Toleration and Morality

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By R. J. Rushdoony

 Implications of the Quarantine Laws

             The commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” as its positive requirement, the mandate to preserve and further life within the framework of God’s law. Basic to this framework of preservation are the laws of quarantine.St. Augustine

In Leviticus 13-15, detailed laws of quarantine or separation are given. The details of these laws are not applicable to our times, in that they have an earlier era in mind, but the principles of these laws are still valid. It should be noted that these laws, in particular those dealing with leprosy, were enforced in the “medieval” era and were instrumental in eliminating that disease from Europe as a serious problem.

The laws in these chapters are of two varieties: first, those dealing with diseases, Leviticus 13: 1-15: 15; and second, those dealing with sex, 15: 16-33; since sexual rites were commonly used as a means of communion with the gods, sex was emphatically separated from worship (Ex. 19: 15). Ritual prostitution at temples was an accepted part of worship in the Mosaic era among pagans. Once again, sexual acts are being restored to a ritual role by the new pagans both within and without the church. Thus, Bonthius has written, “the act of intercourse is itself to serve as an outward and visible symbol of communion, not merely between man and wife but with God.

To return to the quarantine laws with respect to diseases, those cited in Leviticus 13 and 14 are generally described as leprosy and plague. The term leprosy has changed its meaning extensively from its Biblical and “medieval” meaning. The meaning then covered a variety of infectious diseases. In terms of this, the meaning of this legislation is that contagious diseases must be treated with all necessary precautions to prevent contagion. Legislation is thus necessary wherever society requires protection from serious and contagious diseases. Such legislation is plainly required in the Mosaic Law (Num. 5: 1-4). Not only is it declared to be a matter of civil legislation but an essential aspect of religious education (Deut. 24: 8).

It is clear, however, that this legislation, requiring some kind of quarantine or separation for those who are diseased, or who handle the dead (Num. 5: 2), has implications beyond the realm of physical diseases. Even as the risk of physical contagion must be avoided, so likewise the risk of moral contagion must be avoided. This is plainly stated in Lev. 20: 22-24, and it declares that God identifies Himself as the God who separates His people from other peoples: this is a basic part of salvation. The religious and moral separation of the believer is thus a basic aspect of Biblical law. Even as segregation from disease is necessary to avoid contagion, so separation from religious and moral evil is necessary to the preservation of true order.

Segregation or separation is thus a basic principle of Biblical law with respect to religion and morality. Every attempt to destroy this principle is an effort to reduce society to its lowest common denominator. Toleration is the excuse under which this leveling is undertaken, but the concept of toleration reveals a radical intolerance. In the name of toleration, the believer is asked to associate on a common level of total acceptance with the atheist, the pervert, the criminal, and the adherents of other religions as though no differences existed. The believer has a duty of lawful behavior towards all, an obligation to manifest grace and charity where it is due, but not to deny the validity of the differences which separate believer and unbeliever. In the name of toleration, the believer is asked to tolerate all things because the unbeliever will tolerate nothing; it means life on the unbeliever’s terms. It means that Biblical order is denied existence, because all things must be leveled downward.

A clear example, albeit a mild one, of this intolerance appeared in a past Ann Landers column:

Dear Ann Landers: Why do you pin orchids on the virgins without knowing the facts? If you could see some of those white flower girls you’d know they couldn’t give it away. Why not use your valuable newspaper space to praise the sought-after, sexy girl who is constantly chased by men and is sometimes caught?

            I’m a woman in my middle forties who has worked ten years with young girls in a steno pool. I see the goody-goody types in their little white shirt-waist blouses and oxfords, so smug and proud of their chastity, as if they had a choice. They make me sick.

            Only last Friday a darling little redhead, just 21, sobbed out her story in the ladies’ room. Lucy had been jilted by an executive after six months of steady courtship. They had been intimate and she was counting on marriage. It was the fourth time she’d had this terrible thing happen to her. Girls like Lucy need Ann Landers to tell them they aren’t all bad. Give them encouragement, not a put-down. I’ve been reading your silly column for 12 years and I think you are a perfect fool. – Mama Leone.

