In the second half of the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul gives a grim picture of what happens when a society that once had some knowledge of God rejects him. One of his major themes is that their view of sex and sexuality becomes horrendously skewed (sound familiar?), but he also gives a list of the sorts of attitudes and behaviours society will experience in their wilful rejection of God. Amongst other things, he describes a people who are implacable and unmerciful.

I was reminded of this earlier this week during the furore over the comments of the Tory MP, Anne Marie Morris. As you are no doubt aware, she used a certain expression of 19th Century U.S. origin, which contains a derogatory word to describe people with dark skin. It’s evidently a hideous expression, and one that ought to have disappeared in the mists of time. But is it really a sackable offence?

Many seem to think so. Owen Jones, for example, who appears to be daily morphing into the leftist version of “disgusted of Tunbridge Wells”, spent much of the day on Twitter venting his spleen, calling not only for the sacking of Mrs Morris, but also a couple of her colleagues who had apparently failed to condemn her. Oh and anyone who was not prepared to call for her sacking was apparently a racist too. No doubt those who fail to condemn those who fail to condemn make it into the Jonesian definition of what a racist is.

I decided to test things on Twitter, posting a link to this excellent piece from Spiked Online’s Brendan O’Neill, accompanied by the words: “Fantastic response to self-righteous intoleristas such as Owen Jones.”

Now my point had nothing whatsoever to do with defending Mrs Morris, her comment or even her “right” to make such comments. I have no desire nor intention to do so. In my view, she used a stupid phrase, almost certainly not through any malice towards black people (though she might have that for all I know), but rather probably just a thoughtless use of an expression that people used to use and which she hasn’t really given much thought to. But she apologised and a normal society would have moved on.

The point I was getting at, however, was this: are the “tolerant” amongst us really so intolerant that they cannot accept that people sometimes say and do stupid things which they then regret and apologise for? From the reaction I received from many (though not all) on Twitter, the answer would appear to be yes. My favourite response was the guy who responded, “Let me guess: You’re a white male over the age of 40?” Yes indeed I am, but I am at a total loss as to why anyone should think the colour of my skin or age to be important. Personally, I believe that all humans are made in the Imago Dei, so the meaning of such comments is rather lost on me.

But you know, sometimes we do things which are thoughtless. Bet you’ve done some. Sometimes we say things thoughtlessly. Bet you’ve said some. Sometimes we say things that we shouldn’t really say, or which we don’t really mean. Bet you’ve done those too. What do we do in such cases? We apologise. And what should be the response of others? They should, with good grace, accept our apology.

But here’s the thing. Many in our society today are completely unable or even incapable of doing this. They are unwilling to accept that people sometimes say stupid or unsavoury things, and that an apology will suffice in dealing with it. No, they desire sacrifice, and they will have it at all costs. It’s the new national blood sport, where instead of hunting foxes, we now hunt people and seek their downfall, rather than accepting their admission and apology and moving on.

So here we are, in the middle of the self-proclaimed most tolerant society in history, and yet daily we see more and more examples of how those who hoist their tolerance credentials upon the flagpoles of their own egos actually turn out to be the least tolerant of all. They cannot accept that someone said something stupid and now regrets it. They cannot accept an apology. They’re much too “tolerant” for all that.

This is no accident. Back to the Apostle Paul. He says that this kind of implacableness and unmercifulness is what you should expect increasing amounts of when a culture thumbs its nose at the God it used to give glory to. Why? Because the essence of that God is that he is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6). He is forgiving, and prepared to pardon each and every one of us our each and every sin should we acknowledge it to him and put our trust in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ at Calvary.

A society that turns its back on Him, having once known his grace and his mercy, will become increasingly unable to show mercy and forgiveness. And it will increasingly demand the sacrifice. It may like to kid itself that it is now the very embodiment of tolerance and mercy. Yet as we are in the midst of discovering, the truth is very different.

One thought on “Our Implacable and Unmerciful Commitment to Tolerance

  1. Rob, I can’t count the number of times I left a scene thinking. ‘I should have said it this way, instead of the way I did, but it’s too late.

    I came alive to God in me February 1, 1975 when I was 29 going on 30, and 7 months later, sold all my possessions, put on a back pack, and entered the US to discover the Spirit of ’76, leaving Family and Friends in my Spiritual wake.

    I hitch hiked through 45 US and ended up at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City. Because I reached such high visibility on radio, TV and The Kansas City Times, I was eventually arrested as a ‘alien’ (you are IN the World, but not OF the World) to be deported back to CanaDa.

    I continued my Social Activism in Ottawa and this sentence in your article, ‘And it will increasingly demand the sacrifice’ moves me to share this with you.

    Before the Internet, I used to send messages to the Apostolic Nuncio, the Pope’s Ambassador to CanaDa, via commercial courier. One beautiful Day in 1985 I decided to go see the Nunciature where I was sending the messages on my bicycle. As I rode through the grounds, I thought/prayed, ‘Lord. I’d love to be invited here for lunch one Day.’

    The Nuncio, Archbishop Angelo Palmas, answered the telephone himself before lunch and dinner hours, and we spoke several times. Within the month, I was on the phone telling him I had some information for him and he said, “put it in the mail.” I answered, “No, Excellency, it must be delivered to you in person.”
    “One moment please,” he said, and within a minute was back on the phone and said, “Could you come for Lunch at 11:45 Thursday?” This phone call was on Tuesday. ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ I thought!

    You can read some particulars of that lunch in the ABOUT link in the upper right corner of my Blog in ‘Lunch with the Pope’s Ambassador’

    After that lunch, there was an occasion we were talking on the phone that was surreal. The Pope’s Ambassador said to me, “by prayer and Sacrifice.” I replied, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice, says the Lord.” (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13 & 12:7) He came back with, “by prayer and sacrifice.’ This went back and forth between us several times.

    Knowing the facts of that private conversation in 1986, I was pleased more than most when Pope Francis I declared 2016 to be the ‘Year of Mercy.’

    You might want to search Google for ‘ray 032 the imperial pope.’ You might imagine the questions and struggles in my personal Faith with the experiences I share in that article without exaggeration or embellishment.

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