Not Your Mother's Kind of Tolerance

Not Your Mother's Kind of Tolerance

Views that advocate same-sex marriage are free to exist, but they are wrong.

Now, stop. Read the above sentence again. Are you okay with it?

Chances are how you feel about that statement indicates your understanding (or misunderstanding) of tolerance. D. A. Carson, in his book, The Intolerance of Tolerance, explains that Western culture isn't exactly firing on all cylinders when it comes to knowing what tolerance is. He distinguishes two different concepts of this word: old tolerance and new tolerance.

Old tolerance — that is, before the onslaught of postmodernism — defines the concept as to "accept the existence of different views." New tolerance, however, defines tolerance as to "accept different views." More than just accepting a view's existence, new tolerance adds that you'd better not say it's wrong either. New tolerance demands that we consider every opinion to be equally valid. The only wrong is to say that everything's not right. Just wait, it gets more complicated.

This new tolerance can only occur when folks deny objective truth, which of course, is all talk and no muscle. So it's no surprise that the whole concept of "new tolerance" is contradictory.

First, it refuses to tolerate anything that doesn't agree to its understanding of tolerance. You see, "new tolerance" has a right and wrong, too, it's just that what's wrong is to say there's such a thing as right and wrong. Capisce?

Second, "new tolerance" considers views directly opposed to one another to be equally valid. But, really? Jesus either rose from the dead or he didn't. To be sure, he didn't do both, which means: somebody gets this wrong. Not like "sorta, kinda, maybe" wrong. But dead wrong.

Be all this as it may, "new tolerance" has become a god in our society, the Most High of moral virtues, such that "the supreme sin is intolerance" (Carson, 12). Said another way, Western culture's anti-god is to speak from absolutes, to be so doggone dogmatic, to say "this is right, that is wrong." So you see, Dan Cathy's support for traditional marriage isn't really what makes folks mad, it's that he has publicly refused to bow down to their god. Rome called them Christians, America calls them bigots. And for sure, this ain't your mother's kind of tolerance.


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Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.