After making my remarks on tolerance this morning, I happened across an article that quotes Benedict XVI as follows:
A new intolerance is spreading, that is quite obvious. There are well-established standards of thinking that are supposed to be imposed on everyone. These are then announced in terms of so-called "negative tolerance". For instance, when people say that for the sake of negative tolerance [i.e. "not offending anyone"] there must be no crucifix in public buildings. With that we are basically experiencing the abolition of tolerance, for it means, after all, that religion, that the Christian faith is no longer allowed to express itself visibly.
When, for example, in the name of non-discrimination, people try to force the Catholic Church to change her position on homosexuality or the ordination of women, then that means that she is no longer allowed to live out her own identity and that, instead, an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow. That is then seemingly freedom--for the sole reason that it is liberation from the previous situation.
In reality, however, this development increasingly leads to an intolerant claim of a new religion, which pretends to be generally valid because it is reasonable, indeed, because it is reason itself, which knows all and, therefore, defines the frame of reference that is now supposed to apply to everyone.
In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason--so-called Western reason--claims that it is has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the "new religion" as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.
Benedict has it exactly correct, at least within the broad spectrum of the Western intellectual tradition. The situation in America however is somewhat different, given our unique Constitutional history. We have NEVER been in favor of 'tolerance' but rather 'liberty', an altogether different matter. Tolerance has to do with what the government (at any level) permits, and so religious practice is viewed as a government bestowed 'right' with the government having the power to restrict that right as they see fit. Liberty on the other hand recognizes that certain human rights, including the right to hold to a public faith publicly, are bestowed not by the government but by God the Creator of all. The government serves her citizens when, responding to the fact that the government derives it powers from the consent of the governed and not the other way round, the government protects the God-given rights of its citizens.
The entire spirit of so-called 'tolerance' is not only avidly anti-Christian, it is also contrary to the US Constitution. The Europeans do not share our constitutional views on the sphere and purpose of government, and it is deeply troubling that so many American politicians look to Europe for their philosophy of governance. This can only lead to further impediments to the spread of the Christian Faith, and the 'gnosticizing' of the Faith as governments at all levels seek to privatize faith and render it invisible by banning public displays of religious Faith.
There is no such thing as private Christianity. The Cross is public and Jesus is Lord, not only of the heart but of all things, visible and invisible, whether thrones and dominions, or hearts and hearths.
Governments that cross the King end up in serious trouble and ultimately perish. The new 'tolerance' is nothing more than coded language - semantic seduction - meant, like 'hate speech' concerns, to silence the message of the Scriptures and the voice of the apostles.
The scandal of Jesus remains the foundation stone of our souls, the Church, and society, or the stumbling stone that will crush all who despise and reject it.