Dealing with Accusations of Intolerance

Written by Mark Farnham

On February 16, 2015

tacticsThis is an enlightening part of Greg Koukl’s book, Tactics:

There is no neutral ground when it comes to the tolerance question. Everybody has a point of view she thinks is right, and everybody passes judgment at some point or another. The Christian gets pigeonholed as the judgmental one, but everyone else is judging, too, even people who consider themselves relativists. I call this the passive-aggressive tolerance trick.

The key to understanding this trick is knowing that everyone thinks his own beliefs are correct. If people didn’t think their beliefs were true, they wouldn’t believe them. They’d believe something else and think that was true.

If you have already been labeled intolerant by someone, ask, “What do you mean by that?” Though I already have a pretty good idea of what the person means when she says I’m intolerant, asking this question flushes out her definition of “intolerant” and sets the stage — in my favor — for the next two questions. Here’s how it looks:

“You’re intolerant.”

“Can you tell me what you mean by that? Why would you consider me an intolerant person?”

“Well, it’s clear you think you’re right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong.”

“I guess I do think my views are correct. It’s always possible I could be mistaken, but in this case I don’t think I am. But what about you? You seem to be disagreeing with me. Do you think your own views are right?”

“Yes, I think I’m right, too. But I’m not intolerant. You are.”

“That’s the part that confuses me. Why is it when I think I’m right, I’m intolerant, but when you think you’re right, you’re just right? What am I missing?”

Of course, you are not missing anything; she is. Her move is simple name-calling.

Labeling you as intolerant is no different than calling you ugly. One is an attack on your looks. The other is an attack on your character. Neither is useful in helping you understand the merits of any idea you may be discussing.

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