Toppling the tyranny of tolerance

Today I wrote an article for the Theos website on the French law – passed by its lower House this week – banning the wearing of full-face veils (Burka) in public.

My article focuses on how a civilised society should navigate such issues – wearing a full veil hinders conversation and has potential security implications, but is banning it really the loving, generous, mature way to approach the matter?

In having to narrow my focus to one aspect of the debate, however, I wasn’t able to pay as much attention as I wanted to the really bizarre aspect of such a law.  It’s showing up an elemental flaw in the secular worldview!

One of my colleagues described it as the myth of secular neutrality falling on its sword.  The secularist/tolerant mindset says ‘everyone is welcome, no behaviour is excluded other than that which causes harm to another, or which is intolerant of another.’

This sounds great – no-one is allowed to impose their sense of right and wrong on anyone else, everyone can act as they see fit as long as they don’t hurt others, and tyranny is finally overthrown.

Except that this worldview is not morally neutral.  Moral neutrality can never use the words ‘should’ or ‘ought’.  If there is no objective right and wrong, how can you say that it is wrong to be intolerant? How can you say, for example, that a nurse should not offer to pray for a patient, or that a woman should not wear a burka?

Yet almost every week brings a new story of such prohibitions. The burka ban is perhaps the most striking to date, since it means that, in the name of freedom, these women will have restrictions placed on even their clothing choices.  They will be forced to conform to someone else’s idea of freedom. How tolerant is that?!

With no sense of an objective right or wrong, rules and laws are created at the whim of the loudest voice, with no coherent sense of what they intend to achieve.  Tolerance quickly becomes incredibly intolerant of any dissenting voices.

The good news is, the cracks are beginning to show; the bad news is, a cracked and crumbling society is inherently unstable.  There is a pressing need for Christians to start singing a new song over our land, providing a framework of loving morality to which people can turn when the tolerance in which they have placed their trust crumbles to dust beneath them.

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