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TOLERANCE vs TRUTH

A memo written by Pastor Bob on 12/4/02 to members of an Anti-Bias committee

We have had several meetings and I do not yet know what our real purpose is or what exactly we are representing. My wife and I desire to remain on the committee and to fully participate; however, time needs to be given to educate us as to the goals, objectives, etc. At our last meeting a statement was made to the effect that,” There is no right or wrong”. I have thought a lot about that and cannot say I agree. However, perhaps I did not fully understand or we need to have a discussion of just what is meant by a statement of this kind. As far as I am concerned “tolerance or bias” is not a matter of “right or wrong” or “truth” or “equal”. It is a choice we make to respect the opinions, beliefs, values or truth claims of others not to agree with them.

My understanding of our purpose:

I believe that the purpose of our existence is to encourage tolerance and respect within our educational system and our community. We might do this by sponsoring various events or activities as well as providing the school board and administration ideas and support as well as our opinions as they consider how to promote tolerance and antibias. In other words, we are a group of individuals whose common purpose is to educate our children and communities to be tolerant and to come against bias and prejudice. I also thought we were to “represent” the views of the community regarding these issues.

With this understanding I would like to state my views and encourage each member of the committee to state theirs.

First of all I looked up the meanings of tolerant, tolerance, bias, and biased on the internet. – Merriam-Webster Online. I felt this was appropriate as we cannot realistically define our mission if we are not in agreement as to the meanings of these terms.

Tolerance is defined as: 1 : inclined to tolerate; especially : marked by forbearance or endurance 1 : capacity to endure pain or hardship : ENDURANCE, FORTITUDE, STAMINA 2 a : sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own b : the act of allowing something : TOLERATION 3 : the allowable deviation from a standard; especially : the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece.

Tolerance as defined in the Thesaurus: 1 the capacity to bear something unpleasant, painful, or difficult had always had a high tolerance to pain Synonyms: endurance, stamina, toleration Related Words: fortitude, grit, guts; strength, vigor; long-suffering, patience, sufferance; steadfastness, steadiness; opposition, resistance Antonyms: intolerance 2 Synonyms: FORBEARANCE 2, clemency, indulgence, lenience, leniency, mercifulness, toleration Related Words: liberality, liberalness, open-mindedness, permissiveness Contrasted Words: narrow-mindedness; prejudice; dogmatism; bigotry

Bias is defined as: 1 : exhibiting or characterized by bias; especially : PREJUDICED 2 : tending to yield one outcome more frequently than others in a statistical experiment a biased coin 3 : having an expected value different from the quantity or parameter estimated a biased estimate

Bias as defined in the Thesaurus: 1 Synonyms: LEANING 2, bent, disposition, inclination, inclining, partiality, penchant, predilection, predisposition, proclivity 2 Synonyms: PREJUDICE, one-sidedness, partiality Related Words: inclination, predisposition; slant, standpoint, viewpoint Contrasted Words: dispassionateness; fairness, justness 3 a : BENT, TENDENCY b : an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : PREJUDICE c : an instance of such prejudice d (1) : deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates (2) : systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others

Discussion1

Tolerate is defined in Webster’s dictionary as, “to recognize and respect [others beliefs, practices, etc.] without sharing them”, and “to bear or put up with [someone or something not especially liked].” 2

As a minister of the gospel I want to assure everyone that the Bible, which I choose to believe to be the infallible word of God, the revelation of God to man, is in complete agreement with this definition. Below are a number of scriptures that support my belief: 1 Corinthians 13:7 - (love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Romans 12:16 - Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Romans 12:18 - If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Romans 15:7 - Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. Ephesians 4:2 - with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, Ephesians 4:32 -And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Col. 3:13 - bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Galatians 6:10 -So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Tolerance means respecting and protecting the legitimate rights of others, even those with whom you disagree and those who are different from you. In a passive sense, traditional tolerance means, “everyone has a right to his own opinion.” Actively, it was traditional tolerance that enabled Christians (and others) to fight for the abolition of slavery in nineteenth century America, to shelter Jews from Hitler’s Nazis, and to be among the leaders of the early civil-rights movement in the U.S. and elsewhere. Tolerance means listening to and learning from other perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds. Tolerance means living peaceably alongside others, in spite of differences. Tolerance means accepting other people, regardless of their race, creed, nationality, or sex. Tolerance respects, and accepts the individual without necessarily approving or participating in his or her beliefs or behavior. Tolerance differentiates between what a person thinks or does and the person himself. I do not believe that, “truth is relative to the community in which a person participates. And since there are many human communities there are necessarily many different truths.” Or… “Since there are multiple descriptions of reality, no one view can be true in the ultimate sense…. Since truth is described by language, and all language is created by humans, all truth is created by humans.” Nor do I believe that, if all truth is created by humans and all humans are “created equal” (as the American Declaration of Independence says), that all “truth” is equal.

