Book Review: 'The Beauty of Intolerance'
“The Beauty of Intolerance” is a book by Josh and Sean McDowell. Its subtitle is “setting a generation free to know truth and love”.
This book shouldn’t be confused with “The Intolerance of Tolerance” by D.A. Carson that shares a similar message.
The book “The Beauty of Intolerance” is a polemic against the modern political movement that has redefined tolerance from “agree to disagree”, which the authors state Christians can live with, to “agree with me or shut up, anything else is evil hate!” In short, the word tolerance has morphed from tolerating (putting up with while disagreeing) to a demand for unconditional endorsement, which is not compatible with Christianity.
Pros of the Book “The Beauty of Intolerance”
The book “The Beauty of Intolerance” contains many real world examples of where the modern definition of “tolerance” leads to demands for endorsement and compromising one’s Christian views, as well as how to deal with those situations. It brings up the cases of Christian ministers threatened with arrests and lawsuits for not wanting to hold same-sex weddings, despite Christian doctrine, as well as how to deal with a classmate who comes out as homosexual per Christian values.
The book gives details of what is tolerable as tolerance for Christians, like taking off your shoes in a Japanese home or respecting the wishes of a non-Christian who asks you to stop proselytizing. The problem is when one says tolerance isn’t simply “letting others live as they choose”, but the demand to “celebrate the differences of others”, in essence, a mandate that one is not allowed to disagree with them or else be deemed wrong/hateful/bad.
Unlike D.A. Carson’s book and political books "SJWs Never Lie: Censorship is Tolerance! Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Strength!" and similar books, this book is focused on holding fast to one's Christian faith in a world where "tolerance" doesn't tolerate traditional Christian views. Thus it isn’t a right wing text but a fundamentalist Christian one, so it is tolerable for the entire political spectrum.
This book is written in a way that it is equally accessible to teenaged readers and their parents.Nor do you have to be an expert in theology to appreciate it.
The book explains the rise of moral relativism that we not only tolerate that others have other views but that we aren’t allowed to criticize these views or resulting immoral actions, like those shouting “Islamophobe” or “bigot” to anyone who criticizes Muslims for honor killings, wife beating or female genital mutilation. Note, this reflexive name-calling isn’t limited to Christians. Asra Nomani, a Muslim feminist who fights fundamentalists on their religious justifications for wife beatings and forced marriages, is as often threatened by fundamentalist Muslims as she is by liberal secularists who call her bigoted.
How do you respond to the statement that, “I did it out of love!” or “We just want to love one another”? This statement is based on the view that positive emotions equal moral and bad feelings equal immoral. We see this in the social justice movement that says making someone feel bad or offended is the arbitration of morality, though the person higher up on the victimhood hierarchy receives higher moral weight if no one is more upset than the other. The immoral result of this worldview is the outcome of “I don’t like your words, you’re guilty of hate speech, you have to give up your rights to free speech because I’m upset”. It also destroys civility by encouraging public outbursts, since the moral right in this worldview goes to the person acting the most upset. If you had a calm dispute, you wouldn’t be seen as morally right, so it incentivizes the screaming argument, the destruction of property, the show of outrage. The moral weight given to presumed “love” also lets you smear all who disagree as “hate”, denying them a rational or moral basis for their views.
That morality based on feelings can allow harmful acts because someone felt good doing it is just as important and equally ignored. It also denies the value of absolute morality, from discouraging sex outside of marriage to prohibiting murder, which has the proven track record of greater social stability and human rights. For example, prohibitions on sex outside of marriage protect people from sexually transmitted diseases, create the ideal environment for raising children in a stable two parent family and minimize the emotional roller coaster that comes with cheating.
Too few books discuss the positive impact of Christianity on the world, from hospitals to orphanages to charities. And only the Judeo-Christian West ended slavery for itself and worldwide or gave women equal rights, per Christianity’s view that all were equals, though the social shift took centuries.
The book is less than 250 pages with thorough referencing to other texts if you are interested in reading more in depth on certain topics, like how atheists borrow from Judeo-Christian morality even while denying the religious basis of those moral values. It is refreshing to see a deep Christian work that isn’t as heavy as a Bible.
It gives a simple four step checklist of how to check a situation against Christian values and make a decision as to the right choice. I won’t give it here, but it is worth reading the book to have that simple guide.
Cons of the Book “The Beauty of Intolerance”
The book is about $15 list price, and it lacks a lower cost digital eBook version.
I have not personally read the study guide, but for similar books, the study guide is useful when the book is read as part of a Bible study group or Christian youth program. That costs an additional $8.
The book’s moral challenges focus mostly on sexual immorality, which though a major problem, are not the only area where Christian views collide with liberal / secular ones.
The book pulls most heavily from the New Testament. In contrast, books like “Thou Shalt Prosper” and “The Ten Commandments” rely on the Old Testament, thus are accessible to all Christians and Jews. Relying on more Old Testament verses would have strengthened the book’s positions.
Observations about the Book “The Beauty of Intolerance”
Too often the verse “thou shalt not judge” is tossed at Christians to say “you can’t call anything wrong” while ignoring the rest of the verse “lest ye be judged”. It isn’t saying “don’t call anything out” but “apply the same standards”, akin to the verse “pull the beam out of your eye before you remove the speck from another.” This book clears up this distinction in many circumstances, such as the obligation to call out self-destructive behavior (sin, immoral acts) while still loving the person.
It explains that we are allowed to say that something is against God’s will and condemn the action without hating the person, just as judging murder a crime and punishing the murderer doesn’t require hating them. But the political left reflexively calls all who disagree with them haters, because it denies the opposing viewpoint a rational reason for their views while simultaneously smearing them as stupid or insanely bigoted.
If everyone is allowed to determine their own truth, then the den of thieves that agrees that theft is acceptable because the victims were stupid enough to lose their possessions can’t be called immoral. If there is no absolute truth, then the culture that allows pedophilia or rape cannot be condemned regardless of the harm it causes. I wish the book gave more in depth discussion on this topic, and for those who want more information on absolute truth, “The Ten Commandments” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a good starting place for Christians.
The book discusses how to send your children to public schools and review and counter their curriculum, instead of the view of others that say “homeschool or Christian school, or else!”
How do you help your teens and young adults navigate a world that punishes them for holding to long standing truths as bad, bigoted and intolerant? What are the right answers when your child has to navigate situations where someone is acting in violation of the law, Christian morality or both?
The beauty of the book “The Beauty of Intolerance” is that it answers these questions both socially and doctrinally in less than 250 pages.