In Layman's Terms - Bob Sullivan

True tolerance

We all deal with people who tell us that we need to tolerate things which are contrary to our faith. Yet these same people often show no interest in tolerating our decision to practice our faith consistently.

Whether we substitute other words for tolerance, such as equality, inclusiveness, welcoming, affirming, accompanying, etc…, the expectation is always the same: As Catholics we are expected to change our beliefs and behaviors, but the broader culture is not expected to tolerate, much less accept, the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. There is a reason for this and I’ll get to it shortly, but first, let’s look at the definition of tolerance.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, one definition of tolerance is “the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behavior that one dislikes or disagrees with.” This is known as a circular definition because it uses the word to define itself. That is not a very helpful way to understand what tolerance means, is it? Therefore, it is up to us to use our gift of reason to try and understand the true definition of tolerance and then ask ourselves why Christians are the only ones who must tolerate.

The Oxford Dictionary does note that tolerance assumes that we put up with something disagreeable to us. As Matthew Kelly says, we don’t “tolerate” a beautiful day. But the problem lies in the duration of the tolerance. How long must the unpleasant situation be tolerated?

Tolerance is only possible in the short-term and will always fail unless it turns into something else such as acquiescence, acceptance or support. The more unpleasant or disagreeable the situation, the shorter the duration for which it can be tolerated. When tolerance is used as a permanent coping mechanism for extreme behaviors or situations, it always ends in disorder, chaos and/or violence.

Progressives cannot allow themselves to tolerate any orthodox Christian moral belief or practice because they realize that long-term tolerance either fails or it turns into acceptance and support. They know that what they call tolerance is actually the precursor to acceptance. They just use the word tolerance because they rightly assume we will refuse if they are blunt and simply tell us that we just have to “get over it.”

Alternatively, if progressives were tolerant of Catholic moral teachings, they would eventually have to recognize and accept the objective moral truth on which Catholic morality is based. If there is one thing all progressives hate, it is objective moral truth. At that point, artificial contraception, abortion, promiscuity, adultery, same-sex “marriage,” homosexual behavior and all other forms of immorality would be off-limits because these things are always wrong, under all circumstances, regardless of time or place. This is why tolerance is a one-way street for progressives.

One reason why many progressives tell us that we are only intolerant of certain behavior is because we are too sheltered from the “real world.” This is a subtle way of telling us we are ignorant, or bigots, or both. Advocates for the LGBT lifestyle tell us that we would not be prejudiced if we simply got to know some members of the LGBT community. This is an appeal to emotion, but not to objective moral truth. Humans can justify almost anything if we ignore truth and rely heavily on our emotions.

The Human Rights Campaign is an aggressive advocate for LGBT rights. They often produce videos and publish testimonies of people who changed their mind and began supporting the LGBT lifestyle because a son, daughter or close friend announced that they were living such a lifestyle. Planned Parenthood is following suit by encouraging women to tell “uplifting” stories about their abortion. Bizarre, huh? It is also about as one-sided as a story could ever be, given the fact that the other person involved in the abortion has been silenced.

Faith and reason tell us that things like abortion, adultery, homosexual behavior, abuse, and promiscuity are evil. While we can certainly tolerate unpleasant things for a short time, we can never tolerate evil because to tolerate it is to support or consent to it.

While being called intolerant can sound bad, it is actually okay to be called intolerant if you are refusing to tolerate evil. This is because the progressive effort to equate tolerance with acceptance is a recipe for disaster. It is best to confront evil as soon as it presents itself instead of letting it go once, or twice or three times. Each time we tolerate evil, we become party to it and truth dies inside us as we grow to accept, consent to, or support it. 

Do not expect progressives to accept our faith. This way you will not be surprised when you run into a brick wall of one-way tolerance. Instead of being surprised, you can approach the conversation much differently.
Tip: If someone tells you that you must tolerate abortion, adultery, abuse, homosexual behavior, etc…, it is usually best to avoid starting your defense with Scripture or Church teachings. Many progressives have either dismissed Scripture, or they have adopted a very distorted and limited interpretation of Scripture which has led them to assume that God is all-tolerant in addition to all-powerful, all-knowing, etc... Take advantage of science, history, natural law and reason to support the Church’s moral teachings because all of these things actually do support the Catholic teachings. Ask them to explain why they believe you should tolerate their choices or behavior. Then ask them if they can tolerate your beliefs long enough to have a courteous discussion.

Bob Sullivan

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