            Dear Mama: Thanks for the compliment, but nobody’s perfect.

I don’t happen to have any good conduct medals lying around for girls who think the bedroom is a shortcut to the altar. Moreover, a girl who makes the same mistake four times is what I call (in polite language) a non-learner.

This letter by “Mama Leone” reveals a bitter hatred of virtue together with a strong sympathy for the promiscuous girl, who is seen as the finer person. There is no tolerance here, but only a savage intolerance.

The basic premise of the modern of toleration is that all religions and moral positions are equally true and equally false. In brief, this toleration rests on a radical relativism and humanism. There is no particular truth or moral value in any religion; the true value is man himself, and man as such must be given total acceptance, irrespective of his moral or religious position. Thus, Walt Whitman, in his poem, “To a Common Prostitute,” declared, “Not till the sun excludes you, do I exclude you.” Total acceptance and the total integration are demanded by this relativistic humanism. Thus, this position, by reducing all non-humanistic positions to equality, and then setting man above them as lord, is radically antichristian. It places man in God’s place and, in the name of toleration and equality, relegates Christianity to the junk-heap.

But integration and equality are myths: they disguise a new segregation and a new inequality. “Mama Leone’s” letter makes clear that, in her view, promiscuity is superior to virginity. This means a new segregation: virtue is subjected to hostility, scorn, and is separated for destruction.

Every social order institutes its own program of separation or segregation. A particular faith and morality is given privileged status and all else is separated for progressive elimination. The claim of equality and integration is thus a pretext to subvert an older or existing form of social order.

State control of education has been a central means of destroying Christian order. It excludes from the curriculum everything which points to the truth of Biblical faith and establishes a new [alternative] doctrine of truth. In the name of objective reason, it insists that its highly selective hostility to Biblical faith be regarded as a law of being.

Education is a form of segregation, and, in fact, a basic instrument thereof as well. By means of education, certain aspects of life and experience are given the priority of truth and others are relegated to unimportance or are classed as wrong. Education inescapably segregates and classifies all reality in terms of certain premises or presuppositions. These premises are religious premises and are always pre-theoretical and are determinative of all thinking.

Not only education but law also segregates. Every law-order, by legislating against certain types of conduct, requires segregation in terms of its premises. The segregation demanded by the democratic and the Marxist states is as radical and thorough as any history has seen, if not more so.

All religions segregate, and humanism is certainly no exception. Every religion asserts an order of truth, and every other order is regarded as a lie. Humanism is relativistic with respect to all other religions, but it is absolutistic with respect to man. Man is the absolute of humanism, and all else is treated as error.

Segregation, separation, or quarantine, whichever name is used, is inescapable in any society. The radical libertarian claims that he will permit total liberty for all positions, i.e., a free market for all ideas and religions. But he outlaws all positions which deny his own. In the academic world these libertarians have proven to be ruthless enemies of Biblical faith, denying its right to a hearing. The state cannot exist, in such a libertarian order, nor can the church except on the enemy’s terms. The new libertarians are congenial to Marxists, but not to Christians. While ostensibly against coercion, they are not above a common front with the Marxists, as the libertarian journal, Left and Right hasindicated.

For the truth of Scripture, they have no toleration, nor any “common front” except a surrender on their terms. Every faith is an exclusive way of life; none is more dangerous than that which maintains the illusion of tolerance. An openly heartless faith is surely dangerous, but a heartless faith which believes in itself as a loving agent is even more to be feared.

Because no agreement is possible between truth and a lie, between heaven and hell, St. Paul declared, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (II Cor. 6: 17).


 Article from Excerpt from The Institutes of Biblical Law by Rousas John Rushdoony – 1973. See book online at






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