The Limits of Tolerance

Back during the whole Charlie Hebdo event, a lot of people were defending Charlie on the grounds of free speech – I took a bit of an exception to that. Even though there was no justification for the murders, I still felt that it wasn’t appropriate for anyone to insult the deepest held beliefs of others. To be sure, Free Speech – but I’m not quite sure that our ancestors at Lexington and Concord were thinking, “if I die here today, at least people will be free to be vulgar and rude like no tomorrow”.

To make myself clear, I do believe in a very broad definition of free speech – but back in the days when men were a bit more like men, if you offered an insult to another man who had an ounce of manly virtues, you’d be called out to the dueling field. In other words, if you did decide that insult was your way of working, then you were required to put your life up as security…and if you didn’t, then you’d be known not just as vulgar, but as a vulgar coward. The historian Will Durant noted that men in 18th century England commonly carried swords – and this he identified as the place where England’s reputation for good manners developed. Knowing that the other guy had a sword and could run you through enjoined a cautious courtesy of speech. Eventually, it became ingrained into society – you just didn’t say certain things unless you were willing to fight about it.

For someone to sit safely behind soldiers and police and hurl insults right and left is not an act of liberty – it is not an act of bravery; quite the contrary…it is the act of a coward. It is to demand that other, rougher men protect you while you throw vile insults around. Man up – or manner up. Pick one.

I bring this up because the television show House of Cards has decided to get very insulting:

We’re barely into Lent, and Hollywood is already spitting on Jesus Christ on the crucifix. Netflix released the entire third season of the incredibly sleazy D.C. drama House of Cards on February 28, and in its fourth episode, as Kevin Spacey’s loathsome Frank Underwood character has schemed his way into the presidency, he wanders into a Catholic church.

The local bishop preaches to him as a friend that he’s supposed to love God and love his neighbor. Underwood proclaims that he understands the vengeful God he sees in the Old Testament, but doesn’t understand why Jesus would let someone kill him. Underwood asks for a moment alone to pray. Then he sidles up to the crucifix – just a few feet above his head – and mutters most cynically to God the Son.

“Love….that’s what you’re selling? Well, I don’t buy it!” Then he spits in the face of Christ…

This is free speech? This is an act of bravery? This is why men and women will sell their blood on a battlefield? I don’t think so. Now, the character spits in the face of a statue of Our Lord for one reason, only: spitting in the face of a depiction of Mohammed would get him killed. This is quite a lot of cowardice – cowardice in that the creators of the show are hiding behind the rougher men; cowardice in that the creators of the show only insult where it is safe to do so; cowardice in that if we Christians complain, the popular culture will condemn us for daring to be offended.

How much more of this are we Christians supposed to tolerate? Are there absolutely no limits? At least as far as we are concerned – because we know where the limit is: can’t do this with Muslims. I agree they shouldn’t do it with Muslims – but that is because I am trying, in my own weak way, to be a Christian gentleman; and such don’t offer insult. How much of a citizen of this Republic am I when my most deeply held beliefs can be held up to scorn? Do I not pay my taxes? Did I not serve for four years in our Navy? Did not my father and grandfather serve in war? Am I that much of a social nothing that you can do with me as you wish?

There are at least 100 million people in the United States who actually, sincerely believe as I do – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. We are the backbone of this nation – we are the descendents of those who built this nation up from nothing. We have poured out our blood and treasure for this nation for more than 200 years – and I think we’re worthy of at least this much respect: don’t insult us. Dislike us all you want. Disagree with us till the cows come home. Be whatever you want to be – but don’t go out of your way to insult that which we hold dear. This is the common courtesy all human beings owe to each other.

12 thoughts on “The Limits of Tolerance

  1. Retired Spook March 8, 2015 / 10:25 am

    In spite of the fact that our society is becoming more crass and more course almost by the day, my level of tolerance has actually gone up. Maybe I’ve just become numbed by the constant barrage of filth and hate spawned by our modern pop culture, or maybe it’s just that I’m also 11 years closer to meeting my maker than I was when I first stumbled on this blog in early 2004, and I realize that God will make the final judegment.

    As the old saying goes, “talk is cheap”, and offensive speech is still easy enough to avoid. I’ll reserve my intolerance for those who wish to harm me or those I love and for those who wish to fundamentally transform our society to the point that my descendants will not be free.

