I do not tell others what to believe. That is a personal decision. Whatever people choose to believe or to do is up to them. And unless their beliefs interfere with my beliefs and the life I have chosen to live then I have no problem with them. The three most common areas of conflict are politics, religion and lifestyle. Within each of those topics are a myriad of additional points of potential conflict too. No two people agree on everything. Therefore it is essential for me and you to practice tolerance on a daily basis.
There are three exceptions to this. If another’s convictions and actions harm our family, our nation, or our profession then it is our duty to take offense and to defend those we love. And this is the crux: Where are those borders drawn? At what point do we consider a person’s beliefs to be a threat?
Many Republicans believe that Democrats are destroying America and vice-versa. A very real hatred and animosity exists between these two polar opposite political parties. They have no mutual respect for the others’ deepest beliefs. They each are convinced that the other is a threat to our nation.
Then there are a multiplicity of other divisive issues, such as national health insurance, the definition of marriage, the rights of business owners, taxes, the meaning of ‘separation between Church and State,’ etc. In fact, disagreements about such matters will always be prevalent. And so we must all learn to practice tolerance and to find places in our lives where we can unite and work together.
For instance, when we attend a sporting event or watch games on TV, we all cheer together, with one elated voice when our team scores. Democrats, Republicans, atheists, Christians, Jews, Homosexuals, et al, all share that moment of joy together as one. We do not experience hatred and anger for eachother at those moments. We feel a joyful, exciting unity.
Taking care of our nation’s veterans should also be a rallying point for all Americans. Our military is completely diverse in color, race, religion and politics. They function as one, indivisible union in order to effectively defend us and our loved ones from enemies that seek us harm. And all Americans should learn to practice that same attitude.
When we say that we are ‘patriots’ and proclaim our love for America, we must include all US citizens, even those that disagree with us. We need to practice daily the final words of our Nation’s Pledge of Allegiance: We are “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Some may notice that I have left out “under God.” As a traditional Christian, I whole-heartedly believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And I am certain that we all live beneath the watchful eyes of an omnipotent, personal God. And according to recent polls, 75% of Americans agree with me. But in an effort to show respect for Atheists our courts have consistently removed any mention of God from our centuries old traditions and pledges and celebrations. I strongly disagree. But no act or law of man will erase God and his influence. And so I tolerate the intolerance of others for the sake of union and peace. This is a Christian ethic.
My greatest fear is when we outlaw “Intolerance.” What that really means is when we no longer tolerate people who disagree with us. That is when America will become a totalitarian police state. I believe that day is coming soon. Who will take power and redefine the meaning of tolerance?