Book Report – The New Tolerance by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler

The New Tolerance, is perhaps one of the most informing and motivating books I have ever read. Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler have done a great job of compiling a well-rounded look at, what I agree to be one of the most dangerous situations in the world today. We are undergoing a kind of “cultural metamorphosis” that is changing every area of everyday life. In this book, the two authors unmask the true nature of the “tolerance” movement, as well as its secret and dangerous agenda. McDowell looks at what has happened in years past, what is happening now and what every American can do to stop it.

I really like McDowell’s likening of the Borg from Star Trek to the proponents of the new tolerance. “The Borg do not coexist with other life forms or cultures. They destroy any inferior individuals or worlds they encounter and assimilate all others. They have no conscience. No ethic. And they will not stop until they have destroyed or assimilated all their enemies.”(1)
McDowell starts of by defining what tolerance used to mean. “To recognize and respect [others beliefs, practices, etc.] without sharing them,” and “to bare or put-up with [someone or something not especially liked].” But today, he demonstrates, it means something entirely different. He uses several stories to demonstrate his point, which I thought was very effective.
One of the stories he tells is about a mother who is expecting her daughter home from college one weekend. The girl wants her mother to meet her boyfriend so she’s bringing him home with her. The daughter basically tells the mom that she is sleeping with the guy and that they will be sharing a bed while at home. The surprised and hurt mother pitched a fit and the daughter lashes back with a statement like, “You have your value system, and I have mine. The fact that they are different doesn’t mean one is right and the other is wrong. And it doesn’t mean we can’t respect each other’s opinions. In fact that’s the whole point. We need to respect and honor differing value systems-yours, mine, everyone else’s-just as we honor and respect our own.”(5)
This was a fictional story but it made a very real and sobering point-the “gulf” between parents and their young people is widening every day. What was wrong and taboo a few decades ago is now generally acceptable behavior. Case after case, incident after incident, McDowell shows us how the new tolerance is not only becoming the prevailing school of thought but it is being actively endorsed and enforced in institutions around the country. A story about a college professor’s job being terminated directly because of his support of an on campus Christian organization; a first grader in Florida being reprimanded and told that she is not allowed to talk about Jesus at school; a fourth grader bowing his head in silent prayer at lunch and being told to do so again would result in disciplinary action.
Christian children and teenagers in communities all across North America and around the world are encountering and enduring such treatment on a regular basis. Why? According to McDowell, it is because of the new definition of tolerance. One of my biggest questions is “How can ‘tolerant’ people be so intolerant of the Christian faith?” My question was answered in chapter 4. “Why the difference [between the allowance of Buddhist studies, and similar in public universities and the deliberate exclusion of Christian studies]? The agenda of the new tolerance is not to privatize all faiths-only those that proclaim a belief in absolute truth-primarily Christianity and Orthodox Judaism.”(60)
For many centuries our laws were written and established in accordance to God’s standards as spoken by God to his people and as recorded in the Bible. McDowell says this is no longer so. “…we now establish our standards and judge morality according to a far more flexible concept of truth, one that suggests that there are no absolutes-that all truth is relative; right and wrong differ from person to person and from culture to culture.”(54) This is evident in several ways, according to McDowell. By the death of truth, the disappearance of virtue, the demise of justice, the loss of conviction, the privatization of faith, the tyranny of the individual, the disintegration of human rights, the dominance of feeling, the exaltation of nature, and the decent into extremes. Each of these is discussed in shocking detail in chapter 4.
The story that shocked me most was about an incident at West High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. The school choir was practicing for their upcoming graduation ceremonies. Two of the songs they planned to sing, traditional favorites at the school, contained references to “God” and “Lord.” One student objected to the songs. She claimed that they were “offensive” and “violated her civil rights.” She sued the school, and the Federal Court of Appeals in Denver prohibited the choir from singing songs at the graduation ceremonies. “Under the aegis of the new tolerance, our society has created a new civil right: the right neither to be offended, nor even to have to listen to competing truth claims.”(61)
McDowell also does a great job of exposing the tactics of the tolerance movement. These are a crafty system of name calling and labeling any opposing view with words like hostility, hatred, cruelty, and bigotry. “These tactics have repeatedly proven effective for the proponents of the new tolerance.”(74) Examples of this name-calling would be that if someone expresses disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle, they are labeled a “homophobe.” Non-agreement becomes hatred. Christian creeds, prayers, and symbols become discriminatory. Conviction becomes fanaticism.
“Because the gospel of Jesus Christ is an affront to the doctrine of the new tolerance (which claims that all beliefs, behaviors, and truth claims are equal), the government is repeatedly called upon by the proponents of the new tolerance (who often have a pervasive influence in the government) to cleanse our schools, towns, cities, states, and provinces of Christian voices and ideas.”(138) McDowell identifies many groups throughout the book, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Direct Action to Stop Homophobia (DASH) that are constantly petitioning the government in such a manner. He talks about certain “flash points” that we consistently face in today’s cultural climate. These include issues surrounding separation of church and state, life and death (abortion, euthanasia, etc.), and marriage and sexuality.
McDowell gives us a very practical and Biblical way, the “more excellent way,” to deal with and approach all these areas. He discloses certain “danger zones” which, if left unguarded will allow the new tolerance thinking to seep in to our own thought process undetected. These danger zones include art and literature, various forms of entertainment (TV, Movies, etc.), health and medicine (weird treatments, meditations, therapies, etc.), and science (Darwinism, etc.). Practical tips include exhortation to parents to monitor their children’s viewing content on TV. He also advises people to understand what a given book, show or song is saying, to evaluate how the message is being presented, and to respond by asking the question, “Does my evaluation require me to accept or reject the message?”(163)
The theme of the entire book is an admonition to Christians to “aggressively live in [Christian] love while humbly pointing to the truth.” He reminds the reader of what Peter taught in 1 Peter 3:8-9, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” It is my belief that too many individual Christians have missed this point and that is one of the reasons why we, as a whole are being attacked by the proponents of the new tolerance so viciously. I grasped other exhortations like, “Don’t complain about the problem, contribute to the solution…Counter immoral principles, not the people that promote them…Develop community, show compassion, be a model of your convictions, and to be ready to offer a compelling personal testimony.”(Ch.11)
The final thought McDowell and Hostetler leave us with is this: “After all, the only way to truly eliminate an enemy is to make him a friend. That is what God did with us; when we were God’s enemies the Bible says, He “reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ…”(206) That is the “more excellent way” to which Christians are called. A way to enter into a relationship with a needy world and offer it love and acceptance. “The living Christ bids us to enter into relationship with others, even if those whose beliefs or behavior seem reprehensible to us…” (101) “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Copyright 2000 by Doug Stokes –