Colson: Tolerance Breeds Totalitarianism

After warning that rights for gays and lesbians will destroy democracy, Chuck Colson now says that “the tyranny of tolerance” can drive America into a totalitarian state. Colson employs the worn out Religious Right argument that Christians face the most persecution and discrimination in America, arguing that tolerance in American society will be the end of freedom:

Is it possible that America could lapse into totalitarianism? Well, it’s not impossible, and I’ll tell you why not.

The Western experiment in liberal democracy, best embodied in the United States, achieved representative government, balance of powers, sphere sovereignty, the rule of law. These are bulwarks against totalitarianism.

But the very astute French observer of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, warned that even America could descend into soft despotism. That could happen, he warned, when the people expect their elected leaders to take care of them and their needs. Sound familiar?

But I’ve thought of another way democracy can slide into totalitarianism—the moral foundations of society erode so badly that the people become malleable. They embrace relativism, as we have in America today; they no longer believe in right and wrong. So popular culture, the educational and political elite, teach us that it’s wrong to judge other people. Tolerance becomes the supreme public virtue.

When that happens, however, somebody has to enforce the tolerance. So-called cultural arbiters—the media, the academics, political leaders—begin to prescribe which things are in bounds and which things are out of bounds for public discussion.

This is akin to the soft despotism de Tocqueville warned about, the tyranny of tolerance where the cultural elites seek to eliminate the free expression of moral views in American life.

And that, my friends, is totalitarianism of an unexpected kind. It’s the kind that can catch you by surprise, where you’ll wake up one day to find that you have lost your freedom.