If you listen to the rants of many political and cultural liberals today you might get the feeling that they are very a tolerant people. You would at least get the clear sense that they want you to be tolerant of ideas and lifestyles you disagree with. But there is a catch. The modern, liberal idea of tolerance is not what it is made out to be. To paraphrase a wise man, I do not think it means what they think it means.
In short, “tolerance” sounds like the virtue by which you agree to disagree and learn how to work with and talk with people who see things differently than you do. It might simply be called civility. In reality it is a label used to coerce and shame people into seeing things the way political liberals see things. It is the opposite of actual tolerance – it is a severe and short-tempered distaste for people who see things differently. “If you are tolerant, you will agree with us!”
Enter the Papal visit. President Obama and his Administration have organized a reception committee for the Pope’s visit to the White House which includes every imaginable dissenter from the doctrines and practices of the church in an attempt to make their position known. It is exactly what a petulant child would do to make sure mom and dad know they are angry and are not getting their way. A full article is at the WSJ behind the pay wall, but here is an excerpt from some reporting on Hot Air:
At practically the same time that Barack Obama has decided that the US has to shut its eyes to dissenters in Cuba suffering under the yoke of oppression by the Castros, he plans to offer a lesson in dissent to Pope Francis. Obama has extended invitations for the pontiff’s first state visit to transgender activists, a gay Episcopal bishop, and the leader of a group of nuns that want changes to Catholic teachings on abortion and euthanasia.
By lining up a veritable circus of people who openly oppose the Vatican, the President and current Administration are expressing exactly the opposite of tolerance and hospitality. They are making it clear that they are incapable of living with the Catholic Church in all of its historical catholicity. The transgendered activists are inflexibly right, they are asserting, and the church needs to get with the times. As if Christians have not heard this gripe before and outlived and out-argued it every time.
You might think that this is just one expression of a policy of dissent the Administration has adopted in order to express to the world at large one of the clear benefits of living in an American system where political differences do not get you put in jail. That would be nice, but you would be wrong.
I’m curious. When the Saudis visited the White House this month, did Obama invite women’s-rights activists to dinner with them? Did Obama invite Ayaan Hirsi Ali to discuss the need for reform in Islam? No? Which entity has more need for openness, inclusiveness, and tolerance?
So why does a cultural force that preaches so much tolerance fail so miserably at being tolerant of other points of view? This really is not a mystery. When a worldview loses touch with truths beyond its own making, the only way for it to promote itself over other worldviews is by force. And here, force can take the form of brute force, propaganda, emotional manipulation, peer pressure, censorship, shouting, etc. All of these are effective means to enforce your ideas, but none of them have inherent connections with the truth. If, however, a worldview holds that there are truths to reality, including moral and theological truths, then it need not resort to intimidation to get its point across. It can, by the very nature of the convictions of the worldview, argue for its conclusions.
(In one of the great philosophical ironies of the 20th century, the Postmodern critique of Modernism as power can only be argued for through some form of power-wielding.)
If you cannot do that, you throw fits like a child. You make scenes intended to embarrass and shame people you disagree with so you can try and bully them into becoming as tolerant as you are.