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What do we really mean by "Tolerance"?

John Myhill has been pondering the tolerance that abounds in our society, and shares his thoughts with us.

I believe that tolerance has become the most dangerous ideology of our time.  Originally a political mechanism to prevent people with different faiths from killing one another, it has mutated into the justification for privileging certain minorities, whilst refusing to engage with ideas which might transform the "tolerant" person's way of life.
Modern technology is dismissive of unfashionable ideas like God, evil, mission, living presence, and Truth.  These are all "beliefs" that must be tolerated, despite being clearly absurd to the "tolerant" person.  The expression of such beliefs will be met by amused indulgence or a superior smile, but there will be no real listening, no genuine engagement with the ideas expressed.  Better to be tortured or imprisoned than suffer the mocking face of this "tolerance". I am offering you the Grace of God, eternal life, perfect happiness, and you look at me as if I was a small boy who has told an outrageous fib or let off a stink bomb.
The "tolerant” people have no sense of shame or guilt, regarding the people who have suffered to make their lives comfortable and easy; so they have no fear of the punishment that awaits those who reject the Word of God.  On the contrary, they are confident in their ability to reverse injustice, save the planet and ensure that everything is permitted between consenting adults; and that all contrary ideas will be ignored or, as they put it, "tolerated".
Reading this piece, they might be puzzled as to why such behaviour is dangerous.  But they are suffering from a conceit that humans can manage without God, despite the record of the history of the Jews in the Old Testament, and the fall of the British Empire which coincided with secularisation of our country. 
"Tolerance" is an ideology blown by the wind: the "victims" to be protected are constantly changing.  Will it be migrants or transsexuals? Claimants or knife-wielding children? Women or flat-dwellers?  Who can we blame for their suffering?  Whoever the "victims" are, it is those pulling their strings who have maintained and increased their power.  The "victims" learn that they have no responsibility for their own lives, or for the harm they cause to others (including the tax payer who usually ends up paying the compensation).   Thus the "victims" are prevented from seeking God's way and His forgiveness, and thus fail to discover their true ability to contribute to the common good.
Being part of a minority can give us a sense of identity and belonging, but these may be false comforts preventing us from discovering who we really are and where we belong. Thus, I would join with Dawkins style atheists in trying to persuade members of a cult, that they should think through their membership, and consider a deeper search for Truth.
Any minority can take on some of the aspects of a cult, so I would happily discuss with a Muslim, or a Catholic, a Jew or a fellow Quaker; whether they were right to identify themselves by one of these labels.  But it may soon be illegal to have that kind of a discussion with a homosexual - or presumably any person who identifies themselves as a member of sexual minority - only heterosexuals will be asked to consider if they might be mistaken in their identity.  I know of drug-takers who would like a similar law to protect them from all those who try to persuade them to give up what the majority see as an addiction, and what they see as a minority status - their identity.
At Celebrate Norfolk this year I had a stall mapping the links around the world connecting Norwich to those emerging as Christians far away.  This coincided with Quakers nationally remembering 150 years since the first Quaker mission abroad.  No-one told me that we should NOT share our faith, or give others the chance to make "Christian" their minority identity, knowing that they might then become "victims" of abuse or even torture and death.  No-one said we were being "intolerant” (but in the sense I am describing we are).
Lots of people expressed an interest and said they could not find a church that fitted their spiritual experience and religious yearnings, although "Christian" is already their minority identity.  I will leave it to the "tolerant" to provide them with therapy, until they give up their identity, which I share, own and confess.

The image above is courtesy of www.pixabay.com 


JohnMyhill450John Myhill is a Norwich Quaker, retired magistrate and author. His blog is at http://johnmyhill.wordpress.com/

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