Intolerance Is a Sign of Weakness
WIDESPREAD, unfortunately, is that moral malady known as intolerance. It is not only widespread but also appears in many guises. Such is fallen human nature that one may be afflicted with it and not be aware of that fact. According to Webster, intolerance is the “refusing to allow others the enjoyment of their opinions, rights or worship.” Synonyms for intolerance are “narrowness, prejudice, dogmatism.”
Obviously, whatever else intolerance may be, it is a refusal to comply with the just, logical, loving “golden rule” that ‘all things that we want men to do to us we must likewise do to them.’ (Matt. 7:12) Of course, it is not intolerance for a government not to tolerate lawlessness and crime. Neither is it intolerance for a religious or fraternal organization to refuse to tolerate among its members opinions or practices contrary to those for which it stands. Membership in such an organization is voluntary, and if one does not agree with its principles and practices he should not want to be a member of it.
Thus also the Bible tells us that God eventually will annihilate all the wicked ones. (Ps. 145:20) He will not tolerate them in his universe, but that does not make God intolerant. Why not? Because God, by virtue of his creating all things, his sovereignty and his perfect attributes of power, wisdom, justice and love, is in position to dictate what is right and best for his universe. Intolerance might therefore be said to be a presumptuous refusal to tolerate the opinions, rights and worship of others.
While intolerance is invariably associated with feelings of superiority, these, more likely than not, are only superficial; underneath lies a feeling of insecurity, of inferiority; in fact, a fear because of weakness. Thus the campaign of anti-Semitism of the Nazis was so successful for the reason that so many German “Aryans” feared the Jews because of their achievements in the fields of finance, science and the arts. The same may even be said of the current world-wide racial intolerance; it is coupled with fear of harm. Not, in this instance, because of achievements but because of the numerical superiority of these other races.
Perhaps nowhere is intolerance more a sign of weakness than in the field of religion. Religious intolerance has been practiced from the days of Cain and Abel down to our day. The scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, present another example. That is why they said among themselves: “You observe you are getting absolutely nowhere. See! the world has gone after him.” Fearing the loss of power, prestige and material gain, they conspired together and caused to be committed the most heinous of all intolerant deeds, the murder of Christ Jesus.—John 12:10, 11, 19.
Constantine, termed by some the first Christian emperor, was one who practiced intolerance in the name of Christianity. Even though at his Council of Nice only one sixth of the bishops of Christendom came and even though after months of debate they could not agree as to whether Arius or Athanasius had the truth, yet Constantine, unbaptized pagan that he was, decreed in favor of the trinity and declared illegal all religious opinions that were not in line with that dogma.
We find the same religious intolerance prevalent today. In the Orient some people rise up in arms because a man dares to eat pork; others, because a man dares to eat beef. For many years many lands in Christendom have had laws on their statute books denying the right to worship publicly to all except those who practice the state religion, which most often is that of the Roman Catholic Church. Why this intolerance when the state religion claims from 90 to 99 percent of the population? Is it not fear because of what may follow if others were allowed to worship publicly? Is that not a sign of weakness?
A recent striking example of such intolerance took place in Peru. A spacious sports stadium had been contracted for for a national assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses, to take place January 8 to 11. But on the first morning a number of policemen entered the stadium bearing a document with a government stamp denying the right to hold this assembly. Why? Because the stadium was not considered a “closed place” or a “temple” in which any religious organization other than the Roman Catholic may hold meetings. As a result their assembly was held in their own two local Kingdom Halls; but in spite of such opposition a total of 1,350 were present on Sunday afternoon to hear the public lecture “God’s Kingdom Rules—Is the World’s End Near?”
Intolerance, however, does not have to be expressed in violence to be such. We may not think of resorting to physical violence, as some religious fanatics at times do, but, unless we are careful, we may get emotional to the extent of losing our temper, shouting or resorting to expressions of malice and ill will, all of which are likewise expressions of intolerance. These also are a sign of weakness; consciously or unconsciously we seek to compensate a lack of facts, logic or Scriptural authority by an overbearing manner.
God’s Word tells Christians how to wage their spiritual warfare and what weapons to use: “The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things. For we are overturning reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are bringing every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.” The chief weapon used to accomplish this result is “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word,” which “is sharper than any two-edged sword” of steel. And that sword is wielded, not in anger, not in hate, not ruthlessly, but “with a mild temper and deep respect.” The truth is mighty, impregnable. All those who truly have it can afford to preach it in this manner, knowing that they are on God’s side. He will see to it that the truth prevails.—2 Cor. 10:4, 5; Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 3:15