Book Review: The New Tolerance, Part 2

By | August 11, 2014

(This review is a continuation from part 1.)

As mentioned, the first half of “The New Tolerance” basically says “liberal ideas have come and are taking your kids away from you!” However I feel the authors mainly argued against a straw-man. They defined “new tolerance” rather than having someone who fairly represents a thoughtful liberal viewpoint do so. The quotes the authors do use to support their case seem to be examples from the further end of the left. I live in the Midwest and understand that it is a more conservative area than the northeast and west coast (though less conservative than the South). Maybe the authors live in a more liberal area and consequently have a different perspective. To me however, their characterizations don’t fairly represent the left. The only instances in the book I can recall of a person defending the “new tolerance” came within a few illustrations. In these, a teen did a poor job of trying to explain their viewpoint to their parent. In my opinion, they misrepresented “the new tolerance”. These flawed defenses were easy to pick apart. I felt that the authors didn’t engage thoughtfully with more reasonable thinkers, ideas, and values of the left. They dismiss them wholly on the basis of more extreme examples.

There are some significant theological problems with the fear mongering in “The New Tolerance”. First, fear suggests potential harm. However, Christians believe that God is in control and therefore “What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6). This doesn’t mean that we will never experience something bad, but we’re supposed to trust in God and not worry. This book seems to be the opposite of that. It sounds like “We’re worried and we (not God) need to do something about it.” Along with this, most of the time the worst thing the authors seem to be afraid of is… being labeled a “bigot”. I’m serious. There are a few examples of people running into problems with employment, but for the most part, their big fear is being labeled. This also makes me have difficulty taking this book seriously. I think there are many more serious problems to address.

In reality, what the authors really seem to be upset by is the waning place of privilege that conservative Christianity has in our culture. In other words, they’re used to being “in” and are uncomfortable with their new experiences of being “out” in some instances. However Jesus said nothing about transforming the culture or government to our liking. We’re supposed to belong to another kingdom, not try to set up our own kingdoms of comfort here on earth. I definitely understand desiring peace and comfort and security. I certainly want these too. But seeking our own peace and comfort and security isn’t what we’re called to as followers of Christ.

The authors complain that the meaning of tolerance has changed. They say that the “new tolerance” means you have to approve of and even support everyone else’s choices and beliefs. The authors are okay with people having different beliefs and believe these people should still be treated kindly. Yet their idea of traditional tolerance also includes the authors’ conservative Christian beliefs being the dominant view of our society. In other words, people can have different beliefs so long as we (conservative Christians) are in control. They complain about cases of intolerance toward Christianity without ever recognizing how Christians have often been intolerant of others. In this way they fail to recognize or honor the good values behind the “new tolerance”: truly respecting other people’s beliefs and not marginalizing them.

Our culture holds a value of the worth of all people. This comes from Christianity and from this comes the belief that people shouldn’t be harmed. Ironically, some Christians put beliefs ahead of people. In other words, “This belief is more important to me than you are; I must hold to me belief, even if it hurts you.” The authors generally fail to recognize the harm that has been done to many various groups of people. Liberals and progressives recognize these harms and seek the end of this kind of treatment. Sure, some liberals take things to an unbalanced, unreasonable extreme. That isn’t right either and should be stopped. But that doesn’t mean the whole left side is wrong. Until the authors’ recognize the good of these positive values, they will have little success in changing our culture for the better. Overall, the authors demonstrate a general lack of understanding of the other side. Because of this, “The New Tolerance” serves to further divide and polarize people with differing views. As such, the book probably has done more harm than good.

I continue this review in part 3.

Share Button

Thank you for subscribing to my weekly digest email! Please check your inbox in order to confirm your subscription. If you don’t receive the confirmation email, check your spam folder. You may add to your address book in order to prevent my emails from being marked as spam.