Politically correct buzzwords, once formed, take on a life of their own and possess a momentum that carries them beyond rational evaluation. I see and hear a lot these days about the necessity of being tolerant and about the sin of intolerance. I’ve noticed this also, that when someone takes a strong public stand for something, they are usually cast as being against something and judged a bigot. Often they are labeled hatemongers and phobic. Just to even declare that one holds to a certain value or moral can put you at risk of being accused of imposing your values on others.
This seems like a reaction in the extreme but I can appreciate the reaction. The reaction is against the highly offensive practice of a group of people that I as a pastor am constantly on vigil for—religious types! Some, many, enough that you notice—religious types spend a great deal of energy publicly condemning various people groups who do not measure up to their particular religious standards. It should be noted that to their credit, they will just as readily condemn other religious types who disagree with them as they will full-out heathens. They will picket. They will carry signs, usually hand scribbled with poor grammar, to explain the reason for their moral outrage and judgment. They get press—not because they express a valid point but because they make for good theater.
Those religious types serve as the justification for castigating all others who dare to take a moral, ethical or value based stand. I understand the irritability concerning religious types. I really do. But we have to stop and think a bit about what we’re saying. Do we really, really want to stamp out intolerance? Frankly I’m glad that our grandparents were intolerant of Nazi genocide. I’m glad abolitionists were intolerant of slavery. I think that our society is just about to decide that we’re intolerant of domestic violence against women. I would be all for that bit of intolerance.
I find that I’m becoming increasingly intolerant. I’m intolerant of the hypocrisy that insists on tolerance except when it comes to my view that’s different from the latest culturally endorsed opinion. Just because I differentiate myself from the crowd and express my own independent view doesn’t mean that I am oppressing anybody. You don’t have to agree with me! You are also free to differentiate and hold your own independently decided upon opinion. And I can take a stand against something and not be phobic about it. I’m against vegetarianism. But I’m not vegetarian-phobic. There’s nothing to fear there really. Vegetarians are not a very intimidating bunch—probably due to the lack of meat in their diet.
I want to be known not for what I’m against but for what I am for. It is possible to be against everything and be for nothing. That’s often what those crazy religious types do. Being against stuff is not the evidence of superior piety. But if I am for something then I guess I necessarily have to be against the opposite thing. I’m for natural fabrics so I guess by default I’m against polyester. Everyone who survived the 70’s is.
I think that religious types need to figure out how to express their stand on their values and simultaneously treat all the people who don’t share their views respectfully. If that were to happen it would be a miracle. Then I think people, when presented with a moral stand that challenges or convicts them, need to stop labeling people as phobic or bigots. I know that taking this radical stand will likely result in a clever bumper sticker that mocks me but, I don’t care. I’m intent on becoming more intolerant.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Martin Cathrae