Tolerating Acceptance Or Accepting Tolerance?

No wonder middle Australia is keeping its head down.  Once we were described as a tolerant bunch, but now we find out that the idea of simply tolerating someone or something is actually abhorrent. How could we have gotten that so wrong?

In a clear demonstration that the battle for language has now disappeared down the rabbit hole and is well on its way to a visit to Humpty Dumpty,  a petitionary letter  by former Fairfax journo, Ben Grubb, advocating a Safe Schools 2.0 program – a Safe Schools Lite if you will -,  crashed and burned over the difference between the word “tolerance” and the word “acceptance”.

The result?  A whole bunch of well meaning Australian celebs, such as actor Guy Pearce, and singer Missy Higgins, who had signed a petition calling for a program similar to Safe Schools, but that didn’t push so many conservative buttons, suddenly had to press rewind/throw car into reverse/issue huge mea culpas.

How foolish Pearce and Higgins must be feeling now, and how quickly things turned on them.  Almost as quickly as it turned on Coopers and The Bible Society.  Grubb now finds himself almost as grubby as the ACL is to the gay community.

Grubb issued a statement himself:

“One of the biggest mistakes I made— and it was made by me alone — was in the drafting of the letter, with the word ‘acceptance’ omitted from the framework proposed for teaching, and the letter referring to not seeking seeking ‘approval’ of the way certain members of our society live.

“Instead, the words ‘tolerance’ and ‘mutual respect’ were used.

“I made the decision to omit the word highlighted above. This is a decision I deeply regret and I am truly sorry for. I am sorry to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community, many of whom have told me that by doing this represented the letter pandering to conservative views.

I expect he will be crying into his beer for a few weeks yet.  His reputation may never recover, although he was quick to use the term “pandering to conservative views’ to highlight how sinful (and I use the word advisedly) he had been. In sin and shame cultures such as the new modern secular frame, it’s always useful to have a “I once was blind, but now I see” moment to fall back on.

Once the backlash had begun on Twitter on the use of the toe-curling word “tolerance”, celebrities who had signed the letter, suddenly decided that their signatures were in actual fact the product of fake news, attributable to Russia or Trump or whatever, and dived for cover quicker than an Italian gangster in a Scorcese movie.

Hey, Australian news even made the BBC, so we must be important, right?  And it wasn’t even about kangaroos or outback serial killers and stuff.

You can see how complicated this thing is getting, and Eternity News did a good job of overviewing the issue.

Tolerance is now seen as bad.  That’s right. Bad!  And I spend the 80s at school and university being told how good it was as an idea.  Turns out, once again, that the children of the revolution are getting chewed up and spat out by their children.

Tolerance is now a sniffy word that indicates a disdain of something, but a resigned decision to put up with it.  And that’s not going to be enough.  Acceptance it must be. Acceptance is a positive word, and implies, nay demands, approval.  Or else.

Perhaps it’s the “or else” aspect of it that is most worrisome,  And if positive advocates of LGBTI rights, such as Ben Grubb, are having to scramble to save their reputations, then what long term chance anyone who says “sorry, but tolerance is all you get.”

Me? Personally?  I’ve always thought the word “tolerance” was useless.  It’s a nothing word and always was.  It was designed to make us all feel good about others.  Let me backtrack. It was designed to make us feel good about ourselves. To show how progressive and forward thinking we were about difference.

Now?  Now it’s done a complete 180 degrees and is the epitome of, in this push for Utopian progress, a Neanderthal term.   But as I said, the children of the revolution will always find themselves up against the wall facing the firing squad eventually.

And the word “acceptance?” It’s acceptable.  For now.  But don’t hold your breath.  It’s likely that before too long we’ll discover it contains all sorts of hidden nasties that we didn’t realise; nasties that don’t affirm those in need of constant affirmation by everyone all of the time.

I just hope some of that much vaunted acceptance spills over to Ben Grubb in the next few days, cos I’ve got a gut feeling he’s probably sitting at home self-loathing right now, or at least barely being able to tolerate himself.  Cos in this superior world of “Acceptance “sinners have to work their way back in to the centre. They have to prove themselves all over again, climb a few ladders, avoid a few snakes.  Then, if all goes well, he can go back cap in hand, having paid double for his sins.

With luck and karma (cos he’ll need both in that graceless space he occupies called the public square) he might be tolerated for a while, before being begrudgingly accepted back into the fold.


  1. “Normal” and “good” will soon replace “acceptance” as the words of choice, because acceptance implies it’s even up for discussion.

  2. I never did like the word tolerance, it always reminded me of begrudging somehow, not quite positive. The LGBQIT prefer acknowledgement as their word.

    1. Yep. Any particular issues? I don’t think any of those terms are valid for the Kingdom in a sense, because the way they have been commandeered by the culture there is no eschatological sense to them. We are told to forgive and love and serve as Christ did for us – not tolerate in the sense the culture means, and not accept in the way the culture wants either, as it overlooks any sense of sin. But let me have a think.

  3. Great writing Steve. I’ve always considered “tolerance” the world’s (pathetically poor) version of God’s unconditional love. In other words it’s a “love” full of conditions.

    1. By the way, Jesus never tolerated anyone. He loved, forgave, healed, rebuked, etc…, but tolerance wasn’t a part of his vocab.

  4. Yes, Christians are obviously exemplary when it comes to things like tolerance and acceptance. I will remember that the next time I order a lemon meringue pie.

  5. Don’t ask people to respond and justify their claims that you wrote what you wrote if you are going to close the comments sections, or alternately block and censor those comments. It’s disingenuous, to say the least. What are you so afraid of?

    1. You can say anything you want about me on the Facebook link. But I guess with your faux email address I am not afraid of anything, just don’t feel the need to feed trolls. And that will be the last time you are permitted to comment on any of my posts. I guess you can start a blog if you are so inclined.

    2. BTW Adam – I did email your other (fake) email to engage you in a private conversation. Hey I was even keen to say if you lived in my neck of the woods perhaps we can catch up to talk about it. Perhaps even over a Coopers Lite. But fake emails bounce back and fake rude ones just get you delisted. But I guess that being afraid of actual engagement, in contrast to trolling, isn’t all a one way street eh?

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