Category Archives: Postmodernism

The Backlash of New Tolerance

For any of you who don’t know what I mean by new tolerance, I would encourage you to go here

Hindsight is always 20/20 and there have been several articles that have been brought to my attention that are upsetting and troubling to me and I believe that this has largely to do with the effects of new tolerance on our society. Essentially, new tolerance works so long as you never talk about what you believe or assess the world and situations through the lens of your particular worldview.

To list a few examples, Tim Tebow (whom I know little about, admittedly) had an article written by a sports illustrated columnist (not in SI) where the author suggested that he wanted Tebow to fail in the NFL (he was recently drafted) and the reason(s) he listed had absolutely nothing to do with football or the young man’s athletic ability. It had to do with the fact that Tim Tebow is a Christian, now the author of the article didn’t have a great grasp of the Christian faith but even if you don’t take that into account, the basic claim is ridiculous. I’m sure there are several NFL players who are Christians, yet don’t talk about their faith and they never get any backlash, at least not publicly, but the second one of them starts talking about what they believe….watch out! Article here

The even more confusing, to me at least, situation is the one which is centered around the Christian Legal Society (CLS) on the Hastings College of Law, University of California. This particular campus has a non-discrimination policy and claims that CLS violates this policy by makings its leaders hold to its core Christian ideals (ie. against homosexuality, believes in the core doctrines of Christianity, etc.). I find it odd that anyone finds it surprising that the leaders of a Christian organization are expected to be Christians that hold to Christian ideals and doctrines. One of the Supreme Court justices marked the irony that not only would atheists have to be admitted, but they would also have to be allowed to be leaders and would then be leading bible studies. This would be similar to a collegiate democratic group being forced to allow republicans into their leadership, it makes no sense. The campus removed the standing of CLS and left it with two options, either leave campus and retain your ideals, or stay on campus and cease to be Christian, essentially. I decided it was best to run this scenario through a person who doesn’t share my religious convictions just to check my logic, and he didn’t understand how a “specialty group” was running into this problem. Also, that same logic should then be applied to every single group on campus which addresses any sort of special interest at all. Conservative Christians as leaders of a Gay/Lesbian group, a “radical” Muslim as a leader of the Atheist society, etc…again, just doesn’t make any sense. The Supreme Court will be hearing this case this summer link here

Now why do I relate this to what I call new tolerance? I hinted at it a little bit earlier but hopefully I’ll expound and better explain that here. Seeing as you have to respect everyone’s beliefs as equally true, and the goal here is to not offend anyone, that means that you can’t talk about your beliefs, and if you do, you have to make sure it doesn’t offend or disagree with anyone else’s beliefs. What is the problem? After all, that sounds nice doesn’t it? The problems are many, but I’m only going to cover a main one. The obvious one is that the belief is self-refuting or hypocritical because what happens when someone doesn’t buy into the same idea of new tolerance that someone else does? That means that this person will voice their opinions for whatever reasons they want to and are willing to hurt someone’s feelings or disagree with them in order to do so. Now, the person who believes new tolerance would have to cover those types of people who don’t inside their blanket of tolerance too in order to be consistent with their view….but that doesn’t really do a whole lot when you’re trying to just….what, be quiet and hope they go away? Opinionated people rarely do. So how do you deal with that? Legislation, at least that’s what’s starting to happen. Naturally, seeing as I’m a Christian, stories which involve people of similar beliefs (or at least who claim to have them) will draw my attention faster. As a Christian, I have certain convictions about the world and feel the need to tell people about Christ and about the way I live life and view things…….however…….that makes me a dreaded * fundamentalist!* or maybe even bigoted, narrow minded, ect. Now, if I am against something and feel strongly about it, I am going to express those views, and under freedom of speech, I should be allowed to do so. I absolutely do not want people who disagree with me to be silenced! I love dialogging with people who disagree with me, that’s how you come to the truth of issues! Wait a minute…did I just say truth? There’s the catch…..that doesn’t matter, because under new tolerance, there is no such thing. If opposing viewpoints have to both be held equally as being true, which one is right? The answer is both, and it will work just fine so long as nobody publicly says anything.

This reminds me of a quote from the movie V for Vendetta “He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.” and while that’s not aimed by me at any particular individual, it is aimed at society in general, and I’ve got news for you: those of us who don’t buy into new tolerance, and particularly Christians have been around for over 2000 years…..we’re not going anywhere no matter how much you circle the wagons.

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Tolerance

Tolerance is a word that is tossed around a ton by different people and is used to mean very different things depending on who uses it. I decided that it would be a fairly enlightening experience if I looked up the definition from two very different sources, one being Dictionary.com and the popular Urban Dictionary.

Dictionary.com:

–noun

1.

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

2.

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.

3.

interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.

Urban Dictionary:

1)Tolerance (active): The idea that one should attempt to overcome a belief, prejudice or hatred that they hold.
2) Tolerance (passive): The process by which one gradually become less and less bothered by another belief, prejudice or hatred due to continued exposure.
3) Tolerance (liberal): What the majority should have towards minorities, but not vice versa.

