WHO Radio’s Jan Mickelson spoke at an Iowa Family Policy Center event a couple of days ago.

He makes a point that is broader than the current debate over the definition of marriage in Iowa looking at what it means to be tolerant in this postmodern world.  Watch below or here:

Mickelson shared about somebody who called into his show who called him intolerant:

Who can even be tolerant? …Can people who accept, approve of, or are indifferent to the claims and behavior of the gay agenda be tolerant toward gays?  … so the only people who can be tolerant are the only ones who compromise their standards.  Personally, I think two guys pretending to be sexual mates are making a mistake.  More than that, they are violating the design of their bodies. More than that, they are sinning against their maker. More than that, they are likely to shorten their lives in this world and impair their destinies in the next.  For me to be tolerant in your view I have to give up every single one of those ideas and accept theirs as healthy and normal.

He then asked the caller, what then do you have to give up to be tolerant?

Nothing.  That isn’t tolerance, that’s acceptance.  It isn’t the same thing.  It is amazing how many people desire conservatives and Christians to be tolerant, on a plethora of things not just marriage, but yet don’t exercise tolerance themselves.

To be tolerant, you have to have something to tolerate right?

This has been a shift long in coming as we shifted from classic tolerance to contemporary tolerance as I noted when blogging about JP Moreland’s recent book, Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power:

Moreland says, that intuitively we sense that tolerance is a good thing, but we also sense that something is wrong with the way it is applied today.  We see this shift largely in what we call moral relativism which holds “that everyone out to act in accordance with the agent’s own society’s code (or, perhaps, with the agent’s own personal code).  What is right for one society is not necessarily right for another society.”

It implies that moral propositions are not simply true or false.  Instead whether something is true or false (in the moral realm or religious realm) is relative to the beliefs of a given culture or individual.  In the application of truth we can certainly see that, but relativism says that the truth values are relative to a given culture.

So when it comes to the shift in how we view tolerance.  The classical view is that one tolerates people, not ideas.  It is an absolutist position, and Moreland states is inconsistent with relativism.  Because if we don’t hold the other position to be morally false what is there to tolerate?

The new version of tolerance claims that we should not even judge that another’s viewpoint is wrong.  So if I believe homosexuality is morally wrong, I’m viewed as intolerant.

But really, we who disagree are the ones who are being tolerant.  I can tolerate homosexuals and have a relationship with them even while disagreeing with their lifestyle.  That’s true tolerance, I’m tolerating them as human beings, in that it isn’t hindering me from having a relationship.  Disagreement with the agenda and lifestyle isn’t hate.  True tolerance (classical tolerance) doesn’t require me to give up my beliefs, it is actually because of those beliefs that I can be truly tolerant.  Otherwise I’m just accepting their lifestyle and agenda and coming to the point of agreement. 

That isn’t tolerance.  To expect me and others to simply give up what we believe about marriage and homosexuality (or numerous other positions) is intolerant, and Mickelson does a great job pointing out the intolerance of (contemporary) tolerance.

Video HT: The Iowa Republican

3 comments
  1. Good post, Shane. I’ve been thinking and saying for many years and I’m not sure where I go the idea, that no culture becomes more tolerant. They only shift what they are intolerant of. Jan Mickelson could have asked the caller who decides what should be tolerated. Why not tolerate both gays and those with a Biblical Worldview?

    Tolerance leads to superficial proximity. Love leads to the telling of truth. Love can be painful. But I’ll stand for loving neighbors and families that speak Truth when it hurts over superficial proximity anytime.

  2. That isn’t tolerance, that’s acceptance. It isn’t the same thing.

    I have this conversation with someone or another every few months and the problem is, tolerance has become synonymous w/ acceptance, ergo if you don’t accept someone for whatever choice they make, you are an intolerant, bigoted, monster.

    The fact is, it was never actually about tolerance– that was just a camel’s nose strategy on the way to forcing everyone to accept any and everything (conservatives and the religious excepted,of course).

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