Exactly who is intolerant

What fuels intolerance, hate and violence? What causes the kind of rage we have seen in recent weeks in the destruction of the Shiite shrine in Iraq, and the fiery response to it, or the rioting, violent-inciting banners, burnings and killings that followed the Danish cartoon faux pas? Is it because Islam is essentially violent?

A recent article in the New York Times notes the increasing anti-Christian rhetoric coming from Hindu leaders. But there is more than rhetoric; churches have been burned, missionaries killed and native pastors attacked. Does this mean that Hinduism is essentially violent?

Then consider the various cases of anti-abortionist killings and abortion-centre bombings that occurred in the United States in the last couple of decades. Are we to conclude that all anti-abortionists are violent?

Coming a bit closer home, consider the recent incident of the gay cruise to Grand Cayman. Are we to conclude that all people with same-sex attraction have an agenda that drives them to publicize their cause? Are they all out to change the world’s point of view toward the gay lifestyle?

Objective response

What I’m proposing with these questions is for us to offer a more objective response to the great or minor controversies that engage us from time to time. First, we need to stop generalizing along the narrow lines of particular groups. Violence among Moslems is not because all Moslems are essentially violent. Violence from Hindus is not necessarily due to the violent nature of Hinduism. Violence from anti-abortionists is not necessarily because anti-abortionists are fundamentally pathological. And finally, not all people with same-sex attraction are out to change the world’s point of view. Many still suffer in silence; ashamed and guilty as they struggle to deal with what is to them a great personal difficulty.

Torn between those who have diagnosed same-sex attraction as either a matter of nature on the one hand, and nurture on the other; many silent homosexuals struggle daily to deal with issues of identity that most of us could never understand.

Not all hate

Another observation must be made: not all persons who oppose homosexuality and the homosexual agenda (yes, there is one) necessarily hate homosexuals, no more that any of us who hate burglary or political corruption hate all burglars or all politicians. Level-headed people know that it is still the right thing to hate what one considers to be wrong without necessarily hating those who commit the wrong.

Not only should we stop generalizing along the narrow lines of particular groups, thus exempting ourselves from the broad pool of humanity; we need to face the fact that violence and hatred are inherent to the human heart, regardless of religious persuasion, political philosophy or sexual attraction. Despite the theorizing of behaviourists that human beings are essentially good (or at least morally neutral at birth), nowhere does human history or experience give evidence to support this theory. All that we know supports what we don’t want to admit about ourselves: humanity is essentially flawed at the core of its being. Without the love of God in our hearts, we are all as capable of committing acts of unspeakable horror as those who operated the Nazi death camps, the Russian gulags or orchestrated the Hutu massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda.

Easy evil

Majority acceptance of evil does not make it right; it only makes it easier to commit, for the reality is that often the only restraint to absolute moral chaos in a society is the majority opposition to it. Moral values are inculcated as part of the socializing processes in societies, and are arrived at either from an external (objective) standard, or an internal (subjective) standard. To put it another way, societies either arrive at moral standards from referencing an absolute standard, such as found in the Judeo-Christian ethic, or from relativistic personal preferences. And here is the rub: western society has followed a path toward moral relativism with uncanny accuracy and tenacity for centuries, with added momentum gained during the Age of Enlightenment. Today western philosophy finds few outposts of opposition to moral relativism, among them Roman Catholic and Evangelical Christianity, both of which are viewed with increasing disdain and attacked with venom. It seems that the often-called-for standard of tolerance is a value to be adhered to by Christians, but not accorded to Christians. Every other group should be respectfully allowed free speech, but if a Christian so much as opens his mouth or shows up with a placard, he is considered bigoted or intolerant. So, who’s intolerant?

Alson Ebanks, Pastor Church of God Chapel