Selective Tolerance

(Photo Credit: Georgetown University)

(Photo Credit: Georgetown University)

Earlier today I joined representatives and religious leaders from a wide range of faith traditions for the Faith over Fear walk. This pilgrimage of hope began at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, paused at the Washington National Cathedral and continued on to the Islamic Center. The messages along the way included a call to speak up in defense of those who face so much violence today. The effort this afternoon reflected something of the message of an event earlier this week at Georgetown University.

On Wednesday, December 16 at Georgetown University there was an interreligious gathering involving members of a wide range of religious traditions who came to stand together in order to demonstrate the importance of faith and solidarity. The group of religious leaders and representatives from various faith traditions was joined by Vice President Joseph Biden who made a strong plea for tolerance based on the respect we should all have for one another. In my remarks I spoke about our need also to speak up when we recognize violence as we see it today directed towards others under the guise of religion.

But tolerance if it is to be authentic and true cannot be selective. Unfortunately what we see too often in our country today under the guise of political correctness is selective intolerance.

After the recent shootings, violence and death that have occurred in our country there has been an effort to rally in defense of Muslims, their religious freedom and their holy book, the Koran. Again, we should all support this call for tolerance.

But what causes some of the call for tolerance to lose its credibility is when it comes from those who are only too comfortable being selectively tolerant.

We have recognized in our country in recent years a strong lack of tolerance for Christians, Catholics in particular and the Catholic Church. This is evident when it comes to our faith, our religious freedom and Bible based teaching.

We hear of college campuses where authorities seek to ban Christmas on the grounds that recognizing Jesus’ birth would be divisive. This claim seems particularly out of place in a land where we Americans have never found the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day divisive.

The Catholic Church’s appeal to the Scriptures to explain the definition of marriage as a commitment between a man and a woman is regularly decried by some in our country even at the highest political levels as discrimination, not to say bigotry.

Recently a long article appeared in the Washington Post that spoke of selective silence when it comes to some issues and the protection of some faith communities. That article reminded me of the reflection I gave at the Catholic University of America over a year ago on that same point. Then I questioned, in the face of the ISIS persecution of whole communities and villages of Christians and other minorities and the televised execution of Christians, and asked where are all of the voices that so regularly decry intolerance and violence, where are newspaper editorials and the talk show chatter and the government denunciations. I questioned then as some are questioning now “why the silence?”

This holy season should be a time for all of us to review in our hearts how selective is our tolerance? We should also, as citizens of this great nation, question why our nation is so selective when it comes to religious persecution and religious freedom.