“It’s tolerating other Christians that’s the hardest!”
I spoke about religious diversity at a church a number of weeks ago. I talked about how my spiritual journey had been enriched as I learned about Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and indigenous spirituality. During the discussion later I was interested to hear from my listeners that while they normally didn’t find it challenging to be tolerant of people from other faith backgrounds, they did find it very difficult to be open minded and understanding when they interacted with other Christians; people who professed to have the same faith as they did, but differed greatly in their attitude towards social and political issues. I understood.
I believe for example that following the way of Jesus when it comes to social and political issues means………being a pacifist, making care of creation a top priority, giving women control over their own bodies and trying to reduce the abortion rate through progessive social initiatives rather than legal action, creating gender equity in every sphere of society, maintaining strict control over gun ownership, opening our country’s doors to as many refugees as possible, giving equal rights and protections to people in the LGBTQ community, and sharing income to provide good medical care, education and housing for all.
But there are many people that also say they are following Jesus who have very different opinions about what that means in relation to those issues . How do I show tolerance and understanding for their beliefs when they may be the polar opposite to mine and I believe them to be damaging and harmful? How do I make sense of the fact that we both say our ideas come from our best efforts to be true to what it means to follow Jesus Christ?
I will be going back to the same church in September, this time to speak about diversity within the Christian community. I will have lots to think about before then.