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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

       Monday, July 26 2004 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Intolerance

A correspondent had a complaint about my entry last week about Nicholas Kristoff's column in the New York Times and elsewhere ridiculing and misrepresenting Christians and fans of the Left Behind series of books for taking the historic doctrine of the second coming and judgment of Christ seriously. My critic said I sounded intolerant. Yes, I was obviously not "tolerating" Kristoff's views (if that means giving a pass without the best retort I could make to such journalistic malpractice). But I was certainly tolerant enough to not try burning down the plants that print the newspapers or even look up Kristoff and punch him in the nose.

Just which passages, phrases, even single words, in the piece struck my critic as intolerant, I asked. Armed with that information, I might be able to amend my ways. Maybe if they were highlighted I could see the bugaboo intolerance too. I'm still waiting for an answer.

I think I'm very tolerant. I welcome criticism of my output and arguments civilly presented against my political and even religious points of view. I believe that honest debate is a keystone of democracy, and though "reason" is not my highest source of truth, it's good enough for debating those who are rationalists. I treat all people as neighbors, even regarding them as potential friends, and don't drop acquaintances if I find them disagreeing with my stated views, and hope they are equally charitable toward me. I believe there are at least two (usually more than two) sides to any issue and feel it's incumbent on good neighbors to comprehend as many of them as they can (though I'm not required to regard any of them as true or valid if I see a better alternative). This is what I consider to be "toleration." It doesn't mean failing to stand for right where and when you discern it, especially when there's an opportunity to oppose wrong.

Some Orthodox saints have become so filled with love that they have proposed that eventually everyone, even Satan, will be saved. I'm not sure if I'm just not loving enough or if this proves my critic's point, but I confess I'm not that tolerant. (Orthodoxy proscribes teaching that "hope" as a doctrine of the church but allows holy men and women to hold and express private opinions.) But just what do we mean by "intolerant"?

Declaring war on everyone who disagrees with us is intolerant. But is also expressing disagreement, even in strong words, to oppose other ideas intolerance? Where do we draw the line? That question is the origin, no doubt, of the expression and the conception of whether it's your, or my, ox that's being gored. You consider me intolerant when I disapprove gay "marriage"; I see you as intolerant when you dismiss people who call homosexual lifestyle choices sins.

The United States Congress is often cited for its culture of toleration. Opponents on bills and social visions can "rip each other up one side and down the other" in debates in the chambers, but may be good friends when the recess gavel comes down, often to the amazement of onlookers, sometimes even causing questions about the sincerity (or its opposite, hypocrisy) of the elected representatives.

But to such skeptics, perhaps the call of Jesus, "love your enemies" is the key. He didn't say you won't have enemies, only that you have to find ways to love them.

I suspect that my critic was actually put off by what he took as rudeness on my part, which is ironic, as I believe rudeness is intolerable. So I'll take that up next time.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

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