Sunday, January 1, 2012

On Tolerance

There is a hell of row going on in Israel right now between Orthodox and Secular Israelis. The epicenter of the conflict is in the ancient city of בית שמש [Beit Shemesh], meaning “House of the Sun”, where there is an “increasingly intense confrontation” going on between חרדים Charedim (ultra-Orthodox) and the authorities over (primarily) religious gender-segregation. Several highly-publicized outrages committed by the Charedim against women and young girls have spurred large demonstrations by secular (and some Charedi) Israelis, which, in turn, have prompted a counter demonstration by the Charedim.

Over on Bethami Gold's The Mommy Guilt Blog, there is a helpful list of links at the bottom of the post Tonight in Beit Shemesh that will handily bring you up to speed on the controversy.

Actually, it was the following quote from Bethami’s post that got me thinking about the whole issue of tolerance:
I do still believe (although belief is wavering, I’ll admit) that everyone has a right to be as extreme as they want in their private lives...But they should let everyone else make their own choices as well. They should strive to raise healthy, confident daughters and sons who take pride in both their bodies and souls.
The inherent contradiction leapt out at me immediately. As with most post-modernist progressive unbelievers, Bethami adheres to the high, secularist value of universal toleration—the idea that people only need to be tolerant of each other, let everyone do whatever they choose to do, and human society will be free of all discord and disharmony. Of course, if she were to think about it for a moment, she would see that this social philosophy is as fundamentally flawed as the belief that the solution to poverty is making everyone a millionaire. What happens when my doing what I want involves stopping you from doing what you want?

Right. No wonder she admits her belief in it is “wavering”.

I captured that thought in a comment on her post. After citing the same quote above, I wrote:

This is not "letting everyone else make their own choices as well"; it is forcing your morality on others. It is, in a word, hypocrisy (albeit unconscious). No matter what action you support to "fix" this problem, you have to admit that you are elevating your preferences over those of others. No one who does anything other than submit to the will of another has the right to claim intellectual or moral neutrality. Tolerance is by definition unlimited. A completely tolerant human society is a utopian myth.

Where groups are concerned, strength and/or numbers will always rule. It was ever thus.
All of this merely underscored for me why we Christians are not to involve ourselves in secular politics or social engineering. There is simply no way for us to honestly govern or manage non-Christians without forcing our beliefs on them.

It’s a lesson Pastor Steven Anderson has yet to learn:

No. The only legitimate posture for us to take “in the world” is one of submission to the wishes of the greater society. Not that we are to do everything they order us to do (like fight in their wars), but that we are to defer to their authority and obey their laws, both of which include accepting the prescribed punishment for any law which we cannot obey (like killing their designated enemies for them). In short, we must always “turn the other cheek” (Matt 5:38-40); even if we are imprisoned, persecuted or killed in the process.

That, I’m afraid, is real tolerance.

UPDATE: My comment--the only one there as of this writing--has been removed from The Mommy Guilt Blog (no surprises there; I mean, one of her links is to Huffpo! So Bethami's clearly not a big supporter of self-reflection).

For three English-language Israeli news reports on the trouble there, see this post over at the Rosh Pinah Project.

An interesting view from another secular Jew living in Israel can be found at Melchett Mike. The comments are enlightening, too.

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