Tolerance Is Not Always Good.
Vital Speeches of the Day, 8/1/2002, Vol. 68 Issue 20, p630
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TOLERANCE IS NOT ALWAYS GOOD
INSPIRING PEOPLE Delivered to the 6th Annual Becket Fund dinner at the Metropolitan Club, upon receiving Canterbury Medal for Courage in Defense of Religious Liberty, New York City, New York, May 22, 2002 I wanted to prepare some thoughtful and insightful remarks, but I'm afraid your introduction Jack (Templeton) is going to turn out to be a lot better than my speech! I'd like to get to know this guy Aristotle you mention, I think he and I could be great friends. My staff tries to get me to work out my speech word for word ahead of time. However, I prefer to be more spontaneous, which sometimes gets me in hot water. For example, I was waiting in line for an American Airlines flight the other day. The poor fellow at the counter was at the end of an 8 hour stint and doing his best to be positive and polite. I'm about fifth in line and when I get up to the counter, he says, "Mr. Friess, I'll need to see a photo ID." As I flip through my wallet, my son's photo drops out on the counter and he says, "My that's a good looking son." To which I blurted out, "Yeah, he takes after me, my wife is uglier than sin!" Lynn gets even with me. Early in our marriage, she asked if I could help out with the cooking because it's a cumbersome chore with four young kids. I agreed, but after a short time I was relieved of duty after she accused me of using the smoke detector as a timer. Seamus, we really have to thank you and each fellow supporter for what you've accomplished. It's exciting to be in a room with so many heroes in the fight for religious liberties: Bret Schundler, Bill Buckley, Michael Novak, Father Neuhaus. However, it can be rather intimidating to address this kind of an audience. I struggled with what message to convey to people of this level of intellectual capacity. I pondered moral relativism, multiculturalism, intolerance versus tolerance, when my wife made this outrageous suggestion, "Why don't you look up the definition of tolerance in the dictionary." I did ... and they've got it wrong! "Forbearance in passing judgement on another person's position, character, or religion." That doesn't capture the essence of tolerance. Tolerance is once you've made a judgement on that person's character, position, religion, you agree to love them anyway or at least accommodate them in some way. We often get bullied by others from our place at the table because of being inappropriately accused of intolerance if we declare someone is wrong. If you and I are going to be effective in spreading truth and helping people achieve significance in their lives, we have to remember the difference between tolerance and intolerance. My teammates found a great quote: "Tolerance does not ... do anything, embrace anyone, champion any issue. It does not attack error, it does not champion truth, it does not hate evil, it does not love good." Now, let's think a minute about the power of intolerance. We all should emulate the enthusiasm and intensity with which the gay community exhibited their intolerance of a Supreme Court decision declaring the Boy Scouts have the right to set certain standards for scout leaders. Despite comprising a very small minority in our culture they successfully got the Boy Scouts expelled from United Ways, public buildings, and seek to ban the Boy Scouts from all public parks. Dr. Laura Schlessinger, an orthodox Jew who espouses on her "Dr. Laura" radio program her centuries old values that marriage constitutes a relationship of a man and a woman, told me of her experience with intolerance when I met her several weeks ago at Hillsdale College. She had all of her radio programs and sponsorships lined up for the entire season when the gay community then successfully lobbied all of her corporate sponsors to rescind their support, taking it to zero! I'll let you all decide who is right, the Boys Scouts, Dr. Laura or the gay community. I merely want to use that as an example of the power and effectiveness of intolerance. This may be, in fact, one of the first speeches on religious liberty where the audience is urged to be more intolerant. But if we are not going to allow ourselves to be bullied from the table we must appreciate as the earlier quote reveals that "tolerance" is not always a virtue and that we can not be intimidated by those who would label us intolerant simply because they disagree with our view.
