Currie & Casper
Viewpoint: Are Tolerance and Compromise Important in a Democracy?
by David Currie
It was my turn to pick the topic so I chose this one, because I am very interested in Ken expanding on the following statement he made in another article (not the ones we right as a team). In that article, Ken wrote, "Tolerance and compromise were touted as virtues when they are, in fact, expedient vices.”
My initial reaction to Ken’s statement is that it scares the heck out of me. What kind of country would we have if we did not practice tolerance and compromise? I do not see how a democracy could possibly work without them because the very nature of freedom means we have many, many different viewpoints.
When I think of a country that does not value tolerance and compromise I think of North Korea – dictatorships aren’t too high on people thinking or acting differently. Or I think of fundamentalist religious movements like the Taliban or ISIS, they don’t seem to think much of tolerance or compromise. The Klan in our own country might fall into this same kind of thinking although our laws stem to curb their violence, at least in modern times.
But I’m pretty sure Ken is a very bright man and loves America so he can’t want a dictatorship or some kind of religious control of our government, even Christian, so I’m just anxious to read his thoughts on what he wrote. I’m sure the word “expedient” has some meaning I’m not quite understanding as well.
Now I’m personally not a big fan of “tolerance” because it is not a strong enough word for me. As George W. Truett, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, said speaking to the Baptist World Alliance in 1939, regarding the Baptist commitment to religious liberty, “Their contention has been is now, and must ever be, that it is the God-given and indefeasible right of every human being, to worship God or not, according to the dictates of his conscience, and as long as he does not infringe upon the rights of others, he is to be held accountable to God alone, for all his religious beliefs and practices. And Baptists make this contention, not only for themselves, but as well, for all others- for Protestants of all denominations, for Romanists, for Jews, for Quakers, for Turks, for Pagans, for all men everywhere. Their contention is not for mere toleration, but for absolute liberty. Toleration implies that somebody falsely claims the right to tolerate. Toleration is a concession, while liberty is a right.”
I used to jokingly say when I was speaking on religious liberty across the country that I was glad I didn’t live in a country where Jerry Falwell had the power to decide if he wanted to tolerate me, since I disagreed with the Moral Majority so much!
Now I don’t claim to really understand the Tea Party, but I do believe there is a strong belief in our constitution on the part of this movement and if you truly believe in the constitution, it seems you must believe in freedom, which at the very least means tolerance of and compromise with those who disagree with you. Now ALL freedom is defined by authority – Dr. Tracy, my favorite professor at Howard Payne, defined freedom as “glad obedience to authority,” referring to how we as Christians subject ourselves to the authority of Christ. So all freedoms are defined by our laws, but we can’t have freedom if one perspective is pushed on others in matters of conscience (not activity like murder, theft, etc.)
So, long story short, I’m much more interested in reading Ken’s response to this question than what I am writing!! I look forward to it, and I think I need to ask Ken to lunch and request he explain the Tea Party to this Democrat. He might ask me how a small town Baptist (from Paint Rock) can be a Democrat as well. I hope the ultimate result of such a lunch would we agree to at least tolerate each other and treasure our liberty as Americans to think for ourselves.
David R. Currie is the new Tom Green Democratic Chair. David is a native of Paint Rock in Concho County where family came in 1879, and continues to ranch there as well as in the Christoval area where he and his wife Loretta live. Married for over 30 years, they have a blended family of 5 children and 10 grandchildren.
He is a graduate of Howard Payne University and also has masters and doctors degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminiary in Fort Worth where he did his doctoral work on agricultural policy and the Bible and received his degree in Christian Ethics.
He is a former pastor, staff member of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission which focuses on ethical issues and religious liberty and retired Executive Director of Texas Baptist Committed. He was also sheep and goat specialist with the Texas Department of Agriculture in the 80's when Jim Hightower was Ag. Commissioner.
David is the author of two books, On the Way and Songs in the Desert as well as hundreds of articles that can be found at www.txbc.org.
