Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tolerance I: How Christians Do Us a Favor When They Put Up Christmas Decorations.

There are two levels to tolerance.
Level one tolerance: You recognize that you have a pragmatic interest in tolerating other groups as this causes them to tolerate you. In essence different societies make quid pro quo deals with each other. You tolerate my people and I will tolerate your people. If Jews in Boro Park were to force through a law to stop their Christian neighbors from putting up Christmas decorations then my Christian neighbors here in Columbus may decide to pass through a law of their own to stop me from lighting my menorah. So when Jews in Boro Park are kind and respectful of their Christian neighbors they are helping light the menorahs of Jews around the world and when they decide to be "zealous for the sake of the Lord" and deface their neighbor's Christmas decorations they are burning down the menorahs of Jews around the world.
Level two tolerance: You recognize that there is an innate value in coming face to face with beliefs that you disagree with. As J.S Mill argued in On Liberty: if the belief is correct then you will have the opportunity to exchange error for truth. If a belief is false then you will benefit by having your beliefs withstand the challenge offered by this false belief. By being forced to defend what you believe you are less likely to take it for granted. Finally there is the possibility that you will find some things that are of value in this belief that you disagree with in which case you would be able to absorb the good whilst discarding the bad. When Christians in Boro Park, Lakewood and Monsey put up their Christmas decorations they are helping their Jewish neighbors be better Jews. (and not just in the sense of becoming "fulfilled Jews") When Jewish children see the Christmas decorations they will ask their parents what those decorations are for and why don't they have them in their home. Then the parents of these children could then tell them about Christianity and they could introduce them to such wonderful Jewish classics as Jacob b. Reuben's Milchemot Hashem, Ephodi's Kaliphot Hagoyim and many more anti-Christian polemics. Furthermore Jews can look at all the time and expense put into these decorations and say to themselves: look at the effort that these Christians put into their holiday shouldn't we put in at least as much effort into our service of God.
So when you next see a Christmas tree, a chrece or a lights display. Do not be offended. On the contrary say thank you to that Christian and wish him a a Very Merry Christmas.

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