Crazy isn’t it? It would appear that those are two very different definitions. It’s a distinction that I think is an important one to make and I generally tend to refer to these two definitions as “old tolerance” and “new tolerance.” Not to say that these are the two be all and end all definitions for the concept of tolerance, but only that, historically speaking, there has been a shift from one to the other. Dictionary.com seems to suggest that the word tolerance means something different than what most people today would take the concept to mean. Normally when I refer to the old idea of tolerance and the new idea of tolerance I define it them in the following ways: tolerance used to mean that if you disagreed with someone’s point of view, you could openly and respectfully disagree and could dialogue a bit; the new tolerance has taken a postmodern slant and now means that instead of just respecting differences in opinion, you now have to take any sort of disagreement and never really voice it, you have to take everyone’s opinion as being “true for them” and equal in truth to your own opinion.

I know that was a lot, so I’m going to unpack that a bit hopefully. I recently heard a statement in a sermon that I think nails this problem right on the head, the man said that the problem with American society is that it has blurred the line of tolerance and acceptance. What he meant by that is that they have essentially become the exact same thing, and that’s actually a dangerous notion. For example, I don’t approve of homosexual marriage, now under the old tolerance that would actually be ok because I could respectfully disagree with someone’s opinion or lifestyle and voice why I thought so and nobody would walk away angry so long as it was done in a respectful manner. Under new tolerance however, I would be told that because I don’t accept someone else’s lifestyle that I am now a bigot (not everyone acts this way, I know).

I’m aware that the issue of homosexual marriage is a controversial one and I can see already the comments that I will probably get for using it as an example. However, this is not a solitary issue; these issues include religion, race, politics, marriage, etc. Some are certainly more potent than others, but they are still there. I was reading an article recently that mentioned tolerance and made a good point, she said that “The word tolerate itself implies that I respect the other person’s right to express their view. (If I agree with them there’s nothing to tolerate!)” and here is where we start to see new tolerance running into walls. If you disagree with something, even if it is a commonly held or popular view, you should be able to do so without hostility. For example, if someone comes up to me and says “there is no such being as God” I am not at all going to brand this person a bigot and try and shun them out of my life. I have several friends who believe contrary to what I believe with respect to God, and we’re able to dialogue about the issue just fine. The point of tolerance is that you are supposed to be able to realize the disagreement publically, so that there is no misunderstanding on where the other person stands and then progress with the conversation. New tolerance tells you that you have to accept that other view, which on the surface seems ok, right? What does that loaded phrase mean? Basically (not universally) it means that you shouldn’t be rocking the boat if you have a differing opinion, especially if it’s a “hot” topic. If everyone just accepts everyone else’s opinion as being true and nobody disagrees with anyone else publically, then society will be all the better for it….right?

That sounds like a nice idea, nobody disagreeing with anyone else. You can’t hurt people’s feelings that way at least. I would like to submit to you that this view is actually a self-defeating one. I say that because if you take the idea of new tolerance, you have to include everyone in your scope. What happens when you run into a person who doesn’t agree on the first step with you, of the new tolerance itself? Would you have to take that person’s view as equally right with your own? I believe that this view can actually be very dangerous when taken to its logical end. If it was socially/politically incorrect to disagree with someone and then to dialogue with them about the issue, what would happen when authorities had differing opinions than you? What would happen if the president, congress, the police, the church etc did something that you didn’t agree with? Would you disagree with them? Would you even know how? Would you be allowed? I can tell you right now that new tolerance isn’t just a sociocultural thing, and that it has long since crossed into the political scene. I’m sure you’ve heard the line that if you disagree with our current president, then clearly you’re racist. The common buzzwords that you’re going to hear from proponents of new tolerance are things like this “well, you’re just narrow minded”, “you’re naive”, “that makes you a bigot” etc. This has gotten a bit more political than I originally intended so I’ll try and bring it back around.

People should be able to disagree publically without being shunned by one group or another. If you disagree with me about anything that I’ve said, great, let’s talk. I’m one of those people who are vocal about my disagreements, and yes, I can tend to get argumentative depending on the issue at hand. However, I will never dismiss someone solely based on an opposing viewpoint. We live in a free country (so far) so let’s not lose our ability to think critically, to debate, to be able to publically and respectfully disagree without people getting up in arms about it.

