Tolerant Xmas (Christmas)

Diversity and tolerance abounds amidst the entertainment fare this Holiday Season (Christmas seems to be a term that is often carefully avoided in deference to non-Christians), including videos like Rugrats Kwanzaa and Whoopi Goldberg as a dreadlocked Santa in Call Me Claus. One municipality decided on a Christmas tree-shaped display made up of flags of the world. Is this a sign of a culture maturing into true diversity? Critics charge that it is part of a widespread erosion of Americans' understanding of tolerance and a gutting of the Holiday that originated all the celebration.

Cultural commentators--particularly Christians--have long lamented what is seen as the hijacking of the sacred celebration of Christ's miraculous incarnation by commercialism and campy entertainment featuring the usual nod to some ephemeral feeling called "the Christmas spirit." Now, there is a noticeable increase in the institutionalization of "tolerance" at Christmastide, which usually means watering down (or sometimes removing) all vestiges of even secularized Christmas symbols from the workplace and public spaces. In Florida, employees-of-color complained that the angel atop the company Christmas tree was white-skinned. The company's Equal Employment Opportunity manager related that employees "were just concerned that in this day and time with everything going on in the world [that] management would do better and put up something more diverse than a white angel." Although this case is more about multiculturalism than Christmas, the Holiday seems to evoke such reactions more than any single event on the calendar.

While America wonders what to do with John Walker, the American who fought with the Taliban against his own country, his past is opened for review. Newsweek painted the picture of an affluent loner growing up in hyper-tolerant Marin County, California who became enchanted by the stark absolutes of Islam. Having been disillusioned with inconsistencies within even a strict Islamic school in northern Pakistan, he trekked into Afghanistan to get "a bird's-eye view" of truly Qur'anic Islam--that of the Taliban and Al Queda. Perhaps this was a radical reaction to the relativism of his upbringing (e.g., the father had been disturbed by his son's approval of the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, but kept sending money to him nonetheless).

The primary question to ask oneself is, "Can I actually live in the real world under my belief system?" In the post-September 11 world, relativism's lure seems to have been suspended--at least for a time. Several months hence, we examine the evolution of the term "tolerance" and challenge the current interpretation in our Special Focus.

—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University

Feature Articles:

Tolerance and Truth
Michael Horner
"What is tolerance? This may seem like a simple question with an obvious answer. But is it? I suggest we'd better know the answer very clearly in order to respond to those who, in the name of tolerance, impose a frightening intolerance."

Truth or Tolerance?
Scott Scruggs
There are terrible implications if truth is relative instead of absolute. Tolerance has become the ultimate virtue, especially on university campuses. A Christian response to this alarming trend.

On Not Permitting the Other to Be Other
Richard John Neuhaus
The editor-in-chief of influential First Things Journal takes another swipe at the book, Please Don't Wish Me a Merry Christmas: A Critical History of the Separation of Church and State (New York University Press), which he reviewed for New York Times Literary Supplement. This is the main portion of his weekly review of the culture.

What Can We Reasonably Hope for?: A Millennium Symposium
Glenn Tinder
Tinder discusses the dilemma of affirming truth in a relativistic culture, which promises to only increase as an issue.

Open Forums for Postmoderns
Chapter 4: Thinking About The Questions Seekers Entertain

Mike Metzger
Metzger walks the Christian apologist through a set of Socratic questions posed in response to common objections to such concepts as absolute truth and a good God in the midst of evil. Contains a useful treatment of relativism and the contemporary cultural understanding of tolerance.

Living in the New Dark Ages
Lou Whitworth
A review of Charles Colson's important book, "Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages." Colson argues that "new barbarians" are destroying our culture with individualism, relativism, and the new tolerance.

Reaching Youth Today
Josh McDowell
This is the text of a speech by Josh McDowell on how to minister to contemporary youth. Its message of reaching young people in an post-modern culture conveys many of the ideas from his recent book, "Right from Wrong". Although it is addressed specifically to pastors, this presentation is also relevant for youth ministers, teachers, parents and all who are concerned about issues pertaining to young people.

Why We Can't All Just Get Along
Stanley Fish
Liberalism neither accepts faith nor God as standards for thought. Without any such restrictions, all questions are open. But are those who do believe in God allowed to participate in public discussions, or has their faith marginalized them?

Why We Can Get Along
Richard John Neuhaus
A response to Stanley Fish's article, "Why We Can't All Just Get Along." The author points out the fine distinctions in the relationship between critical thinking, religious belief and tolerance. This essay was written in response to a previously published essay.

Related Articles:

Is Christmas Necessary?
Jerry Solomon
What do you think of when you hear the word "Christmas"? Frantic shopping? Family traditions? A commemoration of the birth of Jesus? Or a combination of all these responses and more?

The Theology Behind Christmas Music
Robert A. Pyne
Most radio stations play some type of Christmas music during the holiday season, but many of the songs have become so familiar to us that we no longer consider their content.

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Go here to see our past Special Focus features.