In a recent book by Fernando Savater, “El Mito Nacionalista”, the author stated “Tolerance … the doctrine in vogue, is that all opinions are equal. Each one has its point, and all should be respected or praised. That is to say, there is no rational way to discern between them.”(1)

Thomas A. Helmbock, executive vice president of the national Lambda Chi alpha fraternity wrote, “The definition of the new … tolerance is that every individual’s beliefs, values, lifestyle, and perception of truth claims are equal….. There is no hierarchy of truth. Your beliefs and my beliefs are equal, and all truth is relative (2)

Traditional tolerance asserts that everyone has an equal right to believe or say what he thinks is right. The new tolerance says that what every individual believes or says is equally right, equally valid. Not only does someone have an equal right to his beliefs, but all beliefs are equal. All values are equal. All lifestyles are equal. All truth claims are equal.

I personally do not agree with the above definition of “new tolerance”.

Edwin J. Delattre, writing for the Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute, says: [All values, beliefs, lifestyles, and truth claims do] not deserve to be respected for [their] own sake without regard to … content….The values of the Ku Klux Klan do not deserve respect; nor of any other racial, gender, or ethnic supremacist group. Neither do we owe respect to the values and beliefs of the organized crime cartels operating in the United States. We do not owe respect to the values of countless other individuals and groups you can think of as well as I, that are ambitious for power and use it without regard to considerations of morality. (3)

Using the Bible as my standard, it is clear to me that scripture does not agree that all values, beliefs, lifestyles, and truth claims are equal. Some rather “intolerant” statements are made in both the Old and New Testaments:

Jeremiah 10:10- But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation.

Psalm 119:160 - The sum of Thy word is truth, And every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting.

Deut. 6:18 - "And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with you and that you may go in and possess the good land which the Lord swore to give your fathers,

John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

I believe that there is a standard, God. In His Sovereignty, He has given to man a free will and each of us may chose for ourselves. Neither I nor anyone else has the right to force their beliefs on anyone. I firmly respect and would be willing to fight for your right to choose. However, each of us must act according to our own conscience and assume the full responsibility for our actions.

Authority has been given to the government to make laws restricting our choices, hopefully, for the benefit of the society. However, just because the state declares something legal does not make it true or necessarily right. Consider Nazis Germany or the Soviet Union under Stalin or slavery in the United States. There obviously is a difference between right and wrong, between the truth and a lie (deception), between normal and abnormal. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that for society to avoid anarchy and self-destruction it must establish standards of right or wrong, truth or lies, good or bad, normal or abnormal – for the common good. The question is then – whose standard? As for me I would rather put my trust in God than man.

Having said all of this, I want to do all that I can to see that our children, our communities and our society continue to be grounded on a true tolerance, a respect for one another regardless of race, color, nationality, creed, sex, life-style or any cultural difference. We must teach a willingness to accept each person as a unique creation of God without bias. However, I cannot accept that all truth claims, values, life-styles and beliefs are equally valid.

In conclusion, children are not born with bias, prejudice or intolerance - it is a learned behavior. When an individual decides to fly a plane into the World Trade Center because of his learned values, beliefs, life-style and truth claims are we to say, “Its OK, he just believes differently than we do. This act is neither right nor wrong. After all he really believed in what he was doing.

Resources

1. Fernando Savater, El Mito Nacionalista (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1996), 16-19. 2. Thomas A. Helmbock, “Insights on Tolerance”, Cross and Crescent (the publication of the Lambda Chi Alpha International Fraternity), summer 1996, 2. 3. Edwin J. Delattre, “Diversity, Ethics, and Education in America” ETHICS: Easier Said Than Done, Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute, 48-51.




Rev. Robert J. Paquet, Ph.D. PO Box 285 Callicoon Center, NY 12724

1. Much of my discussion is taken verbatim from the book, “ The New Tolerance” by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler (pp 15-20) Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Ill. (1998)  (Back to "discussion1)