A Reprint: I Can’t Tolerate Tolerance!

N.B.: I wrote this just over 9 years ago, November 15, 2006. I wanted to repost it because, honestly, the matter of tolerance is much like consent. When discussing matters regarding women’s rights, whether sexual or personal or health-related, many people on the right don’t understand what consent is or how it works. Tolerance is much the same; I often read right-wingers who insist that “liberals” MUST be tolerant of them. That tolerance is a liberal value that must be honored. Etcetera, etcetera, and on and on. This is why I think they just don’t get it . . .


If you look below, especially at the comments section, and if you go to my turtle loving friends to the north you will find the word “tolerance” quite a bit. I try not to use that word (although I believe I have; mea culpa) because, in truth, I am not a tolerant person. Tolerance is to me an elitist notion, implying a certain noblesse oblige that I find distasteful.

As a person who is both passionate and firm in my political and religious beliefs, I would much prefer that, rather than tolerate one another – implying that we simply accept the fact that others hold views different from our own, but we refuse to countenance those views as holding any worth – we actually talk to and listen to one another. I have been enriched by my encounters with people whose religious, political, and social views are different from my own. I have learned from people with whom I might also have had an argument.

The American view of tolerance assumes the superiority of one set of views over another. That is a view I cannot accept. Unless I was asleep and missed the meeting, I haven’t heard that we finally found the only way to truth, truly human living, and the final answer to life’s persistent questions. I live as if my Christian beliefs were so; I do not and would never claim for them ultimate truth for anyone else, not out of tolerance, but because I believe that as finite human beings living in a finite, open universe, there is no such thing as an ultimate answer. The idea that truth, one way of living, one way of being human is correct and all others are incorrect (a correlate of tje Aristotelean idea we just can’t seem to shake that truth is singular) is simply ridiculous, an assertion rather than something proven, or even provable.

Having said all that, I must admit that there is more than a bit of justice to some of the claims my right-wing turtle loving neighbors to the north make below. Truth be told, liberal tolerance in America does end where their own secular beliefs begin. I find that a fascinating, tacit admission of fear; is it possible that there really are more things in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in their philosophies? As someone who is not tolerant, but rather open to new ideas (and equally intolerant and dismissive of views I find either ridiculous or abhorrent; I admit little tolerance here) I just wonder what would happen if push came to shove . .


About gksafford

I'm a middle-aged theologically educated clergy spouse, living in the Midwest. My children are the most important thing in my life. Right behind them and my wife is music. I'm most interested in teaching people to listen to contemporary music with ears of faith. Everything else you read on here is straw.

Howdy! Thanks for reading. Really. Be nice and remember - I'm like Roz from Monster's Inc. I'm always watching.

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