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  • Writer's pictureRobert MacMillan

I cannot tolerate the new tolerance


“I’ll have a medium-sized cola, please.” “You mean large, don’t you? We only have two sizes: Medium and Large. Our medium is small and our large is medium.” I had only tried to order a soft drink to slake my thirst as I plodded through the arid expanse of the local mall. What I did not expect was to run into an oasis of equivocation, an intentional redefinition of words in order to deceive or confuse. You see, at this kiosk, the large was medium, the medium was small, and I have no idea what word was used to describe the large (not the medium but the biggest). It was impossible to buy a small soft drink (they didn’t offer one), in spite of the fact that the medium was small. Confused?

I try not to be any more annoying than I have to be and the pleasant young lady who served me was not the perpetrator of this assault on the language I have grown to love, so I swallowed my irritation, ordered a large, drank a medium, and felt small for fussing over such a seemingly insignificant thing.

The specifics of my encounter were trivial but the overall effect of such equivocation causes me great concern.

The great English linguist, Humpty Dumpty (probably since knighted by her Majesty the Queen for his exploits in the field of equivocation) first laid out the rules of redefining words with his development of portmanteau words: words that could be made to carry any definition the user of the word decided, just as a portmanteau can carry any number of different items and still be the same suitcase.

Sir Humpty could never have guessed what we have done with his theory in regard to the word toleration. The word means “official recognition of the rights of individuals and groups to hold dissenting opinions, esp. on religion” (American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition). This is a good word, a healthy word, a virtuous word, but it has been twisted into something it was never meant to be. Toleration is now being defined as affirming and approving lifestyles, habits, and beliefs that were once antithetical to one’s own. If one does not approve and promote, then one is intolerant.

For example, as a Bible-believing Christian, I tolerate homosexuality, but I will never affirm such sinful practices. Every gay or lesbian person has inalienable rights given by my God, the God of the Bible, and I trample upon their rights at my risk. As a Bible-believing Christian, I can tolerate Islam but I do not affirm its theology: the God I worship is not Allah nor is their way to salvation anywhere close to the biblical description of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In return, I expect homosexuals and Moslems to tolerate me but I do not expect nor do I want their affirmation of my Bible-based values or beliefs. In time, I may even be able to tolerate buying a medium-sized cola and getting a small, but both the server and I will know that the medium is small.

How can we rectify this equivocation? I do not ask my fellow pastors to help. Those who value truth are already careful with their words and those who are apostate are not going to listen because theirs is already a ministry of equivocation. I would, however, ask our school teachers, both Christian and non-Christian, to teach an adherence to truth, even to the use of words. Words have meaning and, although the language slowly evolves through usage it is the task of the teacher, particularly the English teacher, to slow that drift. Otherwise, language will no longer be a vehicle for the conveyance of truth, and that, as George Orwell believed, is the purpose of equivocation: the distortion of truth so that it can no longer be identified as such.

When it comes to truth, may I encourage you all to order a large (not a medium-large but the big large), and drink deeply.

#toleration #truth #bible #deception

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