The Nature of Postmodernism

There are two sections or ideas within Postmodernism that need to be addressed, and they each have to deal with the idea of truth. One idea claims that there is no truth, or if it exists, it cannot be known by man. The other idea claims that all truth is relative. How is it that we came to acquire the knowledge that there is ultimately no truth or that there is truth but it cannot possibly be known by man? Knowledge has to be discovered by someone at some point in the line, and if either of the above statements are to be taken seriously, then it cannot be possible that this knowledge was discovered by anyone? If the knowledge wasn’t discovered by anyone then why would anyone believe those ideas versus what has been previously believed; that is that there is truth that can absolutely be found by one way or another. The idea that there can ultimately be no truth defeats itself in stating. Postmodernism shares that ideal and it tends to be regarded as philosophy. Translated from Greek, philosophy literally means “love of wisdom” so what someone is truly saying when they state that Postmodernism is a form of philosophy is that they have a love of wisdom without ultimately being able to attain it, because it is nonexistent. Philosophy in its purest, most correct form would be asking the questions of one’s existence and the ultimate search for truth and the creation and or purpose of life. Along with the movement of Postmodernism has come the prevailing ideology of what I call moral relativism. It is the belief that everything can be interpreted differently by each person that encounters it. Also, if you happen to disagree with someone else’s interpretation of something, you have to respect them and place their interpretation on equal footing with your own. Common phrases that arise out of this idea are “it depends on each person’s interpretation,” “that’s true for you, but not for me,” the first statement seems to be an easy “educated” way to say that someone is intellectually lazy. Forum debating and classical rhetoric can be entirely avoided if you can simply use that closing statement and move on to something else. Nobody has to deal with confrontation when everybody is equally right for themselves; that is so long as they don’t try and take their personal truth and prove it or force it onto others. The second statement is similar to the first but it takes it a step farther in saying that every person’s individual interpretation is entirely true. However this truth is limited to the person who views it as such. Accompanying this thought is the generally understood social norm that you have to respect everyone’s individual interpretation of any given subject. This idea seems fine on the surface, as we should naturally all respect our fellow man; however the idea is taken even further than that. Not only do you have to respect everyone’s opinion, you also have to acknowledge that it is entirely true for that person and is on the same “truth level” as your own interpretation, even if your two interpretations are opposite of one another. Logically this idea doesn’t make sense because if truth is, in fact, a reality, then two or more opposing ideas cannot be equally true. There is an argument that states several instances of physical, observational perspective differences as evidence for relativistic truth. An example of this would be that a man standing 7ft tall looking at a 5ft tree would think that tree is not tall at all, whereas a man standing 4ft tall would think the tree is tall indeed. This is not an example of opposing truth claims because they are not comparing the reality of the tree or the real height of the tree, they are simply using different adjectives to describe the tree based on their observational viewpoint. An example of relativistic truth would be a man claiming that he is shoveling his walk with a shovel, when in reality he is actually using a rake; another man happens to see the first man shoveling with a rake and claims that he is shoveling with a rake instead of a shovel. The difficulties with this are quite obvious so instead of explaining the obvious discrepancies of this worldview with common sense, I’ll focus on a problem that exists within the confines of the worldview itself. One of the tenets of Postmodernism is the idea that every idea must be respected as individual truth equally. The problem with this is that when you combine the idea of equal truth and individual interpretation you get an effect similar to that of the “telephone game”. If postmodern person A claims that 2+2=5, postmodern person B has to conform to that being true for that person while also maintaining his idea that 2+2=6 being true. A more complicated problem is the question of finding out if person B correctly interpreted person A’s interpretation. This question couldn’t be answered by person B because he doesn’t know the mind of person A, nor does he agree with person A’s assessment of the equation. Person A would never answer the question for person B because he isn’t even aware there is a difference of opinions, nor might there even be because what person B thought was a discrepancy was just a misinterpretation of person A’s identical truth. Eventually, with all these individual interpretations going through the line, person Z thinks concretely that person A evaluated the equation as 2+2=435, all the while every prior person thinks something different, but not technically allowed to find out if their interpretation is right or wrong.
There are several moral issues that are raised in the ideology of Postmodernism that have the same basic problems of my previous analogy. To most sane people, the idea of murder is intrinsically wrong; however without even touching on tougher issues like killing during war there are still problems with the idea of murder within the school of thought known as Postmodernism. One of the most famous historical examples would of course be Hitler and the Nazi’s genocide of the Jews. Most people agree with one another in stating that the act of genocide that was committed was absolutely wrong. However if you look at that instance from a postmodern viewpoint, things might look a little differently. Hitler truly believed that he was doing a good service to mankind; he thought that the Jews were an inferior race, in fact not even humans at all but more of an infestation that was a drain on real society. Logically, if there is something that is threatening society as a whole and is a real threat to the social order, then the best thing to do would be to eliminate the threat. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the two most basic classes are that of physiological protection and then of safety so most people would agree that if they shared Hitler’s mindset, then he did not do anything wrong by massacring millions of people. Within the Postmodern worldview, the problem is paramount in that example because in society as a whole, the genocide is looked at as being concretely wrong and evil, but within their own ideology they have to accept that Hitler’s viewpoint was equally true with their own current viewpoint. Postmodernism is a worldview in which its followers are at constant war with themselves with no clear path that comes from the worldview to help them come to terms with their struggles. The classical tradition of philosophy is the love of wisdom, which clearly indicates that there must be absolute truth that is able to be discovered by man. In truly studying philosophy the questions that are brought to mind are most adequately answered by, in my opinion, the most pure form of philosophy known as theology or the study of gods or a god. Christian theology is the study of the God that answers all of the questions that Postmodernism simply cannot. It also answers the questions of those true lovers of wisdom that are openly searching for the absolute truth that is attainable by man.