THE TRUTH ABOUT TOLERANCE, Pluralism, Diversity and the Culture Wars, by Brad Stetson and Joseph G. Conti. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2005. 183 pages, notes, index. Softcover; $16.00. ISBN 0-8208-2787-0.
One definition of the word "tolerance" (as a social concept) is this: " . . . a social, cultural and religious term applied to the collective and individual practice of not persecuting those who may believe, behave or act in ways of which one may not approve." (Source -- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolerance, as accessed February 23, 2006). It is generally regarded as an Aristotelian virtue, midway between narrow mindedness and softheadedness.
Brad Stetson, a teacher at Azusa Pacific University, and Joseph G. Conti, a lecturer in religious studies at California State University -- Fullerton, address this subject with a world view that sees only highly conservative evangelical Christianity and secular liberalism as being of importance in debates about the subject. All other voices, of whatever source, are summarily discounted. The book, therefore, sheds little light on how to view the subject, being rather a polemic against the secular liberalism world view of the "elite," the "media," the "university," the "Democrat (sic) Party," mainline Christians, the ACLU, and others. The authors rely heavily on newspaper and Internet accounts of what do appear, at least superficially, to be misuses of the tolerance concept, but do so almost exclusively with a "view with alarm" approach, never looking at any of them in depth to explore other sides of the problem. It is obvious to them that a practicing gay person cannot be a Christian, that both pluralism and diversity are, at best, evils one must put up with and that claims to truth are almost always met with derision and hatred by those not holding them.
For better (responsible) treatments of tolerance, John Rawl's A THEORY OF JUSTICE, and Voltaire's TREATISE ON TOLERANCE are two older works that are worth study. More recently, T. M. Scanlon's THE DIFFICULTY OF TOLERANCE and W. Paul Vogt's TOLERANCE AND EDUCATION appear to have some lasting value. This book does not.
The trees that died to publish this book deserved a better fate.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Rico Community Church, Rico, Colorado 81332, 03-01-2006