Acceptance, tolerance and other

Oak Creek is just 15 minutes from here, and yet the fact that an act of “domestic terrorism” took place there just yesterday morning seems surreal. While we were breaking bread together in an act of love and oneness with each other and with all creation, a horrific event was taking place not far away. I am certain that the entire community of Sacred Journeys aches, mourns, and prays for and with the Sikh community.

Today I find myself pondering the words acceptance and tolerance when it comes to the diversity of religious belief and practice. Acceptance is a beautiful thing, and it is happening more and more, but this world still has a long way to go. Acceptance of the different religious paths as valid expressions of individual and corporate spirituality is the only answer to world peace (okay, there might be a few other things, but this is a biggie). There is beauty, wisdom, love, compassion, history and poetry in each religion if we pause long enough to find it. Each religion strives to help its people find inner peace and connect with their source. Having taught religion at a local college this last year, I see the younger generation embrace this concept of religious pluralism and I am hopeful.

I have a harder time with the concept of tolerance. The dictionary says it is “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own.” That may technically be true, but in my head I hear people saying through gritted teeth, “Well, I can tolerate it, but I don’t like it.” Often tolerance still reeks of unacceptance, misunderstanding, dislike and barely contained disdain. Frankly, that isn’t going to advance society one whit.

Beyond acceptance and tolerance  are all the other responses to different religions. These range from ignorance to indifference, to “live and let live”, to the less desirable, outwardly hostile “we’re right and you’re wrong” reactions.  This is where the crazy gunman who killed six at the Sikh temple fits in. Extreme actions like this and less extreme actions resulting in bigotry, judgment and superiority complexes have wrecked havoc on peaceful people, religions and societies since time began. But I tell you hatred, anger and fear are not of God… those are human attributes that we like to blame on God.

The only solace I take today is in the outpouring of support for the Sikh community. From social media, to local churches, to the news, people are stepping up in compassion, support and yes, acceptance, of the Sikh as part of the human family. They may look and dress a little different from the mainstream, and they may worship in a different way, but they are sacred people, beloved in God’s eyes… as are we all.