Lecture focuses on tolerance, justice

Ellen Bombela

Tolerance and justice. These were the main points of Alex Tuckness, professor of political science, during the Veritas Forum on Monday night in the Memorial Union.

Tuckness started the lecture by sharing some statistics about how teaching tolerance to children is one of the main priorities at the top of parents’ priority lists, whether they were conservative or liberal.

He then went on to talk about how justice is needed for the broken world. Some examples Tuckness shared included massive global poverty, human trafficking and slavery and racial discrimination.

After sharing these global problems, Tuckness clarified what tolerance is and how it relates to justice, and explained how Christianity suggests ways of better understanding the relationship between justice and toleration.

“A person is tolerant when he or she rightly decides not to stop someone from doing something of which the tolerant person disapproves,” Tuckness said. 

Tuckness then went on to say that many people confuse the idea of tolerance and acceptance.

“I think one of the mistakes that is frequently made in popular discussions about tolerance or toleration is that we use toleration and acceptance as interchangeable terms,” Tuckness said.

Tuckness then went on to explain that in places where there is disapproval, tolerance is possible. Tuckness also mentioned that even though people may try to persuade others to believe in one way, as long as they are not stopping people from doing what they want, then they are still being tolerant.

Tuckness’ next topic of conversation was his approach to toleration.

“The scholar that I have spent the most time studying over the course of my career was a philosopher named John Locke,” Tuckness said. “Part of what’s interesting to me about Locke and his writings on toleration is that he makes a Christian case for toleration.”

Tuckness added that if we are going to follow the example of Jesus, then toleration is something that should be commended even if we believe people are making terrible mistakes and may have eternal consequences for them.

Tuckness went on to share the basic steps of Locke’s argument, which included God communicating knowledge through reason and that we should respect the rights of all people through reason.

To conclude the presentation, Tuckness tied together the ideas of toleration, mercy and Christianity.

“I think that one of the things that is distinctive to Christianity is that it has something to contribute to how we think about both the virtue of mercy and the virtue of toleration,” Tuckness said. “If I were to summarize what I think it has to contribute, it would be this: we need a commitment both to the importance of justice and the recognition of human weakness, bias and fallibility.”

Jessica Sparr, senior in linguistics, agreed with Tuckness’ definition of tolerance.

“I thought it [the definition] was very fitting,” Sparr said. “I liked how he started out by saying that people often say that Christianity is tolerable, but that’s intolerance in itself, so he provided a way to go about that differently and find it in a different way.”

The presentation by Tuckness was followed by a question-and-answer session, during which people could text or email questions they wanted answered, or they could go up to the microphone and ask their question.

Sparr said she appreciated the way Tuckness put full thought into his answers.

“Usually when you come to these types of things or get into these conversations, they will avoid the question or find their way around it,” Sparr said. “Alex is really good at giving full answers and answering the question that is given to him.”

Once the question-and-answer session ended, audience members had the opportunity to sit down at tables in small groups and have smaller discussion groups with Tuckness to dive further into the subjects that were presented.