The New Intolerance

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The New Intolerance

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The various Star Trek television shows and movies have reflected and influenced culture in the United States for more than 30 years. The programs feature space travelers who "explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations." These intrepid explorers live by the "prime directive," which absolutely forbids interfering with another culture.

It seems that, at the beginning of the 21st century, Star Trek's prime directive has become a cultural mantra in the United States. The concept that all cultures, all religions and all human ideas are inherently equal is the battle cry of those spouting the new tolerance and promoting the concept that there are no absolute truths.

What is actually happening is that many concepts considered absolute truths by a majority of Americans for hundreds of years are being replaced, not with nonconfrontational tolerance, but with a new set of absolutes advanced with missionary zeal.

You don't believe it? Just ask someone who is proabortion if she is tolerant and accepting of someone who is pro-life. Or ask someone who supports homosexuality and gay marriage if he believes that a Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin is equally entitled to hold his position.

A changing landscape

William Watkins outlines the dramatic changes taking place in America's moral landscape in his book The New Absolutes. Let's look at some examples.

A few decades ago most people in the United States believed that the Christian religion formed the foundation of a moral society, although other religions were to be tolerated. The new absolute is that anything to do with Christianity must be eradicated from all public forums while non-Christian religions are promoted as a positive multicultural experience.

Researcher George Barna reports that 44 percent of Americans contend that "the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths." Of course, anyone who has even skimmed these books knows that, while there are some similarities, they are opposed to each other in many important ways.

Another old absolute held that marriage was a sacred institution ordained by God and that divorce constituted a terrible personal failure. Marriage was defined as two people united for life. Children were to be nurtured in this environment of two committed parents. The new definition of family is a revolving door of temporary relationships.

An old absolute promoted the notion that sexual activity was an emotional and physical bond confined to the institution of marriage. The new absolute promotes the idea that sexual relationships are to be freely experienced between any two consenting adults, even those of the same sex.

Not to accept this new absolute is to be seen as "homophobic," a misused word denoting an unnatural fear. Some sociologists go so far as to claim that human beings instinctively need to mate with different people on a regular basis and that lifelong marriage interferes with nature.

Years ago most people in this country believed children were a blessing from God and parents had a sacred obligation to care for them. The new absolute sees children as a lifestyle decision. If having a child interferes with personal desires and goals, the fetus can be aborted. Not accepting this new absolute is to risk being branded as wanting to enslave women by denying them freedom over their own bodies.

Society's past belief in marriage and the value of human life was rooted in a Christian view of human beings having been created in the image of God, not that they are just a higher form of animal controlled by instinctive urges. The human capacity for good and the value of personal character, molded by measurable standards, were seen as ideals worthy of personal sacrifice.

Our society isn't just sliding into a morass of no absolutes, but turning into a culture of intolerance toward many traditional values that shaped much of America's history.

An intolerant religion

If you were to compile a list of intolerant and oppressive religious beliefs, what would they be? Maybe the list would include any religion that taught that you must accept its leader for salvation, or proclaimed that it is the only true religion and denied other religious beliefs. The list might include any religion with prohibitions against homosexuality or strict guidelines for divorce.

The following is a true story about the leaders of a Jewish religious sect. Some ministers performed what many claimed was a public miracle. These religious men were required to appear before the national government.

We pick up the account: "And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, 'By what power or by what name have you done this?'

"Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, 'Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.

"This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.'" Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved'" (Acts 4:5-12).

This new religious sect claimed that salvation was possible only though their Leader, Jesus of Nazareth. Do the teachings of the New Testament apostles of Christ still apply to Christians today? If the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then eternal salvation cannot come through Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam. You cannot have it both ways.

Contemporary Jewish leaders were appalled at the apostles' teaching. Notice their reaction in verses 13-18: "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.

"But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, 'What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.'

"And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus."

The proclamation of Jesus the Christ as the only means of salvation was so intolerant in first-century Jewish society that the religious leaders forbade His teachings.

Christian tolerance

Do you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ? If you do, do you understand what He really taught?

If you want to be a true Christian, then it's time to read and apply the teachings of Christianity's Founder. You have the historical account of His life right there in your own home. The first four books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—contain the story of the man who claimed to be the divine Son of God. Do you know what He taught about divorce, or sexual fantasies, or obligations for taking care of elderly parents?

Here's a reality check: There is absolute good and absolute evil. Good and evil aren't mere philosophical concepts, but very real thoughts, emotions and actions. Walking into a school with an automatic weapon and gunning down other teenagers in cold blood is genuine evil, just as using a tube to suck out the brains of a baby and calling it "partial birth abortion" is also genuine evil.

Does this mean that Christians are to oppress other religions? Should Christians launch another Crusade against Islam or take violent action against people who run abortion clinics?

Jesus instructs His followers to love their neighbors and even their enemies. Christianity is, in a real sense, the most tolerant of all religions in that the followers of Christ are to be kind to all people regardless of their beliefs. At the same time, Christians are expected to take a stand in the public forum as examples of the teachings of the Bible. Christ told His disciples not to hide their light.

Jesus makes a remarkable statement to His disciples in John 15:18-21: "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

"Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me."

Jesus tells His disciples—then and now—that if they live and preach His message, people will eventually persecute them in the name of Jesus Christ. Many people who claim to follow Jesus actually find His teachings intolerant.

If the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then it makes claims to being the objective measure of truth. If there is no absolute truth, if there is no good and evil, then the Christianity of the Bible is a fairy tale.

A major theme in the Star Trek programs is good guys vs. bad guys. Most people like to think there is some form of good that eventually wins out over evil, but the prime directive isn't the criteria for determining the ultimate good. The Creator has given us His definition of reality. It's contained in the Bible.

Christians are called to participate in the cosmic battle between good and evil. This warfare makes the plot of science fiction seem trite—because the Christian's ultimate outcome is eternal life in the Kingdom and family of God. GN