America, Where Tolerance Was Important?

Today, we are involved to some extent in the political process of electing a Republican nominee and a Democrat nominee. Personally, at times I find this year’s process different and at times interesting.  At times I watch my wife and I would say that she is “concerned” about the process.

One of the very inflammatory topics of this process is tolerance for other faiths, or rather intolerance.

Unless you have been “off the grid” for the past year or so, you know about the extreme Muslim militant group called Isis or Isil [which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant]. Their very negative activities have caught the attention of the world and have inflamed anti-Muslim sentiments in some Americans.  Many candidates have referred to the need to eliminate the threat of Isis from the world, some more extreme than others.

The effect of this is that our country, which has always prided itself on the ability to be diverse and accepting of others, is now faced with the fact that some are no longer able to tolerate Muslims.

What is going on? A very small minority of people are controlling too much of the feelings we have about a religion.  Estimates of the numbers of Isis fighters range from ten to twenty thousand [Mark Gollom, CBC News].

How many Muslims are in the world? The Pew Research Center estimates 1.6 billion, 23% of the world’s population.

How many Muslims are in America? Again the Pew Research Center estimates 3.3 million, 1% of the US population.

Ten to twenty thousand fighters are not the Muslim world.

We are confronted by our tolerance. We are confronted by our intolerance.

What does the word even mean?   According to Dictionary.com, it means the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behaviors that one does not necessarily agree with.  In the case of other faiths, tolerance means that we can let others practice their faith in our society and we don’t interfere.  We have to look at our past to see where we got the idea of tolerance.  If you ascribe to the history you read in the textbooks, the Puritans and Pilgrims came to America to find a place where they could practice their faith without interference from government.  On August 13, 2010 President Obama declared: “This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are.”  America historically has been a place of religious tolerance. It was a sentiment George Washington voiced shortly after taking the oath of office just a few blocks from Ground Zero.

Yet as Christians we struggle to live in a world today that is increasingly intolerant.

How can we hold onto our truth and not deny others their own truth?

We appreciate “others” not telling us we have to shut our churches. We don’t want “others” to tell our pastors what to preach.  We want to be able to be Christian without being hated.

We know some things to be true and I believe them. That is not to say that everyone else has to think like me.  Jesus Christ is my Savior.  Why do I say that?  First of all, He is God incarnate.  He was sent to earth to show us all how to live.  He offered us the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us to a better life.  He shared with us the idea that we can be forgiven despite the times that we fall short of the glory of God.  He shared the idea that we can be cleansed of our wrongdoing and live a righteous life, in fact that is His ultimate goal for all of us.  He faced death for all of us.  He took the sins of the world on His own shoulders and persevered through the process of death, only to be resurrected to the life that we can all have after death.   He has prepared a place for us all in heaven.

Yes I believe that.

I also believe that other people have a right to believe what they want, even though they may not appreciate my belief. They don’t have to appreciate it.  They don’t have to practice it.

Why?

Because this is America.

 

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