Allow me to share a few personal encounters over recent years to flesh out my point. I received an email from an old friend of mine in Sweden who expressed the notion that Islamic fundamentalists, Christian fundamentalists, Hindu fundamentalists, secular fundamentalists, are all the same and are to be viewed negatively. How hard do we really have to work to distinguish the fundamentals of Christianity with other world views? Turn the other cheek; love your enemy; to the woman caught in adultery: "let he who is without sin, cast the first stone." Missionaries who embrace these fundamental Christian ideals put an end to the practice in China of binding women's feet to keep them submissive. Similarly, Christian missionaries were instrumental in banishing Sati, the practice in India of burning a widow on her husband's funeral pyre. A practice outlawed in 1829 but which persisted in rural villages for decades. Intolerance toward these injustices and the courage to stop them can be a compelling force in our lives and have a profound effect on our culture. Whether you are tolerant or intolerant of a certain practice or view depends upon which side of the coin you are. Here are examples of varying perspectives from other personal encounters: When Lynn and I attend the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole we are surrounded by millionaire residents of Teton County, which has the third highest per capita income of any county in America. We asked ourselves, "Why are we allowing the local Albertson checkout lady, making $12 an hour, who is a single mom with three kids, to subsidize our tickets via her tax dollars?" We had a great idea: We offered the festival board $40,000 if they returned the $6,450 received from government entities which could go towards increasing salaries of policeman, fireman and teachers. A win, win, win idea. The board was thrilled -- everyone gave us high-fives and thanked us for our generosity. But then all hell broke loose. A high profile resident expressed his intolerance of our position by publicly chastising us for introducing Christian right-wing, vitriolic politics into the valley and ruining the beautiful, little Grand Teton Music Festival by politicizing it and attaching "a string" to our donation. A call to the executive director confirmed there were no "strings" attached to government funding ... only "conditions". The local newspaper sided with him and characterized me as an "ardent Christian." That really put me in a fix with Lynn, because now when she burns the toast I can't growl at her anymore. Then some cowboy wrote the editor with the question, "Why is it that rejecting government money is a political statement but accepting government money is not a political statement?" Another example of conflicting perspectives was the highly intelligent, well-educated woman annoyed by the big to-do the press was making of the two young women held by the Taliban for possessing a copy of The Jesus Film. Her position was: "Why should they be going over there and trying to influence other people toward their point of view?" This same woman had bumper stickers saying, "stop logging", "ban hunting", and "no guns." It was just a matter of her perspectives being OK to pass on to somebody else but those of others with whom she disagreed were not. Lets next contemplate the possible feelings of Mrs. Pickering -- the wife of Judge Charles Pickering who was just denied by the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation as a Judge to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Let's pretend that Judge Pickering was instead a basketball coach for a DeMoines, Iowa high school team. One day he comes home to his wife, all excited, "We've got a shot, Honey, at becoming the coach at the University of Iowa -- a bigger house, maybe we'll have a little more vacation time, a bigger salary." She is thrilled with the possibility but then the final interview comes and the school officials say, "Coach Pickering, we've been looking into your background and we understand that when you were a young person you attended Sunday School and you're not qualified to serve as a coach." Judge Pickering was denied his position solely because of his religious beliefs. Few people want to admit that. You all may be more familiar with the higher profile John Ashcroft hearings. I will never forget watching CSpan and a very prominent Senator from California, who's name I'll not mention but the initial of the last name is F and her first name is Dianne, looked into the camera and asserted that her opposition to his serving as Attorney General had nothing to do with his religious beliefs. Wouldn't it have been honest if she had said, "Senator Ashcroft, I'm elected by a group of people who are basically pro-choice. If I don't oppose your confirmation because you might undo Roe v. Wade, I wouldn't get reelected. The reason why I'm opposed to you is because of your religious beliefs, that you believe all life is sacred." Why do we tolerate such dishonesty among our politicians? I don't want to pick on any one particular party because we can find enough illustrations on both sides. A countering perspective comes from one of our country's founders, John Adams, who said, "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is totally inadequate to the government of any other ... it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand." As we consider our contribution to the reforms of our nation, we must remember that a return to Godliness is perhaps the greatest thing we can all work to achieve in our country today. We had a wake-up call a while back. Everybody thinks it was on September 11, but there was another wake-up call that we may have forgotten about: April 20, 1999 -- Columbine. How hard have those intolerant of John Adam's perspective worked to strip from young people any hope of knowing the concepts and truths that help deal with life; to deal with fear; with guilt; with selfesteem; to deal with love and relationships? They have gone to great lengths to strip all of this away and we have sat back in the name of tolerance while our youth were robbed of these truths and proven tools. I think we should be encouraged to learn from Columbine and let it be a battle cry for all of us so that we may change our society through productive intolerance. I want to give you another wonderful quote, and see if you can tell me who said it. And Mr. Buckley, I'm going to ask you specifically who said this. "Truth can never win unless it is promulgated. Truth does not carry within itself an antitoxin to falsehood. The cause of truth must be championed and it must be championed dynamically." Who said that? That's right, folks -- Bill Buckley! Let me tell you how much this guy used to annoy me. I'd watch him on Firing Line and he'd come up with these four-foot long words and just as I'd looked them up in my dictionary, he'd thrown out a five-footer. But in talking with him before dinner I've come to really warm up to him. He was telling me that he didn't understand what people see in this nonalcoholic beer but then he confessed the other day he had two of them back to back and suddenly found himself craving a candy cigarette! I wish Sir John (Templeton) were here and I'm glad you're here, Jack, to represent