It used to be that the maxim of enlightened tolerance was “live and let live” – but not only has this simply stated adage fallen into disuse, the current purveyors of tolerance in our culture are now offended by its lack of conviction to woke conformity. And before you hurt your brain trying to noodle the pretzel logic of this cognitive dissonance, you would do well to remember that this new defining of tolerance isn’t intended to promote actual tolerance – it’s meant to silence and intimidate into compliance the newly identified intolerant . . . all those who refuse to get in line. So how exactly did we get here?
Humans have actually never been good at disagreement, we just keep inventing new ways for controlling the narrative, so that our side of the argument comes off looking virtuous . . . especially, if we’re the ones making the weaker argument. In this way, how the debate is framed can place your opponent on their heels right out of the gate – having to explain why they lack the moral integrity to do the right thing . . . and agree with you. Of course, this is neither intellectually honest, nor is it a good faith approach – but this is what comes of placing more value on winning . . . over a sincere desire to know what is true.
I tend to love a good debate the way a cat loves a bird. When I was a kid I played a lot of chess, and got pretty good at thinking, at least three moves ahead. I used to read the books and learned most of the gambits. So not only was I well prepared, I was nimble enough of mind to execute a pretty good game. So when I enter a debate on social media, I usually know how to press the advantage by identifying the rhetorical gambits and articulating my position with erudition and flamboyance, keeping my interlocutor off balance. But what’s the point? Usually the poor soul I’m engaging ends up feeling run over . . . and I failed to hear the story of the person behind the argument . . . and I am a lesser man for it.
Disagreement doesn’t need a decisive victory, it needs a sympathetic ear. Ontologically speaking, what is true will always win out, regardless of our self-involved desire to prove we know the truth. Certainly, we should bear witness to the truth, speaking it unflinchingly in the midst of a culture determined to manufacture its own version of the truth – but our distinctive is that we temper it with love (Ephesians 4:15). In this regard, the deeper truths of our faith are expressed – for what we really bear witness to is the reconciliation of God, our being reconciled to him . . . so that we might be reconciled to one another.
Modernity has misled us, causing us to believe that it is our disembodied ideas that matter most, until we are tempted to foist the certainty of our convictions on one another, as if in an academic vacuum. And it is profoundly dehumanizing to place the preeminence of our opinions over the dignity of the person we’re engaging – may God forgive us. Remember they are an image bearer of God, so entreat them on this point of commonality and let them tell their story, there will be time enough for disagreement. Let the love of God that pursued you, be the love that they find in you. Be the peacemaker (Matthew 5:9) in a world bent on violently imposing its will – because in one way or another, we are all refugees, seeking peace . . . so may the peace that is God’s presence be on your face . . . and on your lips.
. . . and may we all learn to seek the peace of God.