    • M. Noonan March 8, 2015 / 12:19 pm

      I’ve certainly become more merciful since I started taking my Catholicism seriously about 10 years ago – people with more retentive memories might recall that my 2003-2004 writings were a lot more harsh about what to do with miscreants. I’m not that anymore – I have to forgive; God says so…I won’t be forgiven if I don’t. And pretty much period, end of story – we’re not given an “out” on that. Since I have to forgive, being merciful just comes rather natural after that.

      But I am really disturbed by all this. I really don’t think that the purveyors of popular culture – which is just part of the larger left – understand what they are doing. Do they really think we don’t have a backbone?

      Over at Ace a couple days ago I read a rather insightful article which argued that we’re rather bizarre in our worldview – especially in the United States – because here at home we’ve pretty much had unbroken peace on our soil since 1865…and a few hit-and-run (or hit-and-die) attacks like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 just emphasize the point. People in America tend to believe that peace is the norm – and the further you go left, the more pronounced is this view. Of course, those of us who are educated – and thus more to the right – understand that the United States is a rather freakish development…even the famed Roman Peace wasn’t as peaceful as this. That 200 years between the rise of Augustus and the death of Commodus had quite a bit of war, including a couple civil wars. But since the last rebel gun was silenced in 1865, we just haven’t had war here. But the reason is not that we’re peaceful people in a peaceful world, but because we’ve been overwhelmingly powerful in a dangerous world and willing to apply massive force against anyone who challenged us. Well, Obama has diminished that overwhelming power and now we’re starting to get challenges around the world. But it doesn’t end there.

      Internal peace – our lack of civil war – is also a bit odd, especially for a Republic. We’ve gone 150 years without a serious internal conflict. I’m thinking that might be some sort of record for a Republic. This, I think, is because we’ve had a general consensus about what will be done – but the left is breaking down that consensus…which was Judeo-Christian at bottom. And I don’t think that while they are destroying the consensus they are realizing just who has all the guns.

      • Retired Spook March 8, 2015 / 1:05 pm

        Internal peace – our lack of civil war – is also a bit odd, especially for a Republic. We’ve gone 150 years without a serious internal conflict. I’m thinking that might be some sort of record for a Republic. This, I think, is because we’ve had a general consensus about what will be done

        There’s another factor — the hallmark of the Progressive march toward socialism in the last century has been patience and incrementalism. Think about all the bad things that have been the result of Progressivism since the early 20th century. Imagine if they had all happened in the span of, say, a decade — or less. I suspect the push-back would have been substantially more pronounced.

        And I don’t think that while they are destroying the consensus they are realizing just who has all the guns.

        I’ve said that on a number of occasions. I think your average, ivory tower Leftist hasn’t really thought through the gun thing too carefully. I honestly believe they are convinced that when the time comes, they will simply disarm those who stand in their way. They’ve been paving the way for such an outcome since Obama was elected — militarizing police forces, purging conservative military personnel, particularly at the upper levels of the officer corps, advancing zero tolerance educational programs that are designed, at their heart, to make children deathly afraid of guns. It’s really a masterful plan, and, if they have the patience to wait another generation or two, probably successful. It’s the patience of the current generation of Leftists, those in their 40’s and 50’s that is suspect, plus, I think the 60’s radicals who now control much of our central government see the time to implement their leftist utopia dream slipping away. Quite frankly, I won’t be surprised to see the Left do something really stupid in the next few years, especially if a Republican wins the presidency next year.

      • M. Noonan March 8, 2015 / 5:21 pm

        I was reading up on the U.S. entry into WWI not too long ago and hit upon the “Zimmerman Telegram” episode – where the Germans offered Mexico Texas, Arizona and New Mexico if they’d go to war against the United States on Germany’s side. The Mexicans, apparently, did give serious consideration to it – but aside from their internal weakness (they were just emerging from civil war, themselves), the key factor the Mexican military pointed out was the number of civilian firearms in the area allegedly to go to Mexico upon a German victory…it would have been impossible to actually control the territory.

        I don’t think our left works from a central, master plan – they just attack whatever aspect of our society which most displeases them; they do coordinate to a certain extent and they obey the rule “no enemies on the left”…as long as you’re attacking non-left, you’re doing the right job, in their view. The left is helped by their lack of historical knowledge (most of them don’t realize that if the left completely triumphs, most people who are on the left will be destroyed by whatever leftist faction emerges with the most power…purity keeps getting ever more pure in fanatic organizations: Stalin did what he did, but whomever emerged from Lenin’s shadow in the 1920’s would have done just what he did, if given the chance), as well as by their inability – really, unwillingness – to think (this does affect people on the right as well – which is why some on the right fall for this or that aspect of the left…such as those conservatives who are in favor of gay marriage…they are, of course, doing what Chesterton said conservatives are supposed to do – “the duty of Progressives is to go on making mistakes; the duty of conservatives is to go on preventing those mistakes from being corrected” – but none of them seem to realize that if you help the left, you are helping yourself up the scaffold. Same sex marriage is a weapon which will be used to suppress religious believers…and I don’t know how our more libertarian conservatives suppose they are going to survive when religious conservatives are no longer able to participate in the public square). At all events, even if there isn’t a Central Command, they all work to the same end – and so, yes, they do believe in disarming the people…most people because they just believe guns are bad; but for some on the left, they know that unless and until we are disarmed, they can neither fully control us as well as being permanently at risk of armed overthrow.

