When an office seeking orator says they are in favor of something, it is almost certainly because they are after a certain group of voters. Same sex marriage. Medicare. Tax reduction. Abortion. Defense. Senior citizens’ rights. Veteran’s benefits. The death penalty. Education. The controversial issues are endless. It is almost certain that what a candidate says is what he or she thinks their potential supporters want them to say. When they are speaking to a group, they are more invigorated about the topic they think that particular group wants to hear than at any other time on the same subject.
I know people who have had abortions. I personally believe that abortion used as a form of birth control is wrong. Does that mean I don’t love those people? Absolutely not.
Do I believe that all paths lead to God? I certainly don’t. As a Christian, I believe in one God and that the one way to have relationship with Him is through His Son Jesus Christ who gave His life to breach the gulf between God and man. Does that give me the right to hate all other people on the planet who don’t believe as I do? No way.
Do I believe that too many people in this country depend on the government to keep them up or be responsible for their well-being? I do. Do I believe that people should never get help from government programs? I think there are assistance programs that are both humane and necessary for those in need.
Here’s what I really am trying to say: Whether or not we agree on any one of these issues or whether you disagree with me on all of them — that is your privilege and your right as a human being. I acknowledge freely your right to believe what you want to, even if it is not right for me. On the same note, you should be willing to allow me to embrace my convictions without hating me if mine are different than yours.
That is tolerance. When people give mutual respect for the other person’s right to choose what they believe, even when it is totally different from their own, then “tolerance” is real. I found the following quotes on the subject interesting.
“Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.” —Robert Green Ingersoll
“I think we have to understand that when tolerance becomes a one-way street, it will lead to cultural suicide.” — Allen West
“In a multi-racial society, trust, understanding and tolerance are the cornerstones of peace and order.” — Kamisese Mara
“Tolerance is the price we pay for living in a free, pluralistic society.” – Robert Casey
“Tolerance is held to be a condition of mind which is encouraged by, and is necessary for, civilization.” — Arthur Keith
“Tolerance it a tremendous virtue, but the immediate neighbors of tolerance are apathy and weakness.” — James Goldsmith
“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” — John F. Kennedy
In my opinion, this is what tolerance does not mean. It does not mean that I have to wimp out and say, “anything goes.” It does not mean that I have to apologize if my beliefs are different than someone else’s beliefs. It does not mean that I give up my right to freedom of speech in appropriate venues to express what I do believe to be right. It does not mean that I have to agree with opposing views. It does not mean that I have to lose my passion for those things that I hold to be true or dear. It does not mean that I have to let anyone abuse me verbally, emotionally, or physically for my convictions.
In the media recently, we saw what happened to one American businessman who was asked for his honest opinion about a current social issue and when he gave it, those with opposing views went nuts. They boycotted all of that particular restaurant chain across the country, unleashed a tidal wave of hate speech against the man and his beliefs because he didn’t agree with their position on one particular social issue. It wasn’t as if he was beating anyone over the head with his views. He was asked a question that required his personal opinion, then those asking wanted to punish him for telling the truth.
I kept thinking, “So they asked him a question, probably already knowing what his personal belief system was. Did they want him to lie about it? Or did they ask him, so they could set him up for a social attack because he held fast to his Christian values?” Either way, they were demanding “tolerance” from him, but extending absolutely none in return.
We should never embrace the idea of tolerance to the point that it makes us weak, uncommitted to anything, or unwilling to stand up for what we believe is right. At the same time, we should never abuse it to the point that we only tolerate those who see eye to eye with us on any given issue and think we have a right to violate those who don’t.
It seems to me that the danger in misunderstanding the concept of tolerance in this day and time is that all people would be so washed out and homogenized that they don’t know what they believe and don’t really care what anybody else believes. Perhaps even worse, in a desire to be socially and politically correct, there is a danger that no one would be willing to risk voicing an opinion that may prove unpopular.
The only way tolerance will ever work is when it is a two way street.