On May 19, around 4,000 people gathered at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds at an event put on by Franklin Graham. That size event is significant for Maine. Speaking was the son and ill-suited standard-bearer of one of only four private citizens ever to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol in the history of the United States. The senior Graham’s revival-style rallies decades ago remain a significant global cultural phenomenon and had a profound effect on many lives.

The Portland Press Herald responded to this event, occurring in its backyard, by covering, well… nothing. In the next day’s online edition I could read about the politics of Saco policing, updates on several current court cases and even the cross-country travels of a bear. I wondered if perhaps Graham’s event had been canceled but found on his website that the rally had in fact occurred.

I do not identify as a Christian. I was invited to attend the event but declined. However, I find the Press Herald’s silence on the event fascinating. One hundred people gathered May 20 to oppose social service budget cuts – that is front-page news. Four thousand people gathered May 19 to hear a socially conservative evangelical speak – that is apparently unnewsworthy.

I wonder if perhaps this is a lack of editorial integrity. I am unconfused about the paper’s motivation. The Rev. Cindy Maddox’s Maine Voices piece the day before the rally and the absence of news of the event itself made it abundantly clear what the general editorial position is – a position for which I have at least shades of sympathy. There is only one problem with this. One may be forgiven for assuming the paper leans toward support of progressivism. Of all progressive values, tolerance for a diversity of views is one of the most fundamental.

But by definition, tolerance requires a counterparty with whom one has a substantive moral disagreement. True, whole-grain tolerance is the ability to give the benefit of the doubt to a person holding a view that is contrary, even hostile to my own. This requires maintenance of a psychologically taxing tension. The current trend seeks to simply dissolve this tension by attaching labels of violence or stupidity to opposing speech – allowing one to dismiss the beliefs and personhood of the other and yet preserve a tolerant self-image.

As measured by the Press Herald Opinion pages, Graham’s rally was significant and newsworthy. If the paper finds his beliefs uniquely intolerant, it has the opportunity to take the ideological high road by covering news as news and leaving the reader to decide the moral implications.

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