TYRRELL: Taking tolerance too far

In a recent and very good book, John L. Allen comes to the judgment that “Christians today indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet,” and he concludes that “the transcendent human rights concern of our time is this rarely noted persecution.” In the affluent and comfortable West, we take for granted a tolerance that is not shown Christians in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria or Eritrea, much less North Korea.

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Yet the war against Christians exists here at home, too. It is not as ugly, but it exists and with it Americans have witnessed an amazing reversal in our history. After all, this country was originally a Christian country. It was a refuge for all Christians, and, as the years passed, all Western faiths — eventually all humane faiths. America became a land of religious tolerance. Given the intolerance toward Christianity that we see in America today, possibly it is time for Christians to rethink this tolerance. Possibly, tolerance can go too far.

We see the intolerance against American Christians (and against American people of faith in general) on display every year during this “Holiday Season.” There are the great battles waged generally by a few nonbelievers against Christians across America for putting up nativity scenes. The nonbelievers generally win. Now there are threats to the baby Jesus, resting in his manger. In recent years, he has been threatened by thieves intent on doing him mischief. This year there were even reports of high-tech gadgetry being employed by churches to protect their nativity scenes. Christmas, a time in which we are urged to contemplate peace on earth and goodwill toward men, is increasingly a time for rancor and for waging war against Christianity — and people of faith in general.

Just the other day, the A&E network in a foolish display of political correctitude banned a man named Phil Robertson, the patriarch of something called “Duck Dynasty,” from the airways for statements he made that were allegedly bigoted against homosexuals. “Duck Dynasty” has 14 million viewers, I am told, which is a very large audience. Personally, I do not watch the show, but it has something to do with rural life, and for some reason GQ magazine — the urban sophisticates’ bible — interviewed Robertson and inquired about his Christian beliefs. Why readers interested in the latest haberdashery (for fops) would be interested in Robertson, I do not know. He dresses in camouflage attire, wears heavy rubber boots and sports a long gray beard.

Yet the magazine got him on I Corinthians. In the interview, Robertson lumped homosexuals in with “adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers,” as people unlikely to make an appearance in heaven in the hereafter, according to I Corinthians. This many Christians believe.

Now Robertson strikes me as an amiable sort. He was not urging the banishment of homosexuals or prohibition against drunkards. He was only citing scripture in saying that he does not expect to see them in Heaven. Maybe he will, and doubtless he will be surprised. Yet Americans are protected by the First Amendment to utter such views in public, are they not?

The “Duck Dynasty” controversy will have served a beneficial purpose if Robertson takes his case to the Supreme Court. It is about time that our courts decide what is and what is not protected by the First Amendment. Robertson did not incite violence against anyone. He did not even express a preference for those he might greet in heaven. He merely cited I Corinthians. Perhaps the Supreme Court will now tell us what passages from scripture we can and cannot cite.


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