Friday, April 23, 2010
Tolerance of Diversity As Long As You Agree With Me
Can't we all just get along? Why is it so difficult for us to coexist in amicable fashion? I'm not talking about supposedly peaceable countries trying to live in peace with war-mongering rogue countries. I'm talking about you and me. I'm talking about me and the next door neighbor. I'm talking about the Left and the Right. I'm talking about the intoxicated college student whooping it up outside my bedroom window at 3:00 a.m. Why do people have to act so adversarial? The right certainly has some representatives who can be venomous and vitriolic in their spewing of rhetoric. Glenn Beck's recent vehement urging people of faith to exit any community of faith and reject any priest/pastor who talks about "social justice" certainly was divisive and mean-spirited, not to mention possibly stupid. I haven't listened to Rush in years because I could no longer handle the disdain and loathing which he seemed to possess in regard to anyone who might be "a liberal."
However, make no mistake about it; bias and prejudice are not a character flaw of only those who are right-of-center, whether politically, socially, or religiously. Bias and prejudice are Equal Opportunity employers, making no distinction as to race, color, age, gender, national origin, religion, mental or physical disability or ice cream flavor preference. Those who would and do criticize the conservative camp for its dogmatism and rigidity are often no more tolerant of differences than their conservative counterpart. They sound understanding and tolerant and accepting of differences, but they aren't.
An example. This past week the American Humanist Association supported a a judge's ruling that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. I don't particularly care whether there is such a day or not; each year there are 365 days of prayer at my disposal, so I'm not going to quibble over 1. What irks me is that the AHA wants that day revoked and in its place the National Day of Reason. Here's a comment from the AHA website, April 16, 2010: "This ruling is a victory for religious freedom and separation of church and state in this country," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "The government should not be directing citizens to pray. In addition to being unconstitutional, it's also especially offensive to people who don't believe in a god and are made to feel excluded by the observance."
The site goes on to say, "President Obama indicated that he still intends to recognize the observance on May 6, as the injunction against the National Day of Prayer would not take effect until after the appeals process has been exhausted. In response, the American Humanist Association urged the president to instead recognize the National Day of Reason, the non-theist movement's response to the National Day of Prayer. Also held on the first Thursday in May, the National Day of Reason is a day in which events are held across the United States in order to commemorate reason--a far more inclusive observance."
Maybe I'm missing something, AHA, but I'm not feeling the humanist love. You complain because you "are made to feel excluded" but you want to engage in behavior that is just a excluding by declaring the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. You're not satisfied or content with BOTH a day of prayer and a day of reason; you want YOUR viewpoint as nationally-sanctioned, and yours alone. That sounds awfully Right of you, and certainly humanist but not very humane.
This is merely one example of how this polarizing by both Left and Right is frequently playing out in the public arena. Whatever happened to civility? George Washington, the "father " of our country, posted 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. It seems we went from 110 rules of civility to none.
Yes, we differ. Yes, I surely hold some things to be true that you do not. Yes, my values may differ from yours. Can we hold those beliefs, those values in tension without creating tension between us as two human beings? I regard some things to be absolutely true and right; I regard an antithetical view or behavior to be false and wrong. But I am committed to regard and treat you as my brother, my sister. To that I am committed.
As a Christ-follower, I am committed to emulating the life and person of the one whom I follow. I am committed to a life of "turning the other cheek," rather than slapping the other's cheek. A Christ-follower is committed to peacemaking, not peace-breaking. A Christ-follower is committed to loving the enemy rather than making enemies. Jesus described his followers as "the salt of the earth." Salt served two purposes--preserving and flavoring. God, forgive us when our words or actions poison rather than preserve our relationships with those we love and those we don't. God, give us grace to provide flavor--rather than instilling fear--in the lives of those with whom we live and work.
A passage of Scripture (Colossians 4:6) contains this determination: "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Sadly, often my conversation seems to be full of grudge, seasoned with sarcasm.
Nonetheless, I'm committed to a different way of living, of loving, of treating people with whom I differ.