Monday, October 19, 2009

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Do you agree with this definition of tolerance?

D.A. Carson introduced me to this quote (most famously misattributed to Voltaire) in one of his lectures. He has some very insightful thoughts on this subject in his lecture entitled Evangelism in the 21st Century. In it Carson discusses a shift in the definition of tolerance.

Tolerance no longer means allowing someone you disagree with the freedom to believe and practice something different then you. He says,
“A bare quarter of a century ago ‘tolerance’ was understood to be a virtue that operated something like this: If I hold strong views on any particular subject I am nevertheless judged to be ‘tolerant’ if I think that your views are bad, improper, even disgusting, wicked or stupid, but never the less, still insist you have the right to defend them. In other words, a ‘tolerant’ person puts up with somebody else’s views and insists they have the right to hold them even while – in the vigorous arena of debate – we might never the less disagree fundamentally on who is right or who is wrong. Such a person is a ‘tolerant’ person. But nowadays, that is not what ‘tolerance’ means.
Now it seems that tolerance means that you cannot disagree with anybody. Carson continues,
"Now ‘tolerance’ means that you don’t hold that anybody is right or wrong. Everybody is equally right or wrong. Nobody is more right than another person. If you don’t hold that then you are ‘intolerant.’ Now that is a huge shift … Under this new definition of ‘tolerance’ I don’t even know what ‘tolerance’ means because in the old view of ‘tolerance’ you had to disagree with someone before you could actually tolerate them.
I feel the pressure of the new tolerance. Postmodernism is an interesting phenomenon. I know that when I don't cheer on a friend who is spouting off a worldview that is wrong or possibly harmful to themselves or others, I am seen as intolerant. If I believe that I know a better way, I am instantly branded as arrogant, unkind and sort of stupid. Only the unenlightened believe that one thing is better or truer then another.

How I wish for a society in which people could discuss things freely without fear of being branded. Yes, this would allow for a lot of stupid and even hurtful things to be said, but the alternative is repression of freedom.

How does a Muslim, Jew or Atheist say to me, "You are totally right." They cannot because they do not think that I am. Likewise I cannot say that I agree with them. My desire is that we could discuss and even try to convince each other of the rightness of our views, but with kindness and respect. How else will we come to know if there is a better way. Should we be content to muddle around in the dark because we are afraid to ask and afraid to admit what we believe for fear of offending someone?

The kicker is that this new tolerance is by it's very nature intolerant. If I say that you cannot disagree with anybody, I am making an absolute claim. Sometimes it is hard to see our own hypocrisy.

I need to be willing to really listen to others and to speak the truth in love. The alternative is a life of fear.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Show Yourself a Man

I have always wanted to raise daughters. But to my delight, God has given me sons...loud, rough, active, precious boys.

How do I go about nurturing and training them, especially as they grow into manhood? I take comfort in the fact that they have a wonderful father to emulate, one who is both kind and strong, godly and wise.

I recently read a helpful series of
blog posts by Carolyn Mahaney where she discusses her "plans" for her children. She says, "I think about their strengths and weaknesses, their unique temptations, and consider ways I can more effectively encourage and challenge them to grow."

She lists a number of encouragements she gives to her son. One that I found particularly insightful was "Son, kill a bear or a lion." She says,

This “bear” or “lion” could be an area where he is not gifted or his personality is not inclined, and because of selfishness, fear, or pride, he prefers to avoid. We want to show Chad the underlying sin that hinders him, and then challenge him to attack it. See, we not only desire to help Chad grow stronger where he is already strong, but to also grow strong where he is weak.

It seems so much easier to emphasize your son's strengths and overlook his weaknesses. But I suppose the end result would be an insecure, selfish and unbalanced man. You know...the man whose mother thinks he hung the moon but nobody else can stand him. And what good does that do his eternal soul?

I also really liked Mahaney's encouragement to her son to "lead where appropriate." She gives a few examples of directives they give to him:

* Be the first to pray in group settings.

* Be the first to take an interest in others.

* Be the first to lead in conversation.

* Be the first to stop a conversation that is not edifying.

* Be the first to offer to serve others.

Men seem to constantly be demeaned in our media and culture. I want my sons to buck the stereotype of the apathetic, uncommunicative male...the one who is afraid of domineering women, who never does the right or hard thing, and who is basically just selfish. Give this series a read if you have boys. It has some insightful moments.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Out of My Comfort Zone

A herd of cattle running toward me. It's Clint's third attempt to get the cattle through the gate and into the next pasture for grazing. I'm at the ranch helping, and by helping I mean sitting in the Dually with the boys trying to block the herd from going in the wrong direction. Clint is galloping back and forth around the cattle making as much noise as he can to get the cattle moving. My two year old is yelling out the window at the top of his lungs, "Hya cows!" I just finished running through a marsh with a crying baby who has had enough of this adventure, and now my feet are soaked and I am starting to get some sort of suspicious looking rash on my shins. Suddenly Clint is signaling that I need to move the truck because it's in the wrong place...of course I can't start it.

That was the last time we went to the ranch as a family. This time it seemed remarkably painless. In fact, for my two year old, it was a foretaste of heaven.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Global Mindedness

There is so much evil and darkness in the world that it almost seems to overwhelm me at times. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, but it makes for small hearts and shallow minds. If it were not for the great hope that is breaking through the darkness, the world would be a fearful place indeed.

How easy it is to become cocooned in the realm of my life with no consciousness of the world around me. I forget the benefit of recognizing the work of God throughout the world in millions of peoples lives simultaneously.

I profited from reading the Voice of the Martyrs report on Eritrean Christians this week. I especially enjoyed a guide they included in their newsletter to help people pray for global issues in an informed way.