The New Tolerance
D.A. Carson is probably one of most well-versed theologians on this subject matter. Much of information found here is an excerpt from his video series on the subject titled the Intolerance of Tolerance.
So, what does this redefining view of tolerance look like? It may be helpful to look at the definition of the word tolerance in order to better understand the seismic shift that has taken place.
Webster dictionary says this “1 : capacity to endure pain or hardship : endurance, fortitude, stamina. 2a : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own.”
It is part 2a that I would like to focus on. That is the idea that in order to be tolerant, you have to disagree with someone first. The very definition of the word tolerance presupposes that there is always some form of conflicting viewpoints in order for a person to be tolerant.
The great sea change in our society is that there is now so much pressure to not disagree with anyone about anything. The “new” tolerance requires total acceptance of another person’s point of view and attempts to morph the definition of the word into the idea that if you just disagree with someone, you are automatically an intolerant person. So, the emphasis, has shifted from enduring the hardship of disagreement in an acceptable way, to eliminating disagreement all together. This is a dramatic change from the true definition found in Webster's.
On the surface this new definition appears acceptable and tolerant, so what is the potential harm in all of this?
First, it renders the actual definition of tolerance incoherent. If all viewpoints are equal and there is no room for dissent, then the word tolerance has lost its meaning.
Second, thought control. The result is being instantly labeled by the “tolerance police” as an intolerant person. This result is a form of group think ideology that attempts to force everyone in a society to think the same. There is no room for dissidence, not even any room for discussion. Discussion breakdown is never a good thing. If you show any non-agreement with someone, it is considered to be phobic. How tolerant is this to label someone? George Orwell in his classic novel 1984 descibes this tactive of placing a negative label on any disagreement or objection.
Third,there is so much emphasis on protecting the emotional feelings of a person that truth becomes secondary. There is a strong spiritual force within our culture that is attempting to say that all religions are equally valid and that they are all to be assumed as just different paths to spiritual truth and to provide some form of comfort for the individual. End of debate, no discussion, no disagreement. If you hold to any other opinion than this, you are an intolerant bigoted person with no credibility. This conviction of nonconformity is viewed as hateful.
But how tolerant is this point of view? The scalpel cuts both ways. To cut someone else, without assessing the impact of it cutting you as well is just a will to power play.
It is interesting to note that in Middle Eastern Cultures, there is no such view of this type of tolerance. They all know that there is a vast difference in the monotheistic religions, and that they cannot all be right. Their question is, which one?