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Intolerant tolerance

I am always struck by how dogmatic liberal Americans are in their liberal assertions. It seems to be very hard for liberal Americans to understand that theirs is a peculiar and particular viewpoint that is as rigidly held by them as any belief that is held by fundamentalists or conservatives. Law makes this point over and again in his books and it is one, I fear, that many have yet to come to grips with.

I happen, like most liberally-minded people, to believe in diversity, for instance, and claim that it is a good. That said, there are many, many people who make a fair case against diversity variously defined. Many church leaders have a version of the truth to which they believe we all their flock ought to subscribe. They reject out of hand the notion that folks in the pew can believe what they want about homosexuality, for instance. I had a number of people in my old Sunday School class who held the view that we all believe in the same God. Again, I suspect that many conservative Christians would find it completely anathema and unscriptural to allow that anyone could come to the Father but by the Son and that all these other beliefs should be given the same weight.

We liberals are quite content to say that we accept all these points of view. We are broadminded folks. Religion is a private affair and as long as your beliefs don’t impinge on mine, why should I care? But for many millions of believers across the world, therein lies the very nub of the problem. They see us as willing to accept virtually anyone’s point of view. We see ourselves as very tolerant. They see us as forcing our tolerance onto them. We see ourselves as open. They see us as hostile to their dearly-held beliefs and attempting to undermine their faith. We see ourselves as modern. They see us as not really caring deeply about issues of faith but just willing to go where the cultural winds blow. We see ourselves as nice people. They see us as very ugly Americans trying to foist a very materialistic culture, drenched in sex, and narcissistic in the extreme upon their more spiritual way of life.

Today’s (Sunday August 27, 2006) Dallas Morning News Points section has two articles, one by Billie Abraham and the other by Rod Dreher, which enlarge on the point that I am trying to make: If we are truly to come to grips with the Cross Roads we need to move out of our comfort zone and make a serious effort to understand those who reject our way of life and our way of thinking.

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