Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means" -- Inigo Montoya
Among all the words in a language already so battered and bruised as to almost become unrecognizable, one word stands out for having taken the brunt of the beating.
Tolerance has been so misshapen by the abuse that many people think that it means something opposite to its nature. After all the injustice the word has suffered, I am unsure if it can or even should survive. Nevertheless, I wish to testify to its true meaning, even if in eulogy.
So let us begin with the basics. Contrary to what you may have heard, tolerance of its own can never be a good thing. By its nature, tolerance means abiding a bad thing. Even in our diminished capacity, nobody would say that they tolerate something good. One doesn't tolerate ice cream. One tolerates liver.
Metaphors aside, to tolerate is to abide something wrong, something in error, something evil.
Now many people today would have you believe that tolerance is the highest of the civic virtues, but it is not and never can be. Abiding evil can never be a virtue in and of itself and therefore it can never be demanded of anyone, least of all a Christian.
There are many reasons Christians may legitimately tolerate error, but they all must have one thing in common, the good of the sinner. We sometimes tolerate such error in the hopes that eventual realization of the folly will lead to repentance and eventually to truth. But there are also some errors and actions that cannot and must not be tolerated for the good of the sinner and the good of society.
In a pluralistic society such as ours, we have wisely limited the power of government to be intolerant toward religion in the recognition that such power is more likely to stamp out the light of truth than the darkness of error. In essence, we tolerate only some government.
But just because we have not empowered the government with our right to be intolerant toward religious error does not mean that we have forfeited this right. All such rights not delegated are reserved to the people.
However, as Americans we have generally found that we do not wish to restrict the right of men to practice their religion as they see fit, even if in error, so that we may practice it freely in truth. This is the bargain we have made and it worked, until now.
In order for this grand religious bargain to work, the spread of religion must be limited to its public effectiveness and its persuasive power. But nobody should ever be forced to embrace the tenets of another's religion. But this is exactly what is being demanded of us today.
Under the guise of a misshapen tolerance, it is being publicly demanded that we submit to and even embrace error. That is not tolerance, it is its antonym.
Moreover, those miscreants who would have us submit are actively using the powers of government to enshrine their secularist religion (make no mistake--it is a religion), which is opposed to Truth who is Christ, as the law of the land. This I will never tolerate.
We have tolerated so much error for so long that some people believe that we must. We have no choice. But we have a choice. The plan of the secularist religion to enshrine their beliefs as the law of the land is a mutual tolerance deal breaker.
Since they are no longer tolerant of my beliefs I am no longer obligated to tolerate theirs. I, as do all Americans, have reserved the right to be intolerant. I now plan to exercise that right. For now that intolerance is limited to speech and the purchase of chicken sandwiches. For now.
You only tolerate things until you don't anymore.