him. What an influence he's been in my life. He said there are spiritual truths that exist, which are every bit as incontrovertible as the physical laws of life, and our task is to discover them and then make a commitment to live by them. Think of the power that we have in this room to learn those laws and to live by them, and what our world would be like. There are many examples of intolerance that we could talk about. One time my secretary in Jackson went to a Thanksgiving luncheon for parents and kids at the local school and saw 27 kids sitting together at a table without parents present. She decided she would not tolerate that. She found mentors not only for those 27, but also for another 19. There are 56 kids now in Jackson Hole with a mentor, a surrogate aunt or uncle to love them, cherish them, and encourage them. Dr. Scott, a 70-year old retired doctor, after attending a Christian weekend retreat decided: "I'm not going to live out the rest of my years doing nothing. I'm going to start a medical van to provide for the indigent." Today there are seven different medical vans around the country because of his inspiration. He refused to tolerate the lack of sufficient medical care available to many of our nation's poor. I don't know if we should tolerate the fact that 70 percent of African-American kids in the United States are born out of wedlock. Now, for someone to get up and say that that is wrong, there will undoubtedly be someone on the other side of the coin who will say "Who are you to impose your values on someone else?" Why not? It is a two-way street. By passively observing and allowing our values to disintegrate, we are having someone else's views imposed upon us. I think we're blessed at this point and time to have a President who, if he does nothing else in the rest of his administration, has once again in the United States of America, made it politically correct to love God. I think that's something for which we owe him a great debt. In his inaugural address, Mr. Bush spoke about moral rebuilding and intolerance toward indifference: "And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side. Sometimes in life we are called to do great things. But as a saint of our times has said, 'every day we are called to do small things with great love.' The most important tasks of a democracy are done by everyone." Let us not wait until Congress decides to spend some money, let's take his leadership and go out tomorrow and do something that can help somebody understand the truths we know can change people's lives. To build on President Bush's inspiration from Mother Therese, let's all think small! What small thing can each of us do today with great love that will have the most lasting, meaningful effect on our youth, the future of our great nation? Don't be fearful to be intolerant, and don't be fearful to promote your values. We have every right to do that. Seamus does that every day on our behalf! Make sure you have a place at the table and don't let anybody bully you into thinking that you are intolerant or judgmental and can't have that opportunity to sit at that table. Let's be intolerant of indifference as our president exhorts us. To emphasize how important it is to focus on that one gift you can give, I would like to tell a little parable about a lighthouse keeper. One day an elderly couple came to him and said, "We are out of oil for our home and are cold, can you give us oil?" So he gave them oil. Another young couple visited the lighthouse keeper the very next day and said, "We have no light at night. We've run out of oil for our lamps. Can you give us oil?" So he gave them oil. This man was so loving and so kind. He met all of these needs but then he ran out of oil before the next shipment came. As a result, two ships crashed on the rocks, killing hundreds of sailors. What's the message to us? We do so many things that are great and worthwhile but they distract us from the key thing that God would have us do. Each one of us has been given a lighthouse mission. Let's strip away all the things that detract us from our lighthouse mission. We thank you Seamus and thank God for your willingness to give up making hundreds of thousands of dollars practicing corporate or private law in order to be the lighthouse keeper that focuses on religious liberty for us all. Back to the idea of thinking small. The difference between one child who makes it and another who doesn't is one caring adult. So many of you are mentoring -- about a third of our firm is mentoring -- young children. We don't call them at-risk kids anymore, we call them kids with unfulfilled promise. Each person in the room here has the potential to be a mentor or to finance a mentor. As President Bush alluded to, on the road to Jericho the Good Samaritan took the wounded Jew laying on the side of the road to an innkeeper and financed the meeting of his needs. In the same way, we can make our contribution to change the world so that religious liberty can grow and thrive because we have been a presence in those young people's lives who are otherwise completely alienated from the truth. Remember Ronald Reagan's favorite Bible verse? II Chronicles 7:14, "when my people, who are called by my name, will turn from their evil ways and humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." We don't have to wait for the enemies of religious liberty to change their ways. We need to do what God calls us to do -- to execute our lighthouse mission and do it in small ways everyday. Each one of us in this room, for example, can go home and encourage our pastors, rabbis or whomever our spiritual leader is and say, "let's redefine the success of our church." Right now many pastors define their success by the size and beauty of their physical plant, the number of members in their congregation and size of their budget. Let's redefine that. A pastor in Scottsdale, Arizona has accepted this challenge to redefine success instead by assessing what percentage of members in his congregation have a personal ministry outside their family. A church with 100 members that has 90 people with a ministry outside of their families is more successful than an 8,000-member church with a huge beautiful physical plant and big budget that doesn't reach out to love others. You can encourage your spiritual leaders to get their people energized. We have too many hymn-singing country clubs. They need to be converted into powerhouses to change the world. The several hours spent in church on Sundays, should not be the spiritual high point of our week. It should be half-time in the locker room, where we prepare to go out during the week and achieve the purpose God has set for each one of us, to be a channel of His love to others. None of us are here for self-aggrandizement or to seek our own happiness. We're here to fulfill the purpose that He has set for us. And so Seamus, thank you for your lighthouse mission and we are grateful that you have allowed us to partner with you in it. Thank the Lord for each person, here and around the world, who has rallied behind you to make it happen. Let's all go out tomorrow and be intolerant! ~ Address by FOSTER FRIESS, Chairman, Friess Associates, Manager Brandywine Mutual Funds
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