In some night clubs, everyone dances to the tunes on their own iPods. Now that is a picture of the trendy doctrine of our day: To each his own. It’s an expression my grandmother used for things like music or dessert. Today, it’s applied to beliefs, as though they’re just private thoughts. If you buy into that, then you’ve not been paying much attention.
The attacks in Paris show dramatically how beliefs have public consequences. Some beliefs bring out our best, and others not so much. Yet, people continue to think of them like playlists or dessert options. That itself is a belief. It’s a western, post 1960’s doctrine which has been trumping even common sense. And doing damage.
Tolerance alone can destroy
I don’t think we should be intolerant, but I’ve had quite enough of the patronizing drivel that speaks of tolerance as if it were the capstone of virtues. Chesterton called it the only virtue–of someone who lacks conviction. For a generation, tolerance has been wielded to destroy. Masquerading as fairness, the agenda has been to prejudice us against any common accountability.
To put it differently, many in the “question authority” cohort of the 60’s have never drawn any conclusions of their own–besides what they’re against. They’ve simply deconstructed the conclusions and institutions (admittedly imperfect) of others before them. Now many of them are employed by the universities they once jousted. Ironically, these established intellectuals have little basis to object to the current generation of young whipper-snappers.
Cursing the darkness lights no fire
In my lifetime, the mainline Presbyterian church has largely been dismantled by tolerance as an agenda. Single-issue activists began chipping away at this church’s structure to make a statement for social change in the interest of tolerance. But, they had no real vision of what things would look like when they finished. Building something takes love and patience. It requires us to stand FOR something–not using the “cause du jour,” to separate the sheep from the goats.
Now perhaps even these lobbyists can see–since this organization has lost over 1 million members–that cursing the darkness does not light a fire. Critiques produce nothing. The challenge of building something of value is that we are imperfect people building on the flawed foundations of our forebears. Our drive to do better can divide people without a little humility.
Discovering what builds up
J.S. Bach once made a profoundly humble statement about his achievements. He talked about composing as discovery rather than creation. He considered, in contrast to the silent disco, that there’s a design to things that can bring people together. In most times and places, people have been united by the narrative that living by design helps us to thrive, even when that suggestion puts constraints upon individual liberty. It takes humility to yield to an authority outside of us, especially when it is couched in narrative that sometimes seems out of sync with these times. But as a wise man said:
“Whatever is not eternal is eternally out of date.”