Friday, April 1, 2011

Tolerance, a Brightly Burning Book, and Dead Bodies in Afghanistan

"Tolerance" is easy, when it means 'letting folks who agree with me speak their mind.'

Quite a few folks living in America say that they're all for tolerance. Some of us act that way, too. But not all.

In the heyday of political correctness, college students were free to say anything they wanted, provided they avoided ideas that were "racist," "homophobic," "insensitive," "hate speech," or otherwise contrary to 'tolerant' standards. The self-described 'open minded' sort seemed convinced that by suppressing ideas they didn't like, they were practicing tolerance. Can't argue with logic like that.

Book Burning in America; Dead Bodies in Afghanistan

Last month Pastor Wayne Sapp took advantage, in my opinion, of America's basic openness to freedom of expression - and burned a Quran.1

That disgusting act of bigotry and cluelessness (in my opinion) got on international news. Pastor Sapp's little bit of performance art is, again in my opinion, indirectly responsible for at least a dozen deaths in Afghanistan.

I could claim that this 'proves:'
  • The depravity of those heathen foreigners
  • An unholy alliance against Islam
    • By temporal and spiritual orders in the West
  • Religion is bad
    • Particularly Christianity
  • Muslims are all alike
I won't. None of those assertions make sense. In my opinion.

'Tolerance?' What's That?

Since some of the "tolerance" I've seen doesn't seem very tolerant, a look at what the word's supposed to means seems appropriate:
  • TOLERANCE (noun):
    1. the power or capacity of an organism to tolerate unfavorable environmental conditions
    2. a disposition to allow freedom of choice and behavior
    3. the act of tolerating something
    4. willingness to recognize and respect the beliefs or practices of others
    5. a permissible difference; allowing some freedom to move within limits
    (adapted from Princeton's WordNet)
Except for #1, that's the sort of "tolerance" that Pastor Sapp wasn't - in my opinion - showing. We've got hate crime laws in America - and that's another topic. India has something like those, but with a difference:
Where was I? "Tolerance," defined. Right.

As a practicing Catholic, I think freedom is very important. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 154-155, 160, 1705, 1730-1742, 2244-2245, for starters)

Freedom of religious belief is important, and comes up early in the Catechism:
"To be human, 'man's response to God by faith must be free, and . . . therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.'39 'God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced. . . . This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.'40 Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. 'For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom . . . grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws men to himself.'41"
(Catechism, 160)
If that's not what you've heard or read about the Catholic Church, I'm not surprised: and that's almost another topic.

Florida Book-Burning, Afghanistan Death

Actions have consequences.

In my opinion. It's an opinion I'm pretty confident about, though. Coffee-shop-philosophers notwithstanding, the principle of cause and effect seems quite reasonable. In my opinion, of course. (Catechism, 2317, 1469, 2448, for example)

That's why I think that burning a Quran in Florida was a particularly reprehensible act.

Pastor Sapp did not, in my opinion, "make" anybody in Afghanistan become violent. Folks have free will - and that's yet another topic.

On the other hand, I think it's arguable that Sapp and company encouraged folks who take Islam seriously to become angry. The Florida book-burning was, I think, similar in emotional impact, to what a University of Minnesota, Morris, associate professor did a few years ago:

He put a nail through a consecrated Host, tore a page out of the Quran, and another out of an atheist's book, trashed the lot: and posted a photo of his work online.

It's called 'academic freedom,' my tax dollars help pay his salary: and I am not a happy camper. I think I can understand the anger of devout Muslims, when they heard about Sapp's act.

I'll get back to my take on living in the real world, after 'news and views' about what happened in Florida and Afghanistan: and my take on Sapp's America

Continued in:
1 Quran? Koran? I've mentioned the difficulties of transliteration words from one writing system to another in another blog. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (February 21, 2011, January 25, 2009)


Brigid said...

Stuttering in print! "Last month Pastor Wayne Sapp took advantage took advantage"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Yeah - I still don't know how or why I do that - but it does happen. Found & fixed: Thanks!

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