Sheryl Main, you have misunderstood my import of Christian tolerance. I did not imply that Christians tolerate or should tolerate child abuse, murder and everything else you mentioned, except "false" religions.
In the Bible, I read of turning the other cheek. Under the definition of charity (the pure love of Christ) in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, I find "endureth all things," "suffereth long." Charity can be defined as leniency in judging others. When I think of Christianity, I think of Jesus; he who welcomed sinners and publicans to his table and once stopped villagers from stoning an adulteress, instead of hostilely condemning anyone who believed differently than him. I read of only one instance in which he was not tolerant; when he upset the temple of Jerusalem and cast out the money-changers, sellers and buyers.
I am not saying that Christians should not defend themselves against offense. Some prefer to turn their cheeks despite the smite. For example, the Quakers never retaliated against those Native Americans who attacked and robbed them. There are limits to how far tolerance can be extended, such as the crimes you listed and the desecration the merchants and people committed against Jerusalem's temple.
I thought tolerance a defining virtue of Christianity, but now I stand corrected. Christians (or, at least, those which you and Mr. Reed represent) are clearly not tolerant, therefore intolerant. The American Heritage Student Dictionary defines intolerant as: 1. Unwilling to tolerate different opinions or beliefs, or persons of other races, religions, or backgrounds; prejudiced. 2. Unable or unwilling to endure or tolerate. Tolerance is defined as: 1. The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others. 2. The capacity to endure hardship or pain. 3. The amount that something is allowed to vary from the value intended. 4. The ability of an organism to resist the effects of a poison or drug.
However, I continue to argue for tolerance between the world's religions.
Mark Reed wrote that America was founded on Christian principles. Actually, this country seems to be partly founded on religious tolerance. Is it not written in the First Amendment of the Constitution "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"? Does Democracy not allow the practice of diverse religions, all of which are welcome in America? Among the first Europeans to inhabit America were the Pilgrims and Quakers, who departed Europe because they were persecuted for their beliefs. Muslims, Buddhists and many other people immigrate here for the same reason today.
You agree with Mr. Reed that the wolves are in the sheep pen. You agree, then, that our nation is divided by religious diversity? What do you suggest we do to close the cleft? Convert everyone to Christianity? It is of my opinion that that is an impossibility. Surely many will convert, as they have, but many will steadfastly refuse, just as you would refuse to become anything else but a Christian. The closest we will ever come to peace between the religions is by exercising tolerance.
What I mean by religious tolerance is respecting other people's human right to believe differently from you, even though you believe you are absolutely right and they are wrong. It is an act of courtesy toward our fellow human beings and humility on our belief.
Yes, we all have free will. We have the choice of believing in what we want to. In the United States of America we have freedom of speech. I do not mind that you or anyone else disagrees with me. I don't expect anyone to agree with me at all. I am willing to consider everyone's opinion, opposing or not. I am just offering mine.
Bethany Swenson, Kasilof
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