        As it is, we can only be pushed so far – there is a Cristero in me and in every believing Catholic…it would take quite a lot to bring it out, but it can be brought out. I’m sure my Protestant brothers and sisters have a limit, as well (in fact, I’m pretty certain they’ll put up with less than Catholics will).

  2. Cluster March 9, 2015 / 9:54 am

    Great article:

    Here’s the money line:

    From its inception, progressivism has posed a threat to constitutional government. It has sought to replace limited and decentralized governance with dynamic, centralized authority in order to force some arrangement of equality on the nation.

  3. Jonathan Holmes March 10, 2015 / 4:59 pm


    You do realize that in the show, Frank Underwood is the bad guy, right? You know, the person you aren’t supposed to root for? This is like getting mad at Game of Thrones for advocating cutting people’s heads off in a public place. They are the villains, and you are not supposed to cheer for them.

    • M. Noonan March 10, 2015 / 9:35 pm

      I think I can surmise that the man who spits on a statue of Our Lord is probably not the best character in the show. That isn’t the point: the point is that (a) such a thing is vulgar and insulting to all Christians, (b) it is done to Christian symbols because the creators of the show are too chicken to do it to Muslim symbols and (c) being insulting is not an act of freedom but an act of cowardice.

  4. pelirrojito March 11, 2015 / 1:45 am

    a) Then do you admit christians should no longer call gay peope disgusting and mentally ill? (this is insulting to all gay people)

    b) They didn’t do it to a muslim symbol because american politicans can’t win if they’re muslim.

    c) It is an act of freedom. Saying its not is opening the possibility of banning such a thing.

    As for what you said earlier about evil athiests trying to ban your right to be christian.

    a) No they’re not. They might actively try to encourage people to abandon religion (as you try to convert people to religion), but I’m not aware of anyone, let alone a large movement, trying to ban any religion,

    b) Remember what christians banned for a long time. Incase you’ve forgotten look up the war hero Alan Turing and remember what the law did to that man (After he won the war).

    • M. Noonan March 11, 2015 / 2:26 pm

      Bit of a difference between, say, a Christian being rude and gross insults broadcast on television. The problem with you liberals is that when cornered, you also try to wriggle out of it by means of allegedly showing the other side just as bad. Sorry, that bull might work in liberal-land, but in the real world it doesn’t. Some jerk shouting an anti-gay slur on the street is not remotely the same as the routine and gratuitous insults Christians are subjected to the in the public square. Nor is it an insult to homosexuals when, say, a Catholic teaches that homosexual acts are inherently disordered – along with it being a statement of obvious fact, it is also not an insulting manner of saying something…unless you want to take the position that saying anything you disagree with is insulting.

      They didn’t do it to a Muslim symbol because they would be killed if they did. That is just the long and short of it. They did it against a Christian symbol because it is safe…a coward’s way of pretending to be brave. You liberals don’t even know what freedom is – so don’t bother trying to get into a debate with a non-liberal about it. Just embrace your inner liberal fascist and admit that you don’t want anyone to be free, ever, because freedom means that people can disagree with you.

      Alan Turning? What in heck has the prosecution under a long-defunct law in Britain got to do with anything? That is another bit of bull you liberals do – because something was done wrong in the past, we’re not allowed to try and do what is right in the present.

      • Retired Spook March 11, 2015 / 4:30 pm

        You liberals don’t even know what freedom is

        Oh, come on now, Mark — you’re FREE to agree with them. Beyond that, if you don’t agree with them, then you’re just stupid, ignorant or, the old fall-back, EVIL.

      • M. Noonan March 11, 2015 / 5:52 pm

        LOL – pretty much! One thing I am finding is that I’m tired of their sophistry…there are no half-truths, there are no white-lies; there is no being partially right. One is either telling the whole truth, or a whole lie…and for these liberals with their insistent attaching of lies to truth and beaming at the result, I’m done…

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