Coming back to this blog after a week of camping – no mobile, no wifi, just us and the elements – it is tempting to dive back into the meaty part of the argument about the Intolerance of Tolerance. But I’ve been given the chance to step back and reflect on what to do with all the thoughts that are wrestling around in my head after reading Carson’s excellent critique. There’s a good deal of frustration and outright anger, as well as fear, about where our culture is heading and what that might mean for Christians in Australia.
I found in particular that Carson’s chapter on Tolerance, Democracy and Majoritarianism really opened my eyes to the fact that modern, liberal democracy is not the friend of Christianity in the way we often think it is: ‘it has the potential for becoming as tyrannous as any other regime, if it begins to think that the systems and structures of democracy are neutral and independent of any greater allegiance’. This is a scary thought! Democracy won’t protect our religious freedom if it rubs up against other ascendant moral agendas. But is this what God wants for me – to be fearful and consequently belligerent and scathing in criticism? To specialise in moral outrage? This seems to be the path that many on the political right (especially in the US) have taken, and it does commend the Lord Jesus. After all, the old tolerance has its roots in the character of God and in the Christian ethic of love for our enemies.
Carson’s concluding Ten Words are a helpful encouragement on what to do with all our fears. As Christians we need to be valiant for truth, preserving the place of truth in our own minds and in public discourse. As an aside, I found the discussion in chapter six about the concept of evil so interesting, because it caused me to evaluate my own way of ‘branding’ people’s actions. I think I am prone to label certain actions as ‘insane’; rather than to call them what they actually are, which is evil. We should be brave enough to preserve that terminology because that’s how the Bible describes human nature - as long as we remember that we are all tarred with the same brush!!
We should also be ready to call our society out on its assumptions and inconsistencies. I love that Carson reminds us at this point, however, that the gospel is paramount. Forging a track for our culture back to the ‘old tolerance’ is not what we are about primarily. We are about Jesus Christ. We are strangers in this world as we live for Him and proclaim Him. And as people come to Him they themselves will become ‘salt in a decaying world, light in a dark world’. The reality is that this may or may not turn the tide. But if it doesn’t – if public perception continues to view Christianity as ‘intolerant’, we must be ready to suffer. I find this such a difficult call – when I read about the disciples actually rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be identified with Jesus and suffer in His name (Acts 5:41). Would I, do I, react in this way? I certainly don’t feel capable of that in myself. But I also trust that if God were to bring us to that point, He would also provide the strength to bear up and the grace to rejoice in persecution.
Now, for some reason I like to finish all my blogs with lines from Colin Buchanan songs! Here’s one that I find reassuring in the face of the strange and uncertain times we live in, and that brings us back to a childlike trust in the sovereignty and wisdom of God:
You might be worried ‘bout the world, and wonder what’ll happen to you
Put your faith in God alone, ‘cos He’s still sitting on His mighty throne
Because the Lord is King
He’s gonna look after everything, everything
The Lord is King
He’s gonna look after everything, every single thing in this world
‘Cos this is His world
About this month's contributor, Kristen Butchatsky
I am a wife to Pete, a mum of three girls aged 7, 5 and 3, and a music teacher. I am a long-time member of the wonderful church family St Aidan’s Anglican in Hurstville Grove, having come to Christ through a youth group ministry at age 14. I love singing, reading (obviously!!), walking my dog, Ned and going to see plays, movies and musical theatre.