Tag Archives: Tolerance

Irish Pride

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Dublin gay pride 2013 (Photo: Giuseppe Milo from Dublin, Ireland)

Ireland is not the Vatican, and one referendum in a largely Catholic country doesn’t do a thing to change church doctrine. It is all the more disappointing then, when the immediate reaction out of Rome is to decry the decision of the Irish people to allow gay marriage as a “defeat for humanity.” The opposite is true.

In a country where well over 80% of the population are Catholic, the decision to allow gay marriage is supported by more than 60% of voters. Instead of chastising this decision as a defeat, the Vatican should declare victory that civil minded, God loving people can show such courage and respect to the family-minded GLBT community. The Irish should be proud of themselves.

Pope Francis, too, should be pleased to see fulfillment of his plea for tolerance and acceptance:

“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”
– Pope Francis

There is no better will than committing your life to the love and care of a spouse and creating a family bond. By withholding judgement and urging respect for gay people, Pope Francis is also sending out a message of inclusiveness.

At a time when the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated “nones” are growing faster than any other religious grouping, it is important for all faiths of tolerance and respect to reach out to new communities who broadly share their values and beliefs. More importantly, in the context of the Irish referendum, it is essential for the Vatican to respect the separation of church and state and recognize that the institution of marriage is no longer only a matter of spiritual identity, but a legal institution that has consequences for couples and families committed to caring for one another.

As the Vatican prepares to discuss family issues at the Synod of Bishops in October later this year, let us pray for a spirit of tolerance, inclusiveness and respect. That would be a true victory over the hateful and parochial attitudes of vengeance and dogmatism that only leads people to reject spiritual identity altogether.

Honor your father AND your mother.

Twitter Prayers for the Pope

Each Spring Fathers’ Day and Mothers’ Day come and go with tradition and ritual, but little thought toward their deeper meaning. Reading the many personal tributes on twitter and Facebook this fathers’ day weekend reminds me of the virtues of my own father and of the Proverb (15:20):

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.

To all religions, from Christianity to Islam, fathers and mothers alike are entrusted to be good guardians and shepherds of their flock and children are taught to respect the teachings of their parents. Even those who feel disappointed or misled by their parents can honor their father and mother by giving thanks to the life they were given. Considering the good virtues passed on by the family as a whole, including by grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, wives and partners, we can be thankful that all of these people have shaped who we are.

A few hours ago Pope Francis tweeted this prayer: “May the Lord bless the family and strengthen it in this moment of crisis.” While there are those who will narrowly interpret this as an appeal to uphold “traditional family values” with regard to marriage, sexuality and the respective roles of men and women, it is important to remember that these roles have been the subjects of controversy and evolving interpretations throughout time and across religions. I prefer a more universal understanding of the Pope’s blessings today.

The crisis of which the Pope speaks is manifold and the evildoers are for the most part *men* who show nothing but disregard for their roles and responsibilities as good shepherds within the family, let alone as leaders within their community. By appealing to the strengthening of the family, the Pope is not only suggesting the new roles we must play in honoring our God given responsibilities as parents and children, he is importantly reminding us that we can only solve our crises TOGETHER as a family unit and in a broader sense in the community as a whole, not by the tired habit of divide and conquer.

It is time for us to open our minds to this broader context. Just as the Enlightenment changed the way Western predominantly Judeo-Christian societies have thought about the world, so too has Islam instructed that “seeking knowledge is mandatory for every believer.” Everything that we have learned over the years is that all men and women are created equal (although women are clearly a more level-headed and moderating force in society), that peace comes about through dialogue and understanding, not war, and that the sustainability of our entire world depends upon a mutual commitment and respect to the environment and resources which we all share on God’s green earth.

Given the efforts to which Pope Francis has encouraged a more forward looking, tolerant and inclusive world view, I firmly believe that this is the wise and joyful approach to honor the legacy of my father.

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

– Joshua 24:15

 

Thou shalt not judge.

Judge Not

Where would we be if the media were not to judge the words and actions of others. I enjoy a healthy public debate, especially when religion is involved. Indeed, the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution puts the freedom of religion and freedom of speech on equal footing. To profess one’s religious beliefs, however, as a right to do harm and injustice to others, is a wrongdoing both to the Bible and the Bill of Rights.

It is human nature to judge and to condemn wrongful actions, which does require a moral compass. I believe that God gave us free will and the intelligence to discern between right and wrong, with religious teachings as a guide. That should not be an excuse to blindly follow those who are too quick to render judgement. The responsibility for interpretation lies with each of us. Inevitably, we will disagree from time to time – but hopefully without being disagreeable.

I stepped into the fray today over a cancelled reality show when – once again – an ill-informed politician raised the evil specter of facist nazism when the “liberal” A&E network cancelled a television show because of the “anti-gay” views of it’s makers. It is an obscene injustice to compare this flap over a home-flipping show to Nazi atrocities. It is all the more onerous when the accusations come from the elected representative, especially one from the Republican Party, which is quick to otherwise defend the rights of “corporate citizens.”

More than the content of this so-called “scandal,” though, I am struck by the lack of reservation and historical perspective that so many politicians seem to have these days. Easter this year has prompted me to revisit the foundations of the New Testament. As I read Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, I am impressed by the humility and sense of justice with which Jesus makes his case to the people. Pope Francis rekindles this authoritative spirit in both word and deed.

We should not fall prey to social injustices even if they are made in the name of religious tolerance. Instead, we should use our God given good judgement to ask ourselves whether scandal mongers are simply after personal or professional gain and reject them as such. In the spirit of Pope Francis we should focus on individual responsibility and the ties that bind us beyond our personal and political differences.

Tweet @pontifex 01. May 2014

Brotherly Love

You go girl! With all due respect to those who disagree with Pope Francis’ recent comments on gays, abortion and other liberal social issues, you should remember that God commands brotherly love:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

1 John 4:7

The Pope is right to criticize that the Church Is too ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control . Make no doubt about it. The Pope is still far from blessing gay marriage or supporting other liberal social issues. But what he is saying is good news to progressives who feel that you can be believe in God without agreeing with every church policy. In short you can disagree without being disagreeable. Pretty good advice, huh?

Pope Francis isn’t just side stepping the tough issues, either. By focusing his attention on mercy and humility, he appeals on everyone to reject narrow-mindedness in favor of forgiveness. To ostracize anyone who pursues a loving and virtuous existence  – regardless of personal circumstance or sexual preference – is a rather un-christian-like thing to do.

Whether you are gay person trying to just live a “normal life” or a woman facing a difficult decision regarding pregnancy and family planning, there are plenty of difficult challenges to overcome even without the constant judging of others. Let’s leave judgement up to a “higher authority”. Mormon dance champion Benji Schwimmer makes a pretty good case that you can be both gay and a good Christian, if the Church would just let it be. I’m not mormon, but I like his attitude.

Rather than battling against our neighbor, believers of all faiths should embrace what is good in modern society and find ways to promote diversity and inclusion within our churches and public institutions.

Let’s move on, brother.