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Σάββατο, 13 Απριλίου 2013

THE VIRTUE AND VICE OF TOLERANCE






 THE VIRTUE AND VICE OF TOLERANCE


By Joseph Sobran, July 1999.


From the Editor: This article's content, albeit approximately years old, certainly rings out timeliness in spite of the years since its authorship.

If gay marriage is legalized, does the bride's family pay for the wedding and reception? And how do you tell which one is the bride, anyway? Would there be a best man, or would that be the bride too? What about the maid of honor?
I know, I know: I'm intolerant. But why is tolerance such an unquestioned virtue? And by the way, why is it a virtue demanded only of conservatives?
You tolerate a thing when you put up with it despite your disapproval of it. But if you really disapprove of a thing, shouldn't you try to do away with it, or at least discourage it? That depends.

Today's idea of tolerance has its origins in the policy of religious toleration. For centuries England tolerated Roman Catholics, who were regarded as heretics owing their chief loyalty to a foreign power (the papacy). But Roman Catholics were also barred from public offices, universities, and other positions of influence. Toleration wasn't considered a virtue: it was only a policy, based on the assumption that ideally there should be no Roman Catholics in England. The policy was to allow Roman Catholicism to exist (in private), while discouraging people from embracing it.
By today's standards, such toleration was very intolerant. But by England's lights, it was a perfectly rational policy. And many governments have followed that model, putting up with vice without giving it a moral sanction. There was a time when laws against prostitution and pornography went unenforced in certain parts of town, but when they ventured out into the "respectable" neighborhoods, they were sternly prosecuted.

The principle was that vice, in order to be tolerable, must never pretend to be anything better than vice.
The whore plied her trade without exalting it as "sexual freedom." That, of course, was before Hugh Hefner, the pornophilosopher.

Today every vice is a "right" (smoking excepted, of course). In our day, liberals are forever demanding that conservatives be more tolerant of everything from abortion to Communism. But liberals don't merely tolerate such things; they approve and promote them—a very different matter. Liberals don't just put up with abortion and sodomy; they want full legal and moral acceptance for such things, and they call even moral disapproval "intolerance" or "hate." To say they "tolerate" such things is like saying the Pope tolerates Roman Catholics, or that Israel tolerates Jews. In a word, nonsense. If you like something, you don't have to tolerate it.

When liberals celebrate old Reds like Lillian Hellman and her lover Dashiell Hammett as heroes and victims, they don't mention the monstrous evil of Communism or the moral responsibility of those who supported it. They don't think Hellman and Hammett need forgiveness; they think it was actually quite admirable of them to hold such "progressive" views against the "intolerant" society around them.


On the other hand, liberals aren't particularly tolerant of smokers, gun owners, pro-lifers, or conservatives. They hate them, and they want to cause them as much trouble as possible, even by circumscribing their legal rights. It was thanks to anti-abortion protesters that liberals finally discovered limits to the First Amendment.
Tolerance is a virtue when you put up with a lesser evil for the sake of a greater good, such as social peace.


It isn't a virtue at all—it becomes a vice—when it means abandoning your moral standards out of cowardice or pusillanimity. We tolerate a lot in our families for the sake of preserving love and kindness; we tolerate a certain amount of noise and bother from our neighbors for the sake of general harmony. But if you tolerate your son's heroin habit, you deserve to be called something harsher than "tolerant."
At its best, tolerance is charitable patience with human weakness, out of love for the person. It shows itself in the disposition to listen to others and to make an effort of imagination to understand their feelings and point of view. You may still disapprove of what they do, but you've given them a fair chance to explain themselves.
A lot of people who call for tolerance these days probably wouldn't recognize the real thing...


Let us contemplate the punishment of God upon Israel (Judges 10): The Israelites committed that which was evil before the Lord, worshipping the Syrian, Sidonian and Moabite idols and others; and the Lord handed them over in bondage to the Philistines who, for eighteen years, trampled upon them and crushed them. How dreadful is the Lord toward apostates from the true Faith...

St. Nikolai Velimirovic (+1956)

Page 86         Vol. 11, Issue 03-04


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