18 December 2012

True Love and False Tolerance

Sub Tuum. 

When we were young, if we think hard enough, we can remember there were two types of parents. There were those who were strict to one degree or another, and there were those who were permissive. The strict parents set boundaries. They said "no" a lot, and they told us what we could and could not do. I do not mean the totalitarian or abusive parents, of course, but those who believed in appropriate guidance and discipline. The permissive parents, on the other hand, didn't seem to be bothered by whatever their children wanted to do. They had various reasons for this and often thought themselves quite modern and sophisticated in their approach. Children of these permissive parents often thought themselves quite grown up, while the children of strict parents often felt stifled, over-controlled, and micromanaged. It was not uncommon for the children of strict parents to tell their parents, upon hearing the answer of "no" to a request, that little Johnny or little Sally's parents let them do that or even let them do whatever they want. That made the job of parenting surely all the more difficult for the strict parents. After all, the more the children saw of permissive parents, the more they longed to be delivered from the perceived bonds of their strict parents. 

Yes, the permissive parents were more tolerant of their children's behavior, but that was a false tolerance. False tolerance is a general acceptance of all behavior, whether right or wrong, whether beneficial or harmful, and whether edifying or destructive. It is an abdication of parental responsibility to teach right and wrong, and it is little wonder that those children so often grow up to have a blurred delineation between right and wrong. It is a carefully applied strictness and an intolerance of what is wrong that is the mark of a loving parent. False tolerance, the hallmark of the permissive parent, is a form of selfishness. It is placing the desire to be liked by one's child over the desire to raise one's child into a good and decent adult. It is the loving strict parent who was always there to clean our wounds, make us feel better, and most importantly to help us grow whenever we made the inevitable mistakes that all children make. The permissive parents offered no such comforts. In time, children came to see the merits of the strict parents and to understand that they really were looking out for what was best for the children whom God had placed in their care. 

When children are put into the world and left to discover what to do on their own, they have an internal moral compass called the conscience, but they must be shown how to use it. One likely guide becomes pleasure. A child naturally will want to do what gives the most pleasure, and without a developed sense of morality, this turns into the concept of "if it feels good, do it" that is so pervasive in our society today. The trouble with pleasure is that it is never enough. 

But we do not exist in a vacuum, and neither do children. Think of when we were children. How did we know what we wanted? We saw what the other children had. This is, after all, the basis of commercial advertising. Also, our teachers taught us. They taught us that 5x5 is 25, and 2+2 is 4. Humans are susceptible to their environment, especially impressionable young people. What young people are taught, told, and exposed to is so very important. It is also important that, as they grow older, they learn how to process information and discern right from wrong themselves. Parents who love their children should encourage this. Teachers who love their students should as well. Children will grow into adults. That is a fact of nature that hardly needs mentioning. Adults will encounter many, many things in this world, and they must learn to determine right from wrong and to stand firm against what is wrong. The peer pressure we all experienced in school does not go away in adulthood. It may take different forms, but it does not go away. 

True tolerance must be of what is good and accompanied by an intolerance for what is not good. This true tolerance comes from love; love of one's children, one's family, and one's fellow man. False tolerance, on the other hand, includes tolerance of what is wrong. Ironically, false tolerance is often also intolerance towards what is good and seeks to create confusion in the minds of people over what is good and what is evil. Unfortunately our society has given in to this false tolerance. We have been forced to accept as right many forms of degenerate and perverse behavior. No longer do teachers have the control in the classroom that they once had. The line between right and wrong has been obliterated in society and replaced with a general philosophy of doing "what is right for you." That means we each determine what is right and wrong. Now how does this work? Where does it end? Truly it does not make sense. If your job starts at 8 o'clock in the morning, but 8 o'clock to your boss is only 7:30 to you, then under this new relativism, who is correct? Is arriving half and hour late according to the boss's perspective actually "ok for you" because your sense of reality is different? I doubt too many bosses would truly accept that argument. 

In society today we also see a breakdown in the family. Couples are choosing to co-habitate before marriage to "try it out," which is really a fallacy if you think about it. Some couples are simply bypassing formal marriage altogether and just living together, even having children out of wedlock. The irony of this is that they are married under common law, though I doubt too many local governments would enforce that anymore. Yet we are now discouraged from saying anything to those who wish to engage in such behavior. We hear "Just because Jenny is unmarried and having a third child by as many fathers doesn't mean she isn't a nice girl." Well, one has nothing to do with the other! She might be nice, but that doesn't mean her personal behavior is appropriate. If we stand silently by for fear of being attacked or condemned for saying anything, then we become complicit in the problem!

And now we have the push for homosexual marriage, which seeks to redefine the fundamental nature of marriage. Proponents of homosexual marriage say that it is about equal rights and it does not negatively impact other people. Yet, it does impact other people. It cheapens what marriage means. Marriage itself is an affirmation and a celebration of the fundamental natural differences between men and women and of their complementary nature. To condone homosexual marriage as actual marriage makes men and women interchangeable and hence requires a redefinition of the intrinsic nature of marriage that has existed for thousands of years. This redefinition breaks down the acknowledgement and celebration of the fundamental and complementary differences between men and women and makes people interchangeable. This is not marriage, but false tolerance has gotten us to this point as a society. Say anything about it, and you'll risk being called hateful or homophobic. Yet, it should be out of love for our fellow man that we do speak out in favor of what marriage is and what it has always truly been. 

False tolerance has never led anywhere positive. Those who practice true tolerance for what is good and intolerance towards what is not good are, I'm afraid, a disappearing breed these days. It is difficult for the good and decent people of the world to stand up and proclaim the truth! They are viewed as the strict parent, while those who practice false tolerance are viewed as the fun-loving permissive parent. Yet, like the strict parent, it is those who are appropriately intolerance to wrong who love their fellow man and who are there to help others in a meaningful way. Like the permissive parents, those who practice false tolerance are never anywhere to be found when you fall down. 

Saint Paul reminded us to admonish one another in brotherly love. It is in this sense that we must tolerate what is good and be always intolerant towards what is not good. It is in this sense that we must love the sinner and hate the sin. It is in this sense that we must always have compassion and sympathy towards our brothers and sisters who sin, for we ourselves are sinners. This is the path that builds a good and decent society. This is true love for others.

+ Rutherford Cardinal Johnson