I find myself wondering if the word, these days a sickly, anemic, anorexic wraith of a word barely staggering around on its wobbly feet—and yet incredibly loud despite its weakness—has always carried with it a genetic predisposition toward infirmity and decay, or if the present-day virulence of political correctness has fed its malignant bone rot.
“Just give tolerance a chance.” Let’s hold our candles high and sway to the music as we stand in front of our university’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, hoping that the wind whistling through our ears doesn’t extinguish our flickering flames. Still, it’s quite a moving experience, this worship of tolerance. All the more heady, issuing in tear-streaked cheeks and spirits utterly astonished at the depth of our own virtue, if we’ve just managed to “cancel” a speaker whose speech we’re frightened we might not agree with. And the music plays, we sway, wind whistles, candles flicker, minds atrophy.
Forgive me, but “tolerance,” oft-mistaken in our society these days as the highest of virtues, seems sickly, wobbly, and unequal to the task its worshipers have thrust upon it, even as it tries to do what they demand. Not see. Not care. Have no strong opinions, except those most popular, plastic, and unencumbered by anything as morally or dreadfully confining as reality or physics. You believe two plus two equals five; I believe the answer is four. Oh, well. Be tolerant. Light a candle. What difference does it make as long as we’re all happy and on the right—better make that, the correct—side of the latest opinion polls?
Strange, though, how tolerance, as generally practiced in the ever-constricting PC world, stretches only one direction and how utterly intolerant it is in the other. Flirt with a politically incorrect opinion and feel your career flame out as diversity seems suddenly unappreciated.
In his Wall Street Journal article (10/10/2020), Joseph Epstein lists five views among many “the tolerant absolutely won’t tolerate.”
*That abortion “is, somehow, anti-life and thus just might be wrong.”
*That “the final word isn’t in on climate change, let alone what, if it exists, ought to be done about it.”
*That “racism isn’t systemic but the absence of fathers in African-American families is, with 70% of black births being out of wedlock.”
*That “sexual reassignment surgery and transgendering generally is a ghastly solution to what possibly isn’t a problem.”
*That “most government programs for the improvement of the human condition are unlikely to be effective and in many cases exacerbate the illnesses they set out to cure.”
What a strange virtue tolerance is, especially if it tries to lay claim to being the highest of all virtues. Long before we get even through the list of five items above, let alone to hundreds of others, the high priests of Tolerance have covered their ears, shredding their vocal cords belting out, “All that we’re asking is give tolerance a chance . . .” all the while completely unwilling to ever really try.
We’d do well to remember that Jesus named and crowned the highest of virtues long ago: love. Love is completely up to the task our society has futilely entrusted to tolerance.
Just not caring much. That’s the highest win “tolerance” can manage. Love cares deeply. Love may have very strong opinions indeed. But love loves anyway, even those with whom it most strongly disagrees.
I could blather on. But I’d rather offer examples of love’s strength as opposed to insipid “tolerance.” Think Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. Think George W. Bush and Michelle Obama. And think—I hope you can—of someone you love deeply, someone you’d die for, whose politics, opinions, and even choices, you abhor.
Tolerance will never be up to that task. For love, such strength is simply what it’s all about. Tolerance is a plastic idol. “God is love.”
Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.