I hear the word intolerance bandied about a lot in our public conversations of late, mostly in reference to the conservative segment of our society. This, along with racism, has become the clarion cry on the left, being brought to bear whenever the views and actions of the present ruling class is called into question. It seems that the more liberal segment of society has become quite comfortable with the veiled name-calling and demonization of the opposing view as the chosen weapon in their assault on the traditions and beliefs that have guided this country through more than two hundred years of our history as we rose from humble beginnings to become the guiding and stabilizing force in a world rife in selfish and cruel leaders. How some of our citizens can embrace the very ideas that shook us on that fateful September day when a handful of Muslim extremists began in earnest that conquest of the western world. A conquest that had, until then, been mostly confined to a small but volatile desert area in which a stew of turmoil and tribal strife has held sway for thousands of years, exacerbated by the occupation of lands by the nineteenth and early twentieth century European empire building of the fading superpowers such as England, France, and Spain. Yes, the U.S. made some egregious errors as we tried to sort out the mess left by the empire-builders, but is Iran a better place under the present regime? Is Syria? Libya? The choices were basically a rock and a hard spot. Everyone seems to have gotten it wrong. It is much easier to subjugate a people if you can redirect their anger to a perceived enemy, and we were a handy and large target.
While it can be argued that these extremists do not represent the whole of Islam it must be said that in not condemning the violence and hatred being spewed in the name of Islam, the Muslim world must accept some of the responsibility for the continuing vitriol and terror that seems to spread like a virus on a computer; stealthily and under the cover of seemingly legitimate auspices. We, as a whole, can fight this in a reactive manner only. The solution must come from The Muslim community. If Allah is the God of peace that his adherents claim, then it is an obligation for them to root out the evil that is disguising itself as righteous and hiding amongst them. Actions speak louder than words. If Muslims become defensive and turn a blind eye to this misuse of their faith it only serves to exacerbate the problem, further dividing our nation and the world. Have we forgotten that while the leaders of the Arab and Islamic nations sent us their condolences after the 9/11 attacks we could see images of their citizens celebrating and encouraging the downfall of the “evil satan, America. All Peoples are harmed when one group is unjustly attacked and innocent people are sacrificed. Violence begets only violence. It is important that we do not impute blame upon the victims while granting victim status to the murderers. If we sink to the level in our collective conscience of justifying the murder of innocents, whatever the past provocations may be, then I sincerely fear for our country. I have seen isolated calls by Muslims to their brothers in faith to reject the violence and speak out against the terror, but for the most part I see an attitude of “It’s not my problem.” They rail against the perception that it is an Islam problem, but then turn the other way as evil men hijack their religion for evil.
I am a Christian, and we cannot think that we are blameless in the rancor and separation that threatens to tear us apart along artificial lines drawn in the sand by people with something to gain by the exploitation of the magnification our differences. We too are guilty of turning a blind eye to those who would hijack our faith to promote decidedly un-Christian behavior. A person can call themselves anything they want in this country. That is a part of what makes us a nation of destination to so many. It is up to the many varied communities that make up our country to police their own. A Christian does not hate anyone. Christ’s single display of anger was directed not toward those who believed or acted in a manner at odds with His teachings, but toward those who would hijack the true worship of God for their own personal gain. All people, regardless of differences of race, religion, or national origin are children of the one God. He loves us all equally, not only those who believe in Him or follow His laws.
“But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6
These were Christ’s words, and as we are all children of God, this describes the love that God has for all his people. That is the love that we are to emulate in dealing with each other. What is not clear about treating others as you would have them treat you? What is so hard?
The thing is, if we do not police ourselves, then someone else is going to come and take that task upon themselves. And, as happened on the terrible day in September, the wrong people took it upon themselves to enforce their own, twisted interpretation of justice. God calls us to hold each other accountable. Failing that , we are at the mercy of charlatans and pretenders.
If every group could take responsibility for themselves we could live with a lot less intrusion in our personal lives. Accepting responsibility is always more effective than assigning blame. If the immigrant community would take responsibility we could solve the illegal immigration problem and sensible reform would be a simple matter. If the gay community ensured that it’s members would respect the thoughts and traditions of the people around them we could solve a lot of the hate and misinformation that clouds the debate. Likewise the heterosexual community needs to join against the promotion of hatred and misinformation that also blocks a system in which we can respect all people as individuals worthy of respect and support. If each race could see and address the problems in their own communities and deal with them in a caring way without empowering the behaviors that cause the problems in the first place. If each faith could promote understanding and peaceful outreach rather than defending or ignoring uncharacteristic violence and rancor we could join to solve the real problems of the world, hunger, disease, and the evil men and women who would subjugate and corrupt our brothers and sisters throughout the world. If we would quit tearing apart the institutions and traditions that brought us together to accomplish a purpose and instead build on and improve on those strong foundations we could bring our nation once again to the proud and admired status that we once held as defenders of the weak and sanctuary for the oppressed.
I recently wrote in this blog of our unwillingness to dig beyond the evidence that supports our own beliefs and customs. I believe that this mind-set is at least partially responsible not only for the bitter political battles in this country and around the world but also for the serious divisions that I have discussed. There is an old saying attributed to Native American wisdom which says “Don’t criticize someone until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” Now, more than ever before, we need to embrace that wisdom brought to us by the first Americans. Would that we had applied that to the people that gave it to us we would be living in a much richer and more natural culture than we live in now.
Hopefully we can come to a place once again where some things are not to be tolerated because they are just plain wrong. Then we could go back to loving each other as well as ourselves. Not just the ones that we agree with, but everyone.