Progressives Believe Tolerance Is an Important Value. Here Is Why They Are Wrong.

Former Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Catholic Diocese of Philadelphia has a somewhat famous quote attributed to him from a sermon he preached on the topic of tolerance. The Archbishop was quoted saying that “evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant and then it tries to silence good.” In the context of today’s evolving political debate, the Archbishop’s observation would certainly apply to the progressive Left who actively work to silence organizations and individuals that defend Judeo-Christian values and conservative principles. The Left often brands those who disagree with their political ideology as being intolerant or racist, resorting to personal attacks on their political opponents to influence public opinion and change American culture. But do progressives have a legitimate case to be made for promoting their view of tolerance, or are they simply projecting their own intolerance on those of us who believe in Judeo-Christian values?

Is Tolerance a Value, a Virtue or Simply a Theory About How We Should All Get Along?

The concepts of values and virtues are often confused, so it is important to clarify the meaning of both for this narrative. Values can be defined as desired cultural norms or outcomes that we want to cultivate for society. Examples of values would include respect, justice, morality and equality. By contrast, virtues are aspects of personal character that contribute to moral excellence and enable us to live out our cultural values. Examples of virtues would include honesty, compassion, loyalty and courage. In its proper context, tolerance should be viewed as a virtue that contributes to interpersonal respect, but it does not mean acceptance of another person’s ideology.

Having said this, how should we respond to calls for tolerance when they are directed toward something that is immoral? This question is critical because the progressive Left values a different version of morality than mainstream Christians and other conservative Americans. Progressives believe in “moral relativism” that does not recognize objective standards of ethics and behavior. Instead, relativism holds that morality is always subjectively determined by an individual employing their own conscience and unique cultural norms. In applying moral relativism, progressives use tolerance as a basis for attacking the principled positions of Christian individuals and organizations that oppose gay marriage, abortion on demand, and other ideologically left positions. Mainstream Christian theologians reject moral relativism outright, and so they should. Archbishop Chaput reminds us that “… [tolerance is] never an end itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil.” In order words, tolerating moral relativism opens the door to tolerating immorality.

Progressives Are Attacking Mainstream Christians Regularly with Accusations of Intolerance.

Progressive attacks on Christians concerning tolerance are no longer a rare event in America. During the past decade, we have seen an increasing number of these attacks coming from prominent Democratic Party leaders, the majority of whom now subscribe to progressive ideology. For example, DNC Chairman Tom Perez recently challenged the Christian faith of Trump supporters by saying he did not know what faith they are practicing. In paraphrasing the Christian Gospel of Matthew, Perez complained that Donald Trump “has done more to hurt the least of us.” Likewise, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who professes to be a Catholic, has been publicly critical of Christian conservatives by accusing them of “pray[ing] in church on Sunday and then prey[ing] on people the rest of the week.” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) once even accused evangelical Christians of trying to “outlaw sex that falls outside their theology,” and of trying to own women by opposing abortion. Such attacks are clearly designed to discourage Christian conservatives from sharing their values with the rest of society. Of course, in the progressive world of Perez, Pelosi, and AOC, moral relativism appears to be the norm because the “least of us” clearly does not include the unborn. That is because they all three support late-term abortion and federal funding for elective abortions.

Progressive Attacks on Conservative Christians Are Also Evidenced by Their “Cancel Culture.”

Progressives have attempted to marginalize conservatives with whom they disagree by attempting to suppress their speech and influence in the public square. To accomplish this, they practice a form of groupthink known as “cancel culture.” For example, this culture has taken hold on college campuses where conservative speakers are often banned from or are otherwise harassed during public appearances. Many universities are also attacking the free speech rights of faculty and students. According to the First Amendment advocacy group, nine out of 10 universities now restrict some form of free speech on campus. Outside of academia, progressives are now telling us it is racist to describe the COVID-19 virus that originated in Wuhan, China as the “China Virus.” Chick-fil-A restaurants have been banned from operating in some airports and university campuses because of financial support they provided to organizations like the Salvation Army that oppose gay marriage. Even President Obama joined this effort by cancelling a long-standing exemption for faith-based organizations concerning contraception. Mr. Obama’s contraceptive mandate directed religiously affiliated institutions, other than houses of worship, to offer sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients as part of employee health insurance benefit plans. This mandate applied to institutions even when offering these benefits violated their religious beliefs.

The Left Is Working Hard to Redefine the Meaning of Tolerance to Suit Its Political Agenda.

Christian apologist Greg Koukl recently released a video broadcast through Prager University where he discusses efforts by the progressive Left to redefine the meaning of tolerance. In Koukl’s view, progressives now define tolerance to mean agreement with their politically correct left-wing positions. If you disagree with progressives, Koukl notes, they will label you as intolerant, racist or simply a “hater.” But this is exactly the opposite of what tolerance is supposed to mean. True tolerance permits disagreement between individuals concerning a specific issue, idea or belief, while at the same time respecting the individual you disagree with. True tolerance rejects political correctness and the personal attacks that typically accompany it. As Koukl says, “all people have equal value; all points of view do not.”

Progressives Employ Accusations of Intolerance in Order to Change American Culture.

Progressives who express intolerance for Judeo-Christian values have a political motive for doing so. Progressives want to change American culture from a meritocracy that protects individual rights and that rewards individual performance to a culture based on victimization. A victimization culture is built upon identity politics where people are not judged by who they are but what they are. In other words, a victimization culture does not judge individuals by the content of their character, but rather by their ethnicity, economic class, sexual orientation, or other identity type. In such a segmented culture, progressives know they can more easily pit interest groups against each other to persuade specific constituencies they are victims of another group. Of course, progressives would tell us these so-called victim groups also have unique rights that government must be empowered to protect. In the process, progressives would have government’s role evolve to replace religious institutions as the moral arbiters of a society.

The Supreme Court offered us as excellent example of such moral arbitration when it handed down its 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Court’s progressive majority declared there exists a new fundamental right to gay marriage, even though no such right exists in our Constitution or in our national traditions. Chief Justice John Roberts became the leading critic of Obergefell in his dissent when he accused the Court of “stealing this issue from the people.” Roberts was correct because empowering government to be a moral arbiter is more typical of totalitarian regimes and not a functional democracy. Any government, so empowered, would gradually undermine the freedoms and individual rights the Constitution guarantees to all of us. Unfortunately, it is this end game that progressives seek, a government where rights are not granted to us by God and defined through a Constitutional process. Instead, progressives would rather have the power to declare rights arbitrarily when they are in the majority in order to silence the good.

Conservatives Need to Remind Progressives That Principled Disagreement Is Not Intolerance.

Progressive efforts to redefine tolerance represent an attack on America’s traditional Judeo-Christian culture and values. Therefore, conservatives should respond to such attacks by calling them what they are:  examples of the noble lieat work. Pastor Rick Warren has identified two of these lies for us. The first is that if you disagree with someone then you must either hate or fear them. The second is that extending love to someone requires that we agree with everything they believe or do. Warren points out that both lies are nonsensical in that they imply that tolerance requires that we compromise our principles and values to be compassionate and loving. Instead, we need to remind all Americans that compromising on principle is the hallmark of the moral relativist. Standing on principle, including the principles described in our Founding Documents, is the hallmark of an American who defends the Judeo-Christian values upon which our nation was founded. Unfortunately for progressives, tolerance is not one of these.

Eric A. Beck
Free Nation Media LLC
Greenville, South Carolina


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