The buzzword we hear popping up in almost any discussion on a moral issue today is tolerance. We should be tolerant of other people's beliefs. We shouldn't judge other people's lifestyles, we should be more tolerant.
The problem with being tolerant of everything is that the only thing left that isn't tolerated is intolerance. In our culture it has become common for someone who believes in moral absolutes immediately to be labeled as intolerant. As Christian people who believe in the moral absolutes of God's truth, that leaves us in an unpopular position in this pluralistic society.
The Birth of Tolerance
The tolerance movement is an outgrowth of pluralism, which holds that all beliefs are morally equal and need to be treated with equal respect. It believes that all religions contain truth and no one religion or belief system is superior to another.1 Cultural pluralism gained respect in this country during the 1960s when musicians and pop culture icons began to explore and promote Eastern religions. This also spurred the growth of the New Age movement, which is very popular today.
Over the past four decades pluralism has rapidly become the dominant belief system of our media, Hollywood , and many of our political and cultural leaders. During the same time also, pluralism has increasingly become the committed enemy of Christianity.
For those who believe in the god of pluralism, the only true sin is violation of its principle doctrine, tolerance. Christianity is based on God's absolute values and allows for no compromise on His commandments. This is an abhorrent concept for pluralists.
The definition of tolerance has gradually been adapted by our pluralist society. No longer is it adequate to allow others to hold their own beliefs; tolerance now dictates that we must accept the beliefs and practices of others and respect them as equal to our own, no matter how distasteful they may be.
Pluralism is difficult to engage, partly because it has become so entrenched in our society but also because no one wants to be considered intolerant. It is also very dangerous, especially to Christianity, because of where it eventually leads.
When Judge Roy Moore placed a monument to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial Building , there was an outcry. To in any way promote Christianity in a public place might offend people of other religions. Judge Moore's perceived public endorsement of Christianity was a direct affront to pluralism.
Our laws are also gradually becoming hostile to Christianity. Consider the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would make it a criminal act for a Christian employer, even a church, to deny employment to someone based on his lifestyle. If passed, this legislation will be used to force churches and Christian schools to hire homosexuals.
Senator Ted Kennedy's proposed hate crimes legislation will also be used against Christians. Again, the language has been carefully crafted to make the legislation difficult to oppose. What kind of person would be in favor of hate? The strategy has been effective, as already forty-nine Senators have signed on as cosponsors to the bill.
Our Future, Unless
Unless we take action now, it will soon be illegal for a pastor to condemn sinful lifestyles from the pulpit. Even the reading of certain Scriptures will soon be illegal.
Many would say that this is alarmist rhetoric and that it could never really happen. Tell that to our Christian brothers in Canada where it already has. Just a few miles to the north, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has banned all radio and television stations airing anything negative about homosexuality.
In Ireland , Christians face up to six months in jail for distributing literature that opposes same-sex unions because to do so would violate the 1989 Incitement of Hatred Act. One such piece of literature produced by the Catholic Church has already been targeted by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL). While the literature does oppose homosexual activity it clearly states that homosexuality should be treated with "respect, compassion and sensitivity."
In spite of the compassionate treatment of a controversial issue, Ms. Aisling Reidy, director of the ICCL, has stated that even though "the document itself may not violate the Act" it may be used to say "that gays are evil, (which) is likely to give rise to hatred, which is against the Act."
Even in our land of free speech, Rev. Kristopher Okwedy's ministry was attacked by homosexual activists when Keywords Ministries bought space on two billboards in Staten Island , New York to display Leviticus 18:22. The activists claimed that because the verse condemned their lifestyle it constituted a hate crime. It was simply a verse from the Bible, but the local government ordered that it be removed.
Pluralists even find it offensive when a Christian follows Christ's command and shares his faith. They contend that to attempt to convert a non-Christian to Christianity is to say that Christianity is superior to the belief system of another person. This is so offensive that there are ongoing attempts to make it illegal to proselytize.
Unfortunately, pluralism is becoming so pervasive in our society that it is even taking hold within the church itself. Just last year, U.S. News & World Report conducted a poll that reported that 71 percent of Americans, including 70 percent of Christians, say Christians should be tolerant of people of other faiths and not try to convert them. Only 24 percent of Christians think it is a Christian's duty to convert members of other faiths.
If we are to reach our world with the truth of God's Word, we must quickly get involved in the fight to defend our faith and our rights as Americans. If not, we will soon live in a country that will not allow us to share our faith with others or allow any public expression of Christianity at all.
1. The pluralism discussed in this article is not to be confused with Christian Communitarians with whom we also disagree.
- Warren Kelley
Warren Kelley serves as President of the National Center for Freedom and Renewal.