Religious Tolerance: Legal, Social, and Intellectual

September 19, 2012 — Leave a comment
Hillary Clinton at Press Conference regarding US Embassy Attack

Hillary Clinton: We Cannot Resort to Violence

The Christian does not believe that there is any other way to God except through Jesus Christ. This is not tradition or “religion”; this is what Jesus said.  We also live in America which was founded on the principles of religious freedom for all.

How then are we to think of other religions?

The phrase that immediately springs to most people’s minds is “religious tolerance”. We are all so busy in our instant world, however, we don’t always stop to define what we mean by it.

It may help if we distinguish between three kinds of religious tolerance.

Legal Tolerance

The first may be called legal tolerance, which ensures that every minority’s religious and political rights (usually summarized as the freedom to “profess, practice and propagate”) are adequately protected in law.

Legal tolerance  in America stems in part from  Thomas Jefferson coining the concept of “separation of church and state”. Ironically, the Bill of Rights arises from Jefferson’s own experience as Governor of Virginia when Baptists were being imprisoned by the “refined” Virginia ruling class for their messy and vocal baptisms along the banks of the rivers. Jefferson believed that all people had the right to worship as they chose.

Social Tolerance

Another kind is social tolerance, which encourages respect for all persons, whatever views they may hold, and seeks to understand and appreciate their position. This too is a virtue which Christians need to cultivate; it arises naturally from our recognition that all human beings are God’s creation and bear his image, and that we are all meant to live in amity.

Often we Christians are so busy criticizing other people’s religious beliefs in the social and political squares,  that we seem to forget our own walk with God; and that Jesus had two commandments: love God and love others.

Intellectual Tolerance

But what about intellectual tolerance? To cultivate a mind so broad that it can tolerate every opinion, without ever detecting anything in it to reject it, is not a virtue. It can degenerate into an unprincipled confusion of truth with error and goodness with evil. Christians who believe that truth and goodness have been released in Christ, cannot possibly come to terms with intellectual  tolerance of other religions. That said, we must take on the mind of Christ who loved all people, but hated many of their actions. We must love all people. That still means that, as Christians, we can fully support the social and legal tolerances.

We Cannot Resort to Violence

With all that said, we come to the concept of violence.  Violence invades human dignity and the preciousness of every life.

I was extremely impressed last week with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton‘s response relating to the violence to the US embassy last week in Libya where four Americans were killed.

Ms. Clinton said,” We have the greatest respect for people of faith. When all of us who are people of faith, and I am one, feel the pain of insults, of misunderstanding, of denigration of what we cherish, we must expect ourselves and others not to resort to violence. You cannot respond to offensive speech with violence without begetting more violence.”

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