Monday, September 24, 2007

Final Thoughts on Tolerance (at least for now)

A few final thoughts. I began talking about tolerance from the perspective of disagreement within the church, and proposed this definition: Tolerance is the subjugation of personal preference and opinion to the promotion of unity. Another way of saying that is not only do I not have to get my way, I don't resent it when I don't. I believe that this is a large part of 'loving my neighbor', and very much what it means to 'consider others better than myself'. I think these definitions work both in corporate settings and in interpersonal relationships.

As we talked about where to draw the line - what should we not tolerate, or what do we believe that God would not tolerate - it seems to me that it is our nature to draw lines where God would not, and to ignore some of the lines that God would draw. I don't know that it is our nature, but it certainly seems to be our history. Much of what we don't want to tolerate seems to come down to differences of opinion; what God seems not to tolerate is arrogance, injustice, mistreatment of the poor, the embracing of evil.

Even when dealing with with issues of justice, the line is not always clear. One obvious example in today's world is immigration, where there is a need to balance security with fairness. It seems to me - wherever one falls on a continuum from 'give me your tired, your poor' to 'send em all back where they came from' - when compassion is absent, when an entire group of people is presumed guilty until they prove their innocence, when one group of people is required to document its status to a higher standard than the ordinary population, the line has been drawn in the wrong place.

A less clear issue to me is the balance between personal freedom and corporate security. I don't have any idea of some of the things our government leadership knows about the dangers in today's world, but I have a concern when the government takes the position that it may monitor private conversations without warrant, when it can imprison people without charge, when it condones mistreatment and even torture, that the line may have been drawn in the wrong place. One of the scenes from Truth and Translation featured a former victim of torture at the hands of the police confronting the police official who had tortured him. The official's response was that if he could prevent multiple deaths from a terroristic act by torturing one individual, that he would do it again.

A little closer to home. Taylor and a group of about 50 Pepperdine students departed from LAX on September 5th, and arrived at Frankfurt International Airport on the 6th. News broke on the 4th that three German terrorists had been arrested - they had a large amount of explosives and one of their primary targets was the Frankfurt International Airport. As the news came out in bits and pieces it became apparent that their arrest had been largely enabled by American monitoring of their cell phone conversations.

I am thankful that the line was drawn where it was.

For me, the end did justify the means in this case. There are people with more knowledge than I whom I gladly trust to act appropriately. Yet, the nagging thought that 75 years ago the German people trusted a charismatic leader to act appropriately...

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