He is currently the president of Cornerstone Builders and Angelo Granite Worx, and managing partner of Stonewall Ranches development company. He has served three terms as president of the San Angelo Home Builders Association, served on the Better Business Bureau board, as a board member of Howard Payne University, The Interfaith Alliance, The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and is current Vice-chair of the San Angelo Adult Literacy Council. He and Loretta are members of Southland Baptist Church.
by Ken Casper
In a recent op-ed discussing the decline of our country, I said: “Toleration and compromise were touted as virtues when they are, in fact, expedient vices.” Was I condemning all toleration and all compromise? Certainly not. We strive for the good. When we grudgingly accept the less desirable, some measure of the bad, we say we tolerate it. The same applies to compromise. When we can’t get the best and have to settle for less, for some measure of the inferior, we call it compromising. That’s why I called them expedient vices.
Toleration and compromise have their places. Sometimes they’re necessary. Sometimes they’re the best we can do. But both are trade-offs. In neither case do you get all of what you want. In the long term they can be very successful tactics, but they are only tactics, means of advancing toward an end.
Politics is the art of negotiation. Toleration and compromise are key elements in the democratic process. Toleration is unilateral, one-sided. I put up with your unpleasant behavior. You don’t change it. You don’t do anything differently. In fact, you may not even be aware of my exercising my forbearance. Compromise, on the other hand, is a reciprocal agreement. I amend my actions in exchange for you amending yours.
Both are essential in a society like ours, where we are free to voice a wide range of points of view. In our daily lives we allow people to say things we disagree with in order to keep the peace, but also and more importantly, because we recognize they have a right to their own opinions and to express them, no harm done. In the past few years, however, a kind of mystique has grown up around them, as if toleration and compromise were the goals, the be-all and end-all solution for our social and political problems.
Compromises are generally interim settlements, not ultimate solutions. Perhaps one of the best—or worst—example of political bargaining was the Missouri Compromise of 1820 in which new states were to be admitted to the Union in pairs, one free, the other slave. It was a bargain with the devil that helped lead ultimately to the Civil War.
This same misguided penchant for toleration has also landed us in a pit of moral relativism, the propensity to excuse bad behavior on the grounds that someone else’s behavior is worse. We should never tolerate injurious behavior, lying, cheating, stealing, slavery.
There are three situations in which compromise is wrong. The first is if I surrender my principles. Slavery, for example, is wrong. There’s no compromising on it.
The second is when I or the other party are unlikely to fulfill their part of the agreement. For example: In 1986 President Reagan agreed to sign an amnesty bill for foreign workers in exchange for a pledge by the Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil, that federal spending would be reduced. Reagan kept his part of the bargain; O’Neil didn’t keep his. Reagan should have known better.
The third situation is when the two parties don’t share the same central values, when there’s no common ground on which to base a compromise, like Sharia Courts, which are completely incompatible with our Judeo-Christian values as well as our Constitution.Sharia Law denies equality to women, values a woman’s testimony as worth only half that of a man’s, requires four men to witness a woman’s rape to prove the charge. Rape by her husband is not considered rape, even if it is witnessed by four men. (I wonder how many Muslim men have ever been convicted of rape in a Sharia court?)
How do you compromise with a theocratic system that mandates female genital mutilation, prescribes cutting off hands for theft, stoning to death for adultery and homosexuality, and beheading for apostasy. Those sentences are considered cruel and unusual punishments not just by our Constitution but by all modern, civilized societies.
The truth is: sometimes you have to say no—without compromising. Sometimes you have to say certain behavior is unacceptable—without tolerating it. And there are some parties you simply cannot trust. Would you make a deal with an addict high on drugs or an alcoholic in his cups? To expect either of them to keep their words would be foolhardy.
One last point. I called toleration and compromise expedient vices. I didn’t say being tolerant or being willing to compromise were vices. They are in fact laudable qualities—if they’re used judiciously as means, not ends. Maybe there’s the rub.
Ken Casper was born and raised in New York City a long time ago. After graduating from college, he entered the Air Force and was assigned to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo for training. He served overseas tours of duty in Japan, Vietnam and Germany, as well as stateside assignments. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1993 and from Civil Service at Goodfellow in 1997. In 1998 he published his first novel, A Man Called Jesse. Twenty-four books followed, including Upstairs at Miss Hattie’s. During those years he became good friends with Dr. Pres Darby. In 2011, shortly before Pres’s death from ALS, they published a joint novel, Mankillers, a Civil War thriller. Since then, Ken has published three Jason Crow mysteries set in West Texas.
A staunch conservative, Ken was the second president of the San Angelo TEA Party, 2010-2011. He has remained active in local politics ever since.