Liberals and Tolerance


One of the defining characteristics of modern, mainstream liberalism is its emphasis on “tolerance.” One could accurately say that liberals are zealous for tolerance. This zeal manifests itself in intolerance of those persons or groups suspected by the liberal establishment of not adequately showing tolerance. Liberals righteously denounce those whom they perceive as insufficiently tolerant. One major target of liberal ire is orthodox Christians. Orthodox Christians are those who adhere to the traditional tenets of Christianity.

When they dare to profess beliefs out of step with the liberals’ ideal of tolerance they are immediately branded as the modern equivalent of heretics: “bigoted,” “narrow-minded,” “offensive” and “hate-filled.” These Christian heretics are compared to Nazis or the Klan. While liberals are busy proclaiming the value of tolerance and open-mindedness regarding things such as political belief, sexual behavior and religious belief, they simultaneously attack any professions by orthodox Christians on these subjects.

This phenomena has occurred here at Harvard and throughout the nation. The liberal establishment in many colleges and universities across the nation decided that Christian student groups that require leaders to profess a belief in Jesus Christ as God are discriminatory. The list of schools trying to expel groups such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is growing: Tufts University, University of North Carolina and most prominently in the news, Rutgers University. An associate dean here at Harvard recently joined in by stating that the Harvard Radcliffe Christian Fellowship was discriminatory because it asks its leaders to declare their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The editors of the Harvard Crimson bemoaned the University’s eventual decision not to punish the Christian Fellowship for its heresy. The editors thought that Harvard “should have forced HRCF to change its constitution or lose College recognition.” Yes, even in the pages of The RECORD we can read liberals exercising their double standard. One recently stated, regarding The RECORD’s choice to print a Christian columnist: “I’m all for freedom of expression and opposing viewpoints, but . . . .”

The common thread in all this is the refusal by orthodox Christians to buckle to the zeitgeist, and the liberal double standard regarding tolerance. These Christians refuse to be cowed by the name-calling. On the contrary, as InterVarsity’s student president stated regarding InterVarsity’s stand against Rutgers, “We felt it . . . would be a bold witness for Jesus.” This refusal to be silenced makes the orthodox Christians a grave threat to the liberal establishment.

Liberals tout the value of tolerance but do not practice it. This leads one to recognize that what liberals want is not really a true tolerance but a new orthodoxy, one in which individual autonomy is given full sway to allow the individual to pursue an Epicurean lifestyle. This means giving full license to base passions, especially sexual desires. It also means that restrictions on abortion, divorce, pornography and other things that could hinder the individual’s pursuit of pleasure are bad.

Christians who oppose the new orthodoxy by proclaiming the truth threaten to undermine it. They stand up for the unborn, they explain that divorce undermines the family and that pornography degrades both women and men. Orthodox Christianity stands as a constant reminder to the new liberal orthodoxy of an alternative path. This path explains that true freedom is not found in the absolute license to the desires of one’s will. Instead, it is in the conformance of one’s self to reason and one’s end. It is by becoming virtuous and enabling our reason instead of our passions to guide our actions that one becomes free. The new liberal orthodoxy seeks freedom in the prison of one’s desires. Orthodox Christianity finds freedom in the release of reason through virtue.

True tolerance resides in a recognition of the multiplicity of human goods and the corresponding diversity of paths to those goods. For instance, leisure, knowledge, life and religion are all goods that we can pursue in countless equally valid ways. Human beings become more fully human as they rationally pursue these goods. True tolerance also recognizes, however, that the disordered pursuit of one good to the exclusion of others, or the outright denial of the value of one of the goods, is harmful to human beings and prevents us from becoming happy. False tolerance, by contrast, denies that humans are harmed when an individual irrationally pursues the human goods, and it attacks those who believe so. That is why, for example, the liberal orthodoxy so vehemently protects the abortion license and attacks those who seek its repeal.

Liberals advocate tolerance but employ a double standard when it comes to people such as orthodox Christians. Orthodox Christians advocate true freedom and tolerance, and their persecution by liberals betrays that what liberals really seek is unlimited license.

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