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A Lesson in Tolerance for “Ministers of Truth”

(Reprinted from St Stephen’s News, December 2009)

Oscar Wilde famously declared that hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. And nowhere is the truth of his observation more evident than in our politically correct elite’s unceasing demands for America’s Christian majority to show “tolerance” towards religious minorities.

What this means in practice is the complete suppression of public Christian and Jewish religious expression and the concomitant glorification of non-Christian religious forms and festivals—Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, pagan and neo-pagan.

This is not “tolerance” as the word is rightly understood. Rather, it is the reverse of it: “tolerance” as defined by the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s seminal novel 1984—“war is peace,” “love is hate,” etc.

However there is such a thing as genuine religious tolerance—as Charlotte and I discovered years ago when we lived in a village 3,000 feet or so up in Germany’s Taunus Mountains.

Hochtaunus mit Feldberggipfel, Luftaufnahme vom Hintertaunus

The Taunus with Großer Feldburg

Early on the first Saturday morning after our arrival we were awakened by the pealing of the bells of the village church. Soon our church bells were answered by church bells in the next village along the mountain range … then the next, and the next, and the next. To our amazement, the merry cacophony echoed through the clear mountain air for what seemed an hour or more.

The following Saturday we were awakened in the self–same way, and the following Saturday, and the Saturday after that. Indeed, each Saturday morning was greeted with the cheery sound of church bells. Intrigued, we asked the elderly man who lived next door to explain the custom.

He told us that it started early in the 17th century, during the Thirty Year War, when protestant princes battled their Roman Catholic neighbors for the domination of northern Europe. By the end of the slaughter more that a third of the German population had been wiped out.

“Half the villages in the Taunus were predominantly protestant, while the other half were predominantly Roman Catholic,” our neighbor said.

“But the soldiers didn’t take much notice of who was protestant and who was catholic. They killed and pillaged quite indiscriminately. People discovered that whether they were protestant or catholic didn’t really matter. They were equal partners in misery.

“Our village is mainly catholic. The sole survivors of the war were eleven women. And the situation wasn’t much better in the protestant village just below us. Things were so desperate villagers began ringing their church bells just to tell folks in the other villages—protestant and catholic—they were still alive. After 30 years, it just became a habit.”

The villagers’ hard-learned religious tolerance was especially manifest at Christmastide. Churches in Roman Catholic villages would be thrown open for protestant Christmas services, while protestant churches would welcome Roman Catholic priests to celebrate Midnight Mass.

“The horror of the Thirty Year War taught us that our religious differences are not important.” said our neighbor. “What really matters is we share a common humanity.”

Somewhere in this there is a lesson for Americas’s self-appointed “Ministers of Truth.” GPH✠

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