Russ Young: Tolerance's new definition remains intolerable

We have all heard how statistics can be made to show anything one wants. It has been said "Numbers are like people; torture them enough, and they'll tell you anything."...

We have all heard how statistics can be made to show anything one wants. It has been said "Numbers are like people; torture them enough, and they'll tell you anything."

To say crime has increased by 100 percent over the past year is likely to garner more attention than merely saying crime rates are two times higher than last year. Also, the simple selection of emphasizing one number over another makes it seem of greater import. For example, it is common to see wording such as "18 percent of Wisconsinites do such and such." Focusing on the 18 percent has the tendency to de-emphasize the 82 percent of the the populace who don't, especially if they are not further mentioned. Playing games with numbers is not about to go away, but at least a savvy reader can look at the numbers presented and make further conclusions based on some simple math.

Words can also be used to emphasize or disguise the information they are being used to communicate. What is left unsaid is often as important, or more important, as what was actually spoken. Therefore, we look to read between the lines, or listen for certain buzz words, in order to hear the whole message.

A troubling development, however, has arisen, making it far more difficult for the hearing or reading audiences to make the necessary computations. It has become a strategy, most often by activist groups, to use familiar words while giving them nuanced or altogether new meanings. When an audience hears a familiar word, they assume one meaning, but the speaker or writer has another. The goal is to change the nature of the debate by redefining its very terms.

A now classic example of this tactic is the use of the term tolerance. Tolerance once meant making peaceful allowances for those whose beliefs conflict with one's own. According to the old definition, most agreed that such tolerant behavior was desirable and virtuous. Today, it means something very different.


Today, one can be deemed tolerant only by embracing those with conflicting beliefs, and then going the further step of promoting such ideas as being equal to others. The problem is that not all ideas are equal; some are decidedly worse than others. Honesty is better than lying and deceitfulness, but under the new definition anyone who is not willing to affirm lying as good can be termed intolerant.

Further-more, anytime someone questions another's beliefs, they can be labeled mean spirited or judgmental. This follows because, according to the new definition, they are intolerant.

In the case of what is deemed tolerant, the pressure was masterfully applied by homosexual activists who created the new definition. Their strategy worked because they were able to claim all they wanted was to be tolerated. Such a request was reasonable sounding, using the old definition. But at the same time, they successfully changed what it meant to be tolerant.

Thus a dilemma was created. Most people wanting to be known as tolerant, as it was once understood, were then pressured to be tolerant according to the new definition. Through the process of bait and switch, homosexual activists skillfully parlayed the virtuous meaning of tolerance into a dysfunctional condition. It is dysfunctional because it cannot be logically maintained that it is good to embrace something which a person sees as wrong, bad or evil.

The plan is the same for our understanding of love, marriage and family. What good can come when words no longer have the same meaning for everyone? Words will still have the ability to create reality, but what kind of reality can we expect when it is founded on deception?

Russ Young, Christian, free-lance writer and a former pastor, may be reached at .

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