Hello again folks,
There's been a lot of talk about tolerance and intolerance and what with me being impaled by a sword and brought back to life by the "devil" (ha ha ha ha ha, LOL, ROTFOL etc...) I thought perhaps it would be a neat idea to explore this concept.
As you know I taught contemporary theology and spirituality at Villanoce, a wonderful Midwestern college. We saw things change and if it was something I learned is that this idea of tolerance worked well for us in the more broad minded community for quite some time. It [tolerance] and academic freedom were the lever arms by which we were able to pry open the jaws of intransigent backwardness. Not that this effort was too difficult as we received increasingly favorable attention from the administration. Around the late nineties we had pretty well firmly established ourselves in the dominant position within academia.
Tolerance remains a very key value, a fundamental value of a University. But we have moved beyond that to inclusion. That means we can not simply put up with alternative viewpoints but we must actively work to bestow upon these the same recognition as traditional viewpoints where the traditional viewpoints are not actively antagonistic to either inclusiveness or tolerance itself. This shift in approach has "stirred the pot" and we see, bubbling up the expected knee-jerk reaction of the "traditionalists."
In the last few years at Villanoce, the "counter-revolution" became perhaps a little stronger than I expected. Somehow, the "orthodox" element managed to seep into the woodwork. Little weedy evangelical catholics were popping up here and there and every now and again some priest or professor showed a level of backward thinking which is positively Middle Ages in its outlook. How do we deal with this?
Well, let me say that tolerance even extends to these poor sad creatures. That is we can tolerate someone whose spirituality is on such a low level that he needs memorize certain prayers and hopes that through repetition he will somehow receive favors from "old man god." We can tolerate someone who feels the need to say the liturgy of the hours or give lip service to "pro-life" issues. In fact I would say there is a definite need to "go out like sheep among the wolves" and participate in some of their ceremonial activities if for no other reason than to educate them and help them see the "other side of the coin" as it were. And if we can subvert their activities and modernize them so much the better.
What can not be tolerated are those practices and ideas which serve to undermine our progress itself. Active resistance must be maintained, yet we can not get into a situation of direct confrontation. It is far better to combat traditionalism indirectly. That is why theology is such a crucial area to work in. Here we raise "thinkers" who think like us and understand the difference between a manualistic laborious faith and a free and open faith of adventure. The first is concerned with rules and regulations, the second with feeling and experience. The first is hollow, the second is living. Here there is also a role for like-minded priests to play. They must stand before the common people and protect them from the dangerous ideas.
Our most important method is the "pastoral approach." This approach, akin to humanism, basically consists of two things.
First we must consider, first and foremost, the health of our people. Pain and discomfort shall always be avoided. Was it not said of the Pharisees that they burdened the people with unnecessary loads. The flock must do the absolute minimum. One must always take the circumstances of a situation as of primary importance. We must reassure the people, pacify their consciences, and distract them from what they used to call "the final things."
Second we must consider the reorientation of the church and society to reflect this proper attitude. We must not become bogged down in considerations of "is this fair or not" on an individual or local level. Our concern is with whole and the entirety.
I have much more to say on this score but I think I have said enough. Let us understand that tolerance is indeed one of our most dearly held values but it can not extend without limits. Other values lie deeper still. The shattering of the old regime of absolutism is key. As long as a vestige remains, the horizon has not been leveled and until it is leveled it is not open and until it is open we are not truly free. No rule, no law, no thought must stand between me and the open horizon.