The Intolerance of Tolerance
It was only in 2012 that Don Carson published a book with the title The Intolerance of Tolerance. It is a book that traces the development of so-called "tolerance." How far we have come from the days of “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The philosophical shift has happened so quickly, and it looks set to impact many areas of life.
The matter is worth contemplating afresh in the midst of the current discussion about same-sex marriage in our country. Or rather, the current discussion about whether or not our country should even have a national discussion!
For some time now, I have felt strange about the argument that allowing the plebiscite to proceed would be akin to allowing hate speech directed to the LGBTI community. The suggestion that the result of a plebiscite would not prevent some politicians voting in Parliament reject same-sex marriage is levelled at conservatives. But isn’t this just as true for progressives?
So much of what I read, in the media and my Facebook feed, contrary to the arguments, directs hate speech in fact to those seeking to uphold a special place for traditional marriage. Andrew Bolt is one of the few to have called this out for what it is. Furthermore, this is the type of dialogue that has been modelled by some of our politicians. All I am doing is upholding and defending marriage as it has been understood and embraced for thousands of years. And for that, apparently, I am labelled as a bigot! Really? This is the intolerance of so-called tolerance. And it has progressed – even to the degree of seeking to silence the national debate.
Whether or not Australia has a plebiscite remains to be seen. It would be a chance for the views of the people of multicultural Australia to be expressed. In just 2004, both sides of Parliament endorsed traditional marriage. How quickly things can, and are, changing.
However, even now, using the wisdom that God has embedded in the world, it would seem prudent for Christians to prepare to live in a society that is intolerant toward Christians and Christian values. This is not something that one should necessarily fear, for one of the lessons of church history is that the Gospel thrives when there is opposition. But it is also not something that should be ignored.
Some are seeking ammunition against churches meeting in schools by going through their sermons, looking for “hate speech.” Their aim is to see church groups kicked out. Those defending traditional marriage have been reported to anti-discrimination authorities. This also extends to personal freedoms with, for example, Christian bakers ending up being bankrupted for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage reception.
The urgency of the Gospel has not changed, but our society is rapidly changing. Sometimes I find myself wondering how many people even see what’s at stake.