Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The incoherence of tolerance

Timothy Dalrymple writes about the scorn for conservative Christians as being a hot market.  Of particular note is this offering, which is not the subject of his article but something I wanted to highlight:
Their intentions are honorable, but undermined by an incoherent strategy and by their deep-seated scorn for conservative Christians.  They’re trying to encourage love — by being hateful (and no, I don’t think that’s too strong a word).  They’re trying to encourage tolerance — but judging everyone who disagrees with them.  They’re trying to improve the witness of the church — by legitimating the stereotype that the conservative half of the church is bigoted and deceitful.  They hold themselves out as a better alternative — by throwing more conservative Christians under the bus.
In my own experience with arguing for traditional marriage I have been accused of everything under the sun.  I'm a bigot, homophobe, liar, brainwashed, etc. etc.   The thing about such names is that I now regard them as synonymous with the phrase "I disagree with you."  Most of these attacks are not based on anything other than a deep conviction that I am not just wrong but "evil."

This would not be an issue to me except for a glaring omission on the part of the gay "marriage" advocate.  That is the notion that the gay "marriage" advocate bases his support by the "virtue" of tolerance.  The person who advocates gay "marriage" justifies the stance that Christians must be tolerant of the views of those who are gay.

The problem with appeal to this is that the tolerance is one-sided.  Only the pro gay "marriage" stance is tolerated.  Those who hold a different opinion are savaged as "idiotic, bigoted, hateful, fearful, etc".  The non-judgmental person is most judgmental, the proclaimer of  peace is the most hateful, the one who advocates charity is the first to impute evil motives.

One would argue that such people are simply hypocrites.  But there is a more charitable but more complicated explanation.  The problem at its root is that the notion of "tolerance" as applied is incoherent.

The problem of "tolerance" is that it imposes a discipline of non-judgementalism that is impossible to actually adhere to.  We make moral judgments everyday.  It is how we discern a right action from a wrong one.  We judge because to not do so would mean that any action, regardless of how we perceive its moral value, is of equal weight.

 So tolerance is not then something that the tolerant person abides by, but is a spear to be hurled at the opposition.  When someone disagrees with me on a moral issue I can simply accuse them of "intolerance."  Which actually ironically is an act of intolerance.  Hence in order to judge if one is intolerant or not one has to judge.  The contradiction is obvious.

So the next time one accuses you of being intolerant point out the obvious, that the accuser is the intolerant one.  The accusation itself is rooted in intolerance, and unlike the accuser, you have proof that at least one person in the discussion is the intolerant one.  But do be sure to point out the silliness of the philosophy.  Otherwise it looks like a personal attack and not a criticism of the incoherent philosophy.

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