TOLERANCE STARTS WITH KNOWLEDGE

Posted by & filed under Baha'i, Chief Red Jacket, Live and let live, religious tolerance, Robyn E. Lebron.

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Today’s Guest Post is by Robyn E. Lebron



“Verily I say unto you, except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  

A well known saying to many of us. But what does it mean?  When you go to a park or to an elementary school and watch the small children, who have yet to be colored by society or life experiences, you see them play and talk with each other with abandon.  They don’t ask “what religion are you,” or question each other about belief or color.  They are childlike in acceptance that as children of the Earth, we are all created equal.  I grew up with that concept. Having moved all over with my father, I experience life through a childlike tolerance that has shaped me today.
                                     
So we ask ourselves. “What is tolerance?”  Webster’s defines tolerance as “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.”  So, to be tolerant we don’t have to give up who we are. We don’t have to compromise our personal beliefs. We don’t even have to agree with everything.  It is purely the act of accepting that another person has the right to feel the way they do, just as we have that same right; as we desire for others to accept our feelings.
                                          
Throughout the history of most religious faiths, there were periods of terrible persecution from others who did not want to accept differences. Interestingly enough, the persecution only strengthened the faith and the resolve of those who believed. And when you read about the minute differences that caused the persecution, you have to wonder: was it all worth it?  Thankfully today there are many faith practices that have taken a “live and let live” attitude. 

One of the youngest religions today, the Bahá’í, has a very accepting explanation of the different faith practices; according to Bahá’u’lláh, all of the Manifestations of God (Mohammad, Jesus, Buddha, etc.) have the same metaphysical nature and the same spiritual stature. There is absolute equality among them. No one of them is superior to another. 

And one of the oldest religions on record, the Traditional African Religion, states, no one teaches a child about God“; God’s existence is so evident that even a child is able to know that without the help of another. When the basic religious issues are taken as self-evident truths, it is only natural that each person is allowed to work out his or her own general ideas about them, relying on the common heritage of the community.

But true tolerance is not just looking the other way. It is learning and having a working knowledge, and then accepting that information as an important part of someone else’s life. It may not be your cup of tea, but with some basic knowledge at least we can understand each other. You wouldn’t buy a car or a house without knowledge.  You don’t pick a university without knowledge. we don’t make any major decisions without information.  Then why are we so quick to shut out a human being without making the same effort?

I challenge you to study, and turn fear and intolerance to understanding and peace. Only then can the world be free. I will close with a quote from an American Indian Chief from the 1700s: 

Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agreed, as you can all read the Book?
   
“Brother, we do not understand these things. We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers and has been handed down to us, their children. We worship in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive, to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion.

“Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all, but He has made a great difference between His white and His red children. He has given us different complexions and different customs. To you He has given the arts. To these He has not opened our eyes. We know these things to be true. Since He has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that He has given us a different religion according to our understanding? The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for His children; we are satisfied. 

“Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own.”   —  Chief Red Jacket 1757-1830,
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Robyn Lebron was baptised in the Lutheran Church as an infant, but her individual connection with God didn’t happen until many years later. After experiencing many different churches and attending an off-campus four year seminary, her walk with God grew deeper and richer. She now lives in Waunakee, WI with her husband, Rev Robert Lebron, and her dogs and cats. Robyn is the author of Searching For Spiritual Unity . . . Can There Be Common Ground?

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