to be your Savior.  We are sinners saved by grace -- soldiers in the Army of God! 

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