In the opening scenes of the film Gladiator, a meagre but undaunted force from Germania stands across the valley from a overwhelming sea of Roman soldiers, waiting for the next move on the chess boards of war. Focusing in on the Roman general Maximus and his military advisor Quintus, we watch them surveying the opposing army as they continue to roar and shout victoriously, even in the face of a sure defeat. It is then that Quintus says incredulously to Maximus,
“People should know when they’re conquered.”
Continuing to watch across the valley, Maximus replies, “Would you, Quintus? Would I?”
It’s a genuine statement from Quintus (isn’t it as obvious to them as it is to us that they are already defeated?) and a realist response from Maximus (he knows – and desires Quintus to know as well – that, were the situation reversed, they would be no less defiant and undaunted in the face of sure defeat).
Arising out of the deluge of commentary on the Duck Dynasty/Phil Robertson interview in GQ magazine in recent days, floated something – amongst all the other muck and debris – that looked very much like this scene in Gladiator.
A good deal of the response to Phil Robertson’s comments about homosexuality; stating (however ineloquently) that he thought it was a sin, was this same sort of incredulous questioning that Quintus offered to Maxiums on the battlefield, viz.
Doesn’t Phil Robertson know that this issue has already been settled? That this battle has already been won? Sure, there are still a few backward places like Russia and Africa. But how dare anyone from North America claim that they still hold a defeated viewpoint like this anymore!
People should know when they’re conquered!
Now i’m not even making any statement about Phil Robertson’s views or A&E here. I’m simply pointing out that this is yet another clear example of the myriad of occurrences where we witness (what i think D. A. Carson coined) “the intolerance of tolerance” in society. Tolerance used to mean, Carson states, what Voltaire famously quipped, “I may disagree with what you say entirely and yet i will defend to the death your right to say it!” So, in other words, tolerance used to mean we could actually have opposing viewpoints on a particular subject and still, you know, tolerate one another.
But it’s become the soup of the day, it seems, to seek to silence all voices that will not toe the party line. “Diversity? Sure! As long as it looks like everybody else and conforms to today’s standards of right/wrong. just/unjust, acceptable/unacceptable. Stray too far, though, and you will simply be categorized (religious nut), labeled (homophobic, hateful) and dismissed (irrelevant).“
Is that the kind of diversity we want?.
In fact, we know historically that societies thrive and stretch and grow all the more broadly and creatively when there is such diversity of opinion fostered and encouraged within it (i’m not suggesting a free-for-all, anything goes!) Consider the Roman empire as an example: a veritable hodge-podge of diverse opinions on art and literature, epistemology and science , religion and politics and one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known. Given that, i might even go so far as to say that perhaps pluralism is not the enemy of Christianity we were all once led to believe it was, nor is it the enemy of the homosexual worldview!
We don’t always find areas of agreement – and he is certainly no friend of the conservative Christian worldview – but i think a few people now have mentioned what Bill Maher once said during the whole Paula Deen controversy, which i think applies in this instance as well,
“Do we always have to make people go away?”
I think the clear answer is, “No. No we don’t.” Nor should we seek to.