About Tolerance and Faithfulness
- Monday, July 30, 2007
Last week, he sent the quarterly magazine, "Teaching Tolerance," a publication for schoolteachers. The cover article deals with the integration of Central High School in Little Rock fifty years after the event. Inside, teachers share their stories of teaching respect and tolerance for "those different from us" in their classrooms. It seems to be a good magazine. Emphasis on "seems".
Evangelical Christians know about tolerance. We get blasted with reminders to be tolerant from every side. In almost every case, the speaker or teacher or critic urges us not to share our faith in Jesus Christ with others, since everyone has their own religious identity and to witness to them is to disrespect that.
We've come to distrust a lot of teaching on tolerance. The last thing we want taught to our children in schools is that all religious differences are superficial, that all faiths are equally good and equally right, and thus to be accepted and honored. Listen to some tolerance-advocates and you would come away with the impression that the only difference between the religious faiths of an Osama Bin Laden and Billy Graham is that the former isn't practicing what he believes.
On the surface, tolerance sounds so right, and properly understood and practiced, it is indeed needed. Our family's moving to a West Virginia mining camp in 1947 exposed us to a taste of intolerance. And believe me, one taste will last you for a lifetime.
When the coal mines in our part of Alabama laid off workers, men went north looking for work. My dad and a number of his brothers and friends found jobs at a mine outside Beckley, West Virginia, in a camp called Affinity. Suddenly, that peaceful little enclave experienced an invasion of Alabamians, hard-workers used to putting in 8 hours with a pick and a shovel, then coming home to raise a crop on the farm. Now, with nothing but coal-mining, many would double back and work two 8-hour shifts in one day. Their work ethic offended and frightened the locals who were being shown up by the southerners.
When the families of the miners arrived and moved into the company houses alongside the natives, it did not take long before hostilities erupted. I still recall women and children--our neighbors--standing in the unpaved road in front of our house throwing rocks in our direction, cursing and calling us "Alabama cotton-pickers." Which we were, of course. As a 7-year-old, I could never figure out how that was a putdown.
Before long, they got over it. We all worshiped together in the little Methodist church and the children sat in the same three-room school together and the rock-throwing and name-calling became just a bad memory.
Since my granddaughters and I have been reading the Nancy Drew mysteries together, I began to be curious about the origin of this long-running series and decided to look into it. "Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her," published by Harcourt, Inc., tells the story of two women in particular who wrote most of the books under the pen name of Carolyn Keene. A brief paragraph about one of the women will linger with me a long time.
Harriet Stratemeyer, the daughter of the man who originated the Nancy Drew series and wrote the first ones, was a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Author Melanie Rehak writes, "In (the religion courses) she believed, she had learned that 'if one strips each of the great religions down to its basic concept one will find that the philosophy is the same: reverence for deity, kindness to one's fellowman, and a belief in life after death. It is only when man himself adds a lot of superfluous ideas and customs that misunderstandings occur, even to a point of bloodshed. The answer is tolerance.' These were the tenets of a noble life, and she held herself to them strictly."
On the surface, that sounds so "noble," so educated and modern and even sophisticated. It's pure rot, but it sounds good.
It's as though one took a few courses in medical science and reported back that all forms of medicine in the world are equally good since they have elements in common such as sick patients, well-intending practitioners, and gunk which they rub on the offending areas. No one in his right mind--or to be tolerant, let us say, no one with an ounce of intellectual honesty or sound judgement--believes that.
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