All the talk about embracing diversity we hear these days is really a bit deceptive. The reason is because embracing diversity requires tolerance and, although not always explicitly stated, everyone must be tolerant if the whole thing is going to work. So, the game is on to get us to think the same way about tolerance usually by people in positions of power over us, that should we disagree with them they become quite intolerant. One very effective tactic is what I call “definition mongering” done by and through the media and through legislation where the meanings or applications of certain words are manipulated to achieve a desired result, usually unpleasant.
We are told, then, that being tolerant means, among other things, that we acknowledge and respect other points of view no matter how crazy they might be. The danger is that while we can ignore a madman’s outburst should he end up persuading enough people to think wrongly about the same thing and then call it truth, he really has something going. And where no standard exists to measure truth and falsehood, like in our culture now, all sorts of ideologies and movements spring up and we are told to be tolerant of them all.
However, the really deceptive thing going on is not about tolerating diversity per se but defining diversity a certain way, namely that everyone’s perception of reality is equally valid and therefore equally true and then getting as many as possible to agree with this definition. What we end up with is a homogenous, amorphous glob of nonsense we are told must be tolerated. The penalty for non-compliance is to be ostracized and marginalized for being intolerant by those who refuse to tolerate the intolerant, a glaring contradiction by those preaching about the virtues of toleration! This is an example of the ‘glob of nonsense” I mentioned earlier.
What seems to be the case is that behind all this rhetoric about tolerance and diversity is an inexorable push towards conformity; when a society starts thinking alike, especially about what truth and virtuous living are, it is much easier to control. Hence Paul’s imperative to the Roman’s that they not “conform to this world” but rather be “transformed by the renewing” of their minds is especially significant given what’s going on around us. It is most certainly the case that what Paul means by “conform” has to do with thinking a certain way, not merely external conformity as some emphasize. In other words, “don’t think like the world does” but let your minds be renewed so you think God’s way. Thinking that being tolerant of everything that passes itself off as truth just because being tolerant of diversity is the accepted social norm is precisely the kind of thinking Paul would have us reject.
Conformity is accompanied by compromise (depends on it, in fact) which is, among other things, a loss of the ability to be self-critical. What I mean is this: if you or I, or enough people in any given group, like a church, have no interest in examining decisions, weighing convictions, assessing actions, or following God’s plan, then individuals or the whole group will have compromised their uniqueness and become a microcosm of the formless homogeneity that is our culture. This is where we find ourselves as Christians these days. When weighed against what are essentially absolutes, namely God and His expectations of us, it is impossible to be tolerant of all diverse points-of-view, especially those contrary to God’s Word and Will unless, of course, we conform to and compromise with the world; then not only is it possible, but very easy to do.
Now some of you might be thinking that we Christians have to think alike, agreeing on essential Christian doctrines, for example and be tolerant of each other’s differences and you are right. But agreeing on essential Christian doctrine is agreeing to a set of truths that have come to us from the outside, so to speak. That is, unlike cultural standards or ‘truth’, they are not the products of our own making but come from a Source other than ourselves. The point here is that the only way unanimity of thought can exist together with diversity and tolerance is when an outside unifying force between people establishes a common ground all can experience and the only possible instance of this is the Body of Christ, the Church, the “one body, many members” concept taught by Paul.
As distasteful as it might sound to contemporary society, it really is “the Church, the Body of Christ against the world” (we are at war, remember) regarding truth, what it is, where it comes from, how we are to respond to it and how we are to live before God and others. And neither truth nor the meaning of virtuous living is decided by consensus amongst unregenerate humankind. What they can decide is to exert a constant pressure on the populace to conform through compromise under the guise of tolerance and/or diversity. And what Christians can expect is increasing intolerance from the world as we expose the subtle and deceptive redefining of words that leads to such dangerous doctrines like “tolerating diversity must be the standard of a civilized society”. Should Christians buy into this addle-brained doctrine, and “fall into place” alongside their worldly and religious counterparts, then any hope of effectively preaching the Gospel is lost to conformity and compromise. But at least they will be popular among their peers which, by the way, seems to be very important to many Christian leaders.
© 2012 W.G. Ryzek PhD