12.14.2007

Tolerance and Respect

Our culture is built on the idea that there are many ways to do the same thing, and that there are many plausible ideas about "how it all works" and about ethics and about spirituality. We are called to be tolerant of each other, and to show respect for ideas and beliefs that differ from our own, and even respect another's right to act in ways that we think are wrong if those actions are not ones that our legal system has imposed penalties upon. And, even then, with few exceptions, we are to respect another's right to violate the law as long as they are willing to pay the price.

Christians are notorious for violating these ethics (tolerance and respect of others with differing beliefs), and because of that we lose the right to be heard when we present our position. We seem to think the problem is the wishy-washy view of truth (relativism) that is the common philosophy, but my experience these days tells me otherwise. I think that people are willing to consider the possibility of absolute truth, but not willing to be made to feel stupid or inferior while we hold up our beliefs as right and theirs as wrong.

I do believe there is absolute truth. I also believe that we are all very limited in our perspective on reality -- me just as much as you, Christians just as much as agnostics or atheists. I believe that there is a way to communicate the real respect we should possess for anyone who attempts to figure out a world-view that matches his or her experience and understanding of reality, while at the same time respecting our own ability and responsibility to determine as best as we can what is true and right. If we walk in that kind of respect and responsibility, we will be the kind of people who others are willing to discuss things with, and even respect. If we fail to possess a real respect for them and for ourselves -- but just put on an act -- we will show up as we really are eventually, and lose the right to be heard.

When someone who is not a Christian -- and even some who are Christians -- read my blog, they may react against how foreign my whole perspective is, and assume that I am like the other Christians they have known or heard of, and assume that I would show them a lack of respect for their own heritage and beliefs. How else could I be so convinced that I had found "the way"? The truth is that I have a respect for all the aspects of my own spiritual journey, and a respect for them in theirs as well, and a respect for the God Who is seeking all of us.

I am asking readers who come from different place in their lives and world-views and systems of belief to respect my ability to push forward toward truth, and to assume that I respect them in that endeavor as well! Then, perhaps, we can learn from each other, and both be taught by God or by TRUTH or by reality (whatever words work best for you!) about how best to live and how best to push forward toward what is healthier and truer and more effective and satisfying.

I am not smarter or better than you. If I act like I think I am, then I am violating my own values and belief-system. Please don't paint all Christians with that ugly self-righteousness that too often we display!

And, to my fellow followers of Jesus: We can be faithful to what we know as TRUTH and also have a real respect for those who either are not there yet or who have gone a different direction and never will believe what we believe to be TRUE . . . and if we do not respect them and their beliefs, it says that we are more invested in the ideology of Christianity than in just following Christ Himself. The only ones He ever showed disrespect were the self-righteous religious people!

We can at least follow His example by refusing to be those self-righteous religious people! Please?!

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