Author: Thomas Cosmades
A gloating Islamic fundamentalist in Italy, peeved with the sight of the crucifix in a classroom, initiated a court case. In today’s secular, post-Christian Europe the court yielded to the drift ruling in favor of its removal. The verdict stirred perturbation in the country. Anyone in touch with Muslims will find himself audience to the frequently recited self-congratulatory vociferation: “Islam is a tolerant religion!” The word tolerance much in vogue, but often misappropriated, needs to be re-evaluated. What lies behind the thought of tolerance as generally embraced by the ordinary person? Among a number of dictionary definitions the shortest is worth quoting: The act of allowing something.
In a world of varying beliefs and conflicting creeds, the act of tolerating is treated as a meritorious generosity. To put it into simple language: “Basically I am at odds with your persuasion, but am allowing its existence. I will put up with it.” The exercise of tolerance is apt to be strained and elongated or conversely contracted, tightened as a person deems fitting. Any observer of what is happening in our world can attest the oscillation of tolerance in balance with its giver’s verdict. It can be commensurably bent according to the wish or pleasure of the one of stronger position. Tolerance is nothing short of inconspicuous disallowance.
The strings are in the hand of the dispenser with the ever-present reminder: “As long as it suits me I tolerate you and your belief. However, I hold the right to disallow it. Don’t forget my predominance. I am the giver and taker of what you are allowed to enjoy. Therefore, be careful!” Christians with minority status in Islamic lands often live under the aegis of this subtle tactic and are ever cognizant of it. Asia Minor, lands of the Middle East, the whole of North Africa– stretching to the Atlantic coast– constitute an emphatic repudiation of Islam’s gloating tolerance.
Islam is now extending its measuring stick to lands where it cannot claim any historic roots, unless perchance by past conquests. The day is not very far away for newcomer Muslims to democratic lands to determine and dictate what is to be tolerated or not tolerated. Norms and practices in lands not their own are becoming their concern. Quite disturbingly, the right to tolerate or not is being availed to them. The masses who appropriate tolerance to their liking are hard at work. These self-complimenting imperious persons ought first to examine their inner life under God’s higher light in order to discover how many intolerable practices are tolerated within!
SWINGING THE PENDULUM
Talking about toleration, the topic carries us to another domain. This age prides itself with post-Christianity and post-modernism. The principles of divinely-oriented ethics and morals have been jettisoned. Instead, we are urged to heed the changing epoch and the necessity of being tolerant. The current requirement for toleration cannot be contested by those who disagree. The new reality is fixed. One has no right to frown at or attempt to alter the pace. The show must go on while everyone acts with the mien of toleration regardless of his/her liking or disliking. If you don’t like them, mind your own business!
Everyone has the right to act as he deems beneficial to him/herself. Let no one assume the prerogative to dampen his/her practices. It is called the new morality, the current trend, the new life style, etc. The choice can stretch from what are repulsive art forms all the way to sexual innovations that will bring greater pleasure to the doer. This arresting mindset is contrary to the ancient notion of hedonism, which taught that anything ultimately causing pain ought to be discarded. Our age has surpassed the old Greek pursuance of pleasure. Having discarded God’s principles, what have we brought as a substitute for them?
Before us are two puzzling concepts about tolerance, stretched to two extremes. Let the deft individual seek to reconcile them! Both betray the absence of the basic qualities: love, respect, ethics, morals, peace, etc. At the root of all lies the selfish, conceited, complacent human heart in need of regeneration. The Beatitudes projected by Jesus Christ explain the basic need of the strutting mind: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:5-7).
WHO BESTOWS THE RIGHT?
Those explained in the first category ought to be reminded: Where did you obtain the mandate to tolerate, or not, the belief and creed of the other person? From where do you receive the right to curtail the tolerance of which you are holding the strings? No, thank you! Whether you are Muslim or Hindu, or something else, I don’t need your tolerance to exercise the command of my God and my conscience. My freedom is not contingent on your approval or disapproval. I am prepared to safeguard it to the death. Did you ever hear what Voltaire (1694-1778) once said to a Christian who was explaining to him what the faith of Jesus Christ is all about? At the end he responded, “I do not agree with an iota of what you are telling me; however, I am prepared to defend till death your right to say it.”
Let us move on to the other aspect of tolerance and ask them: Who gives you the privilege to alter long-standing moral-ethical principles and go on to establish contrary effects in lieu of the former? Where do you receive the mandate to place the seal of approval on those who rewrite the code of ethics? How do you justify yourself to blatantly uphold offenses against long-held rules of justice, propriety, beauty and true liberty? By what authority do you seek to impose on me and so many others the constraint to tolerate acts which ravage our soul and violate our principles?
No one will wink his/her eye at charlatans who contravene the laws of mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc. Any person contriving his/her own formulas is apt to become a pariah. But ours is such a slippery age that we are told to behave imperviously to any sort of misbehavior for tolerance’ sake. Christians believe in a God who is holy and set against sin in any form. He is the God who loves the sinner and obstinate person. He is longsuffering, pleading with the sinner to turn to him. He came to this world and suffered to rescue sinners. Under no circumstance, however, is he tolerant toward sin in any manifestation. He speaks severely in his word: “These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself” (Psalm 50:21)… “Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).
The person priding himself on his tolerant behavior must look at the matter from another standpoint. He may be surprised to discover that Christ does not tolerate any wrongdoing. Because He did not tolerate sin—either imputed or executed—He took on Himself our sin, paying the due penalty by His own precious blood in order to reconcile sinners to a just God, His Father. He does not act whimsically, but judges in all fairness and uprightness. He deals with sin regardless of man’s tolerance because he is the only one who will ultimately cast his verdict on right or wrong. He is the one who will judge every human action. He will only be tolerant and forgiving of the transgressor who honored his sacrificial death. His invitation is extended to everyone, including you. Don’t be enticed by artificial fantasies of tolerance; conversely, believe in God through his son, Jesus Christ, who is ready to offer you forgiveness and a brilliant life that is endless.
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