The air is heating up with Republican presidential hopeful Mit Romney’s religion making its way to the arena of public discussion. Ever since Pastor Robert Jeffress stated in an interview that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) — or, Mormonism — is theologically a cult, there has been an overwhelming negative response to his comments. His opinion has been deemed hateful, misguided and intolerant. All for believing Mormonism is a cult. My concern here is not so much whether Mormonism is a cult, but instead, the blowback Jeffress has received. Is his view hateful and intolerant?
The charge of intolerance has gained a significant amount of traction over the past decade or so. It was really ramped up when activists for same-sex marriage realized that by labeling the opposition hateful and intolerant they could intimidate opponents into backing down. It was basically the same-sex marriage version of the ‘race card‘. It became quite clear that the ‘H.I. (Hate & Intolerance) card’ proved effective when debating a controversial topic.
- Oppose abortion? You obviously hate women, you misogynist
- Oppose same-sex marriage? You obviously hate homosexuals, you homophobe
- Oppose illegal immigration? You obviously hate brown people, you xenophobe
- Oppose affirmative action? You obviously hate blacks, you racist
- Oppose soaking the rich with more taxes? You obviously hate the poor, you elitist
- Oppose a Mosque at Ground Zero? You obviously hate Muslims, you Islamophobe
At a point in the not so distant past, the term tolerance has been redefined. In order to pass the tolerance litmus test, merely respectfully bearing with (nearly) everyone’s points of view is not enough. Now, unless you are an advocate for, endorse, and champion another’s point of view (or behavior) you are intolerant. This alone is not yet enough, you must also believe the view (or behavior) is good.
But this isn’t tolerance, it’s agreement. The concept of tolerance itself requires disagreement. After all we don’t have to tolerate people we agree with. Gone is the original understanding of tolerance: Respectfully bearing with a person with whom you disagree. People deserve tolerance, not their ideas. Ideas and convictions are to be debated and reasoned through. People are to be tolerated and treated with respect, not shouted down and called names.
Here’s the rub: When Jeffress’ detractors designate him intolerant and hateful, they are essentially proclaiming he is wrong. ‘So what!’, you say? I agree, in theory. There is nothing wrong with thinking someone is wrong. However, those decrying some people — let’s face it, politically and theologically conservative Christians — as being intolerant, are themselves being intolerant according to their new understanding; hoisting themselves by their own petard.
I have never understood how it so easily escapes the accuser that they are employing a rather conspicuous double standard. You think I am wrong, I think you are wrong, but somehow I am intolerant and you are a noble victim? How is such an escape justified? It never is. Either the rules apply to all, or they apply to none.
Tolerance doesn’t mean everyone is right. What I would like to see is true tolerance. An environment where a person is free to weigh in with their religious, political, and social opinions without threat of accusations of hatred and bigotry. If one believes their convictions are actually true, there should be an invitation of opposition and investigation. The truth can stand up to inquiry. In a truly tolerant society, all views can compete in the market place of ideas without fear of intimidation. The idea which most closely comports with the facts, is true — not intolerant or hateful. Ultimately a person’s objective when forming opinions should be to have true opinions regardless of their popularity, or lack there of. There is no nobility in forming opinions for the sake of someone else’s conscience.