Saturday, July 30, 2011

"The Shifting Definition of Tolerance"

The nuclear family under attack
I was recently reading an essay adapted from an address given by Bruce D. Porter at Brigham Young University. The subject was on defending the traditional family, which has often caused controversy for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As pointed out by Porter, the Church and its members are often accused of intolerance when they advocate the traditional definition of the family. In the excerpt below, Porter discusses how the definition of tolerance has shifted in recent decades:
Until recently in our national history, tolerance referred to racial and religious non-discrimination. It meant civility in the political arena; in other words, respecting the right of others to express their views, even if we do not agree with them. It meant treating all people with decency and respect. Such tolerance is an important and vital part of our American heritage.

Today, however, the world is in danger of abandoning all sense of absolute right or wrong, all morality and virtue, replacing them with an all-encompassing “tolerance” that no longer means what it once meant. An extreme definition of tolerance is now widespread that implicitly or explicitly endorses the right of every person to choose their own morality, even their own “truth,” as though morality and truth were mere matters of personal preference. This extreme tolerance culminates in a refusal to recognize any fixed standards or draw moral distinctions of any kind. Few dare say no to the “almighty self” or suggest that some so-called “lifestyles” may be destructive, contrary to higher law, or simply wrong.

When tolerance is so inflated out of all proportions, it means the death of virtue, for the essence of morality is to draw clear distinctions between right and wrong. All virtue requires saying no firmly and courageously to all that is morally bankrupt.

Curiously enough, this new modern tolerance is often a one-way street. Those who practice it expect everyone to tolerate them in anything they say or do, but show no tolerance themselves toward those who express differing viewpoints or defend traditional morality. Indeed, their intolerance is often most barbed toward those of religious conviction. But let there be no misunderstanding or deception: the First Amendment right of free speech applies to religious speech as well as to other kinds of speech. Believers of all faiths have every right to participate in and share their convictions in the public arena.
I agree wholeheartedly with Porter's statement.

The last paragraph of the excerpt reminds me of the experience of Californian Mormons a few years ago. In 2008 I mentioned that Mormons in California were facing a lot of resistance based on the Church's support of Proposition 8 [here and here]. Gay marriage supporters were even going as far as using California's Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to attack the Church. Apparently they like the idea of 'free speech for me, but not for thee'. From what I've heard from my parents, who live in Southern California, although Proposition 8 may have been passed three years ago and been overturned by a Federal District Court last year (although the ruling has been stayed), Church members in California are still being harassed.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that James, its such a shame our world is in such moral shambles.



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