Earlier this year I spoke to a class of seniors at a Christian high school in Des Moines, Iowa. I wanted to alert them to this "tolerance trick," but I also wanted to learn how much they had already been taken in by it. I began by writing two sentences on the board. The first expressed the current understanding of tolerance:His cure?
"All views have equal merit and none should be considered better than another."
All heads nodded in agreement. Nothing controversial here. Then I wrote the second sentence:
"Jesus is the Messiah and Judaism is wrong for rejecting Him."
Immediately hands flew up. "You can't say that," a coed challenged, clearly annoyed. "That's disrespectful. How would you like it if someone said you were wrong?"
"In fact, that happens to me all the time," I pointed out, "including right now with you. But why should it bother me that someone thinks I'm wrong?"
"It's intolerant," she said, noting that the second statement violated the first statement. What she didn't see was that the first statement also violated itself.
I pointed to the first statement and asked, "Is this a view, the idea that all views have equal merit and none should be considered better than another?" They all agreed.
Then I pointed to the second statement—the "intolerant" one—and asked the same question: "Is this a view?" They studied the sentence for a moment. Slowly my point began to dawn on them. They'd been taken in by the tolerance trick.
If all views have equal merit, then the view that Christians have a better view on Jesus than the Jews have is just as true as the idea that Jews have a better view on Jesus than the Christians do. But this is hopelessly contradictory. If the first statement is what tolerance amounts to, then no one can be tolerant because "tolerance" turns out to be gibberish.
"Would you like to know how to get out of this dilemma?" I asked. They nodded. "You must reject this modern distortion of tolerance and return to the classic view." Then I wrote these two principles on the board:
Be egalitarian regarding persons.
Be elitist regarding ideas.[i]