Dr. Jim Beard: Tolerance and understanding
I grew up in a rural area of northern Indiana in a place that might remind you of the fictional town of Lake Wobegon of Garrison Keillor fame. In Lake Wobegon “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” In our case all the people were white and Protestant. There was no particular design in it being that way. It was just the way it was. Our first Catholic came to our high school when I was a sophomore, and I never met anyone of the Muslim or Jewish faith until I was well into adulthood.
So, from our perspective being a Christian was the way to go. We sent missionaries to convert the heathen and worried about people in our county that did not go to church because they were endangering their souls.
It is only as I ventured into the world and moved around that I became friends with many people that I discovered were not all of the Christian Faith. Yet, they were kind, good, and loving people. Would God condemn them because they were Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or some other religion? I finally concluded that the answer was no. God loves his children and calls us to love all of them as well. God’s justice is more complicated than we like to think, and we have to confess that we don’t know it all.
In recent years there has been an uptick in hate and intolerance between groups. Politically it has become convenient to blame religious groups for our problems. White supremacists blame the Jews and some people who remember 911 blame all Muslims. We try to ban Muslims from the country and in the process make the Muslim who are already here feel uncomfortable.
We evolve into fear toward other faiths because we don’t know them on a personal level. It is easy to think bad things about other groups if we do not have a personal relationship with these other groups.
In order to encourage tolerance for people of other faiths, Immanuel Presbyterian Church of China Grove (365 Brown Road) is holding a panel discussion on some of the religions found in this area on Wednesday, November 13 at 7 pm. We are doing this in the hope that open discussion and interaction will produce tolerance and acceptance of people of other faiths, and in the process engender love and community for all of the people of the earth.
Dr. Beard is pastor at Immanuel Presbyterian Church of China Grove