Continuing a sermon by Rev. Ronald W. Leichty at First EUB in North Manchester, Indiana (May 14, 1967).
During these days, four questions kept reoccurring and reappearing in my mind. And these are the four questions that I put before you this morning for your consideration.
The first is this: In regard to this deep feeling and emotion that is evident in our community: are these feelings new? Are these feelings new?
Obviously the answer is no. The feelings and emotions were there all along. They had just not been touched in such a way that they came out. But now they have been touched! And they are out and the yare with us and we see, at least some of us, what we really are. This says that sometimes we even surprise ourselves at the things of which we are capable as human beings. It’s there … if only it’s touched. The feelings are there; they’re not new.
The second question is not quite so simple. It is not quite so cut and dried: Do we really believe in freedom? Do we really believe in tolerance? Do we really believe in the right to allow somebody else his point of view? Do we really believe in dissent?
We Christians are great ones for saying we believe in tolerance. But usually this means that we believe we have the right to say what we think. Usually this means we think we have the right to criticize. And as you know, we do. We criticize the tax structure of our town, of our county, of our state and government. We criticize the church program. We choose which friends we allow to be near us and which friends we’re going to push aside. We do these things and many other things that illustrate that we believe that we have the right to choose.
But a real belief in tolerance, a real belief in freedom allows the other fellow the same rights that we claim for ourselves. Are we as willing to allow the other fellow to criticize what he and whom he chooses? Are we as willing to accept another person who criticizes the things that are dear to us like we want him to accept us when we criticize the things that are dear to him? When we ask the question, ‘do you believe in tolerance?’ I think for most all of us the answer has to be both yes and no. For few of us are willing to grant to the other fellow a freedom to dissent as whole-heartedly as we embrace it as our inalienable right.
Persons who cannot listen or will not listen to another point of view lack confidence in their own position. To close doors … to shut off sources is neither to be Christian nor human. To close off sources … to close our senses to others, this indicates the weakness of our own position. Our inability to have what we believe scrutinized does not illustrate strength, but weakness. It’s something like the story that’s told about preachers. “If you don’t have a good point, make the one you do have loud!”
Still another concern I have at the point of tolerance is the point of responsibility. Tolerance and dissent are not possible without responsibility. Those who merely criticize, those who are merely against, will also be ignored except for the noise that they make unless they have something to offer positively. Too many times today we hear only the noise. We need the voice of the dissenter who feels he has a better idea; and to this man the world has an open ear and a ready tolerance. This is the freedom we need.
Dr. Viktor Frankl, speaking in Indianapolis a week ago, an Austrian psychiatrist, spoke to our need of we Americans for responsibility. He used these words: “You Americans need to complement your statue of liberty on the East Coast with a statue of responsibility on the West.
Amen! We need the tolerance; the tolerance of dissent that has come from the freedom of the American system. We need dissenters, but we need responsible dissenters who offer to us the hope of maintaining and continuing and projecting what our forrefathers saw as the hopes of a continuing nation.
Do you really believe in freedom? Do you really believe in tolerance? Do you really believe in the right to dissent?
…to be continued…