Tolerance: A Very Unstable Virtue

John Stossel receTwo-sided coinntly warned that the gay marriage movement has moved from “tolerance to totalitarianism, it is the totalitarianism of the left.” This is quite an acknowledgment from a man who unequivocally supports gay marriage.

Perhaps Robert Conquest’s definition of totalitarianism is spot on: “A political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life wherever possible.” The irony is secularist and humanists believe religion controls all aspects of public and private life.

Such individuals usurp more and more seats in government and judgment halls these days. They lay aside the commandments of God and condemn religion and religious organizations. They fail to realize, more so accept, that tolerance is a two-sided coin (See Elder Dallin H. Oaks article: Balancing Tolerance and Truth)

President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls for caution: “Tolerance is often demanded but seldom returned. Beware of the word tolerance. It is a very unstable virtue.”

“Elder Oaks said of this caution: “This inspired caution reminds us that for persons who believe in absolute truth, tolerance for behavior is like a two-sided coin. Tolerance or respect is on one side of the coin, but truth is always on the other. You cannot possess or use the coin of tolerance without being conscious of both sides.

But a growing number in Americans don’t see the coin as tolerance on one side, and truth on the other side. That is why those given to faith, to religion and religious institutions, are simply asking–hoping–that all can at least see the coin as tolerance on both sides.

If the coin is one-sided, totalitarianism will only run a muck and freedom of religion will be restrained. Tolerance will continue to be an unstable virtue. If not stabilized soon we are only going to greater division and violence.

May I add my own caution, or at least observation. It seems that the most vocal ones pleading for more love, seem to be the least likely to love. Those who say most loudly quit judging, are the most likely to judge. So it goes with those crying for tolerance.

A hard-hearted and intolerant people—regardless of what side of the coin they claim–undercuts liberty and makes it very difficult to be governed by law and justice.

Update: This is a refreshing segment.

  • Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century’ (2000), 74
  • Boyd K. Packer, “Be Not Afraid” (address at the Ogden Utah Institute of Religion, Nov. 16, 2008), 5; see also Bruce D. Porter, “Defending the Family in a Troubled World,” Ensign, June 2011, 12–18.
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