f The Wittenberg Door: Dolly Parton and Tolerance – Part 2 (Conclusion)

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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Dolly Parton and Tolerance – Part 2 (Conclusion)

In Part 1, we considered the definition of tolerance and how post-modernity has redefined it. We also took a look at the common retort of those holding the new view: "Who are you to judge?"

In this post we’ll consider the foundation of tolerance, both old and new. We’ll also get a chance to see modern tolerance in action.

Tolerance with an “If”

Classical tolerance was birthed by a Christian worldview. It’s founded upon the notion that man is created in God’s image. As His image bearer, man is expected to act in accordance with God’s moral standards. Man is also expected to treat his fellows with respect, since they too bear God’s image.

Modern tolerance has no such foundation. Consequently, it’s very fickle, changing from person to person. Because of this, you can never tell how it’s going to cash out—it’s like playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey with a living, highly agitated animal. Some burrows, however, are easier to stick than others. Consider the following sentiment from Ms. Parton:

. . . If you can accept me, I can accept you.

Dolly Parton

Ahhhh, the art of the caveat. This is actually very typical. She’ll show you tolerance as long as you show her the same. It’s the contingency here that counts. In the classical view, one shows tolerance even if the object of the tolerance is himself intolerant. This caveat makes tolerance anemic. Reason is, I don’t have to tolerate someone who agrees with me. It’s only those with whom I don’t agree that I can show tolerance—this, of course, includes the intolerant.

Hate Mail?

Having a big gay following, I get hate mail and threats . . .

Dolly Parton

I don’t know what to make of this. Ms. Parton doesn’t give us any examples. It does seem odd, though. I’m trying to figure out what someone would say. Maybe something like this:

“Dolly, I hear that there are some homosexuals out there who listen to your music. Therefore, I hate you. Have a nice day.”

There’s no question that people full of irrational hate do irrational things. But her characterization is a bit hard to accept. I wonder if those same people send similar emails to Levi Strauss:

“I hear that there are some homosexuals out there who wear trousers. Therefore, I hate pants. Boy is it drafty.”

Of course, I’m only able to offer conjecture since Ms. Parton has not granted us a peek into her email. I suspect, though, that she does what many do today: If someone is critical of your position (particularly hot-button issues like homosexuality), you characterize them in the worst possible light. Again, I don’t know whether or not that’s the case with Ms. Parton. But, because she holds to modern tolerance, and because her claim just doesn’t ring true (that she gets hate mail because some homosexuals like her music), I think we have grounds to be suspicious.

Mr. Mohidin of New Queer World, however, has already passed judgment: these people are “hate mongers.” It makes you wonder how he can come to this conclusion without seeing any evidence. But it does provide a transition to our next topic.

The Intolerance of Tolerance

Some people are blind or ignorant, and you can't be that prejudiced and hateful and go through this world and still be happy.

Dolly Parton

If I were to create a bumper sticker for the new-tolerance crowd it would read, “We don’t tolerate intolerance around here!” Reason being, those holding to modern tolerance have a tendency to vilify their detractors. For example, if you question the morality of homosexual behavior you run risk being labeled a “homophobe” or being accused of hating homosexuals. (I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me.)

True tolerance doesn’t name call, and it doesn’t cast aspersions upon the character of those on the other side. Even if the person is prejudiced in a bad way, or has an irrational hatred towards a person or group, the truly tolerant would respond with a well-reasoned argument, presented in a gracious, respectful manor. Of course, this is the difference between the classic definition and the new: the former, being founded upon a Christian ethic, has substance, while the later, having no foundation at all, is vacuous—just like the smiley face.

--The Catechizer

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It does not matter what people used to think the word tolerant meant. What matters now is how the word is perceived. And I see nothing wrong with Dolly's wisdom. In fact, I find it very applicable to how we should treat people and be treated.

4:25 PM  
Blogger The Catechizer said...

Anonymous, I couldn’t disagree with you more. What matters is what the word means. How you perceive it tells me about you not about what is being said. On your view words have no actual meaning, only a perceiver’s subjective notions. If I take what you’re saying seriously then I could read your comments and say that, based on my perception, you’re confessing to owing me $50.

Dolly’s view is that she’ll accept you if you accept her. In other words she “tolerates” those with whom she agrees. The consequence of that view is that she won’t tolerate those with whom she disagrees. That, anonymous, isn’t wisdom, it’s intolerance.

“‘Tolerance,’ classically defined, refers to how you treat someone with whom you disagree. You show tolerance when you treat your opponent with dignity, fairly represent his views, and graciously engage his ideas—or, to put it simply, you don’t kill him for having divergent views.”

11:49 AM  

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