Headlines That Don’t Tolerate Both Ways

June’s Atlantic front cover features the headline, “What Straights Can Learn From Same-Sex Couples: Why gay marriages tend to be happier and more intimate.” When I saw it I asked myself a question: what would happen if they published the same headline inverted? “What Same-Sex Couples Can Learn From Straights: Why straight marriages tend to be happier and more intimate.”

There would be a maelstrom.

This is the strange imbalance of modern-day tolerance. We might call it the hegemony of the disenfranchised. It’s a popular trope: groups that were once undervalued or oppressed may now condescend to those in power.

I hope we see the irony. In the name of respecting all people (especially the powerless), those who were once disrespected may now disrespect others. This defies the internal logic of modern tolerance, which says no one has the right to speak challenges into anyone else’s life without being condescending or bigoted.

But this month’s Atlantic inadvertently points out the foolishness of modern-day tolerance. It shows that it’s not always bigoted or condescending to challenge someone. Humans share experiences, which means we all may challenge and learn from one another. Moreover, it’s arguing that there is a “good life” or a “better way” to live. Some people are wrong and some people are right. In fact, it’s not proud for those in the right to challenge those in the wrong! The Atlantic’s front cover is just a modern morality play. It’s not an ode to modern tolerance, it’s a challenge.

We as Christians should affirm speaking challenges respectfully and openly. We must be careful about letting the pathos of modern tolerance seep into our lives. It’s human to challenge and debate and discuss; these are not deadly sins. Jesus told Pilate that he came into the world to bring truth. He challenged many people, and even called things sin (like greed and sex outside of marriage) that we’re uncomfortable labeling. Let’s participate and engage in these dialogues. 

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