Bigot. Definition: “A person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, especially on religion, politics, or race.” (Collins Dictionary)
Just thought some of you might need a reminder on the meaning of a word that’s been wielded like a dagger and plunged into the heart of many a well-meaning person of late.
Chaplain Troy Williams is one.
Senator Eric Abetz is another.
Mr Williams was sacked from his job as chaplain with Scripture Union and youth outreach worker with the Kingborough Council after he re-posted a quote by lesbian activist Camille Paglia claiming homosexuality is “a challenge to the norm”.
Whether you agree or disagree with the post is not the concern.
Mr Williams effectively lost his jobs for holding an opinion that differed from the perceived status quo – and this despite a prompt and humble apology: “I’ve made a mistake and learnt from it. I’m deeply sorry for any offence I’ve caused. I was very careless in posting that image for discussion. I will work with my employers to ensure there is no repeat.”
In Mr Williams’ case, I would ask, who is intolerant? Who is unrelenting in stabbing this man with hateful commentary? Who is the bigot?
When Senator Abetz spoke on a link between abortion and breast cancer on Channel Ten news programme The Project, there was a similar hullabaloo. He was citing the findings of Dr Angela Lanfranchi who will speak at the World Congress of Families conference in Melbourne this month. I’m no expert on the topic (nor is Mia Freedman, who aggressively interviewed Senator Abetz, cutting him off before he could clarify his position) but Dr Lanfranchi’s 10-year, evidence-based, peer-reviewed research was made mud in a matter of seconds – I would say due to a bunch of people “intolerant of any ideas other than (their) own”.
Who is the bigot?
Once more, whether you agree or disagree with the validity of the research is not the concern. Last time I checked we were a democracy, a country where many cultures and belief systems rub shoulders. One, but many.
Yet increasingly I see a society of close-minded intellects who would rather vilify a differing opinion than open up discussion – to test and wrestle through the myriad questions of humanity.
Being a Christian does not make me a bigot.
I have a certain set of convictions and beliefs. Some of them are set in stone, others are more fluid, up for discussion. The same could be said of anyone with a heartbeat – atheists, Buddhists, I-don’t-give-a-damnists. We all have a right to defend something, even if it’s our vehement non-belief!
Further, I respect the right of others to hold contrary views, provided such views do not vilify or incite hatred or violence.
It all boils down to the difference between tolerance and acceptance. I don’t have to accept your beliefs to tolerate them. As someone once said to me, “I disagree with what you say, but will defend your right to say it.”
When the media is boiling with indignation at the next person’s counter-cultural statement, we should consider who is the real bigot.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday August 18, 2014.