Is it OK to disagree with other peoples’ deeply held beliefs anymore? You’ve heard the buzzwords: Coexist. Hate speech. Discrimination. Micro-aggressions. Trigger warnings. Speech codes. It’s becoming obvious to anyone paying attention to the media these days that certain moral and religious viewpoints are simply no longer allowed in our classrooms or broader culture. They are either dismissed without argument as “irrational” or the people who hold these views are publically shamed or even shouted down. I call this new cultural reality the Tyranny of Tolerance.
As Christians who care about truth and want to love our neighbors well as people made in the image of God, what are we to do? Here are three practical steps you can take to resist the Tyranny of Tolerance.
1. Recognize the new moral code being imposed in our culture today. Denial is not a strategy; we must live in reality. According to a recent Barna study, 91% of Americans agreed with the statement “To find yourself you must look within yourself.” What this shows is that selective relativism is alive and well and has become the dominant view in our culture. In other words, truth depends on what the individual comes to believe. But our radically individualistic culture has also agreed upon some new moral absolutes—namely “People should not criticize someone else’s life’s choices” (89% of Americans affirm this). These two beliefs are obviously in competition with each other and form the basis of the Tyranny of Tolerance we are experiencing today. The rules of the game have changed and if we fail to recognize this fact then we will not engage well.
2. Prepare today for the conversations that are coming tomorrow. It’s not a matter of if, but when the challenges will come. As Christians we are committed to certain truths that flow from our worldview grounded in the Bible. Here are just a few of the culturally controversial beliefs we hold:
- that Jesus rose bodily from the dead and is the only way to God,
- that objective right and wrong exist,
- that unborn human beings are worthy of life and protection,
- that all people regardless of their ethnicity should be treated with dignity, respect, and justice,
- and that God, as the personal creator of the universe, has designed sex to be experienced only within the context of one man and one woman in marriage.
Peter reminds us to always be ready to give a reason for the hope within us and to do so with gentleness and respect (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). Are you ready? The questions are coming: How can Jesus be the only way to God when so many sincere people disagree? Are you saying that what I feel in my heart is right is actually wrong in God’s eyes? Who are you to say that someone can’t marry the person they love regardless of their gender? What will you say when you experience the Tyranny of Tolerance? There are reasonable answers to these questions. As an easy first step, I encourage you to watch this free video I made to help you begin preparing for the challenges coming your way.
3. Stand up when you have the opportunity to graciously push back when your Christian convictions are challenged. First, when what you believe is challenged, don’t get defensive. Stay calm and ask questions to clarify where the disagreement really is. Next, resist being dismissed by slogans and be careful to define your terms (by the way, this is a lot easier to do if you have already spent time thinking about and preparing what you might say when challenged). Be encouraged, the truth is on our side and we can trust that God is at work in our conversations. But make no mistake, other people are looking to you to see if you will stand or crumble. Will you show conviction and compassion? Or will you cave and accommodate? Have the courage to as Chuck Colson used to say Break the Spiral of Silence. When I see you standing for the truth I will be encouraged to do the same.
Our culture desperately needs to hit the reset button when it comes to larger conversation about truth and tolerance. If we will recognize our new cultural reality, prepare ourselves for the conversations that are certainly coming, and stand up when we have the opportunity to graciously push back when our Christian convictions are challenged, then we will be well on our way to resisting the tyranny of tolerance.
Jonathan Morrow (D.Min, M.Div., M.A.) is a popular speaker and author of several books including Questioning the Bible and the new online study Explore Truth. He is currently the Director of Cultural Engagement and Immersion at Impact 360 Institute where he trains high school and college students in Christian worldview, apologetics and leadership, and serves as an adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University. Jonathan is passionate about seeing a new generation of Christ-followers understand why they believe, what they believe. Follow him on twitter @Jonathan_Morrow.