Tolerance and respect
Religion has certainly hit the headlines over the past weeks. There have been truly appalling examples of the worst kind of cruelty and inhuman behaviour carried out in the name of religion – actions which, obviously, have nothing whatsoever to do with what the “real” faith stands for and is about. The two Archbishops of this land (turbulent priests!?) have “poked their noses” into politics – but, of course, religion is absolutely about politics; it has to influence how we live in the real world or it is of no earthly use at all. There are saddening examples of religious communities, in this country and abroad, who live in fear of attacks and reprisals from adherents (supposedly) of other faiths.
One of the most remarkable events recently has surely been the march by 4 million people in Paris and other cities, as people expressed their firm belief in freedom of speech, liberty, and the right to be and do as one pleases without someone else interfering. I don’t know how many of the marchers were openly religious people, but the values they felt so strongly about were those espoused and taught by Christ; justice, freedom and righteousness for all people, regardless of their race, colour, gender, sexuality, ability, or wealth.
One of the signs of God’s Kingdom alive and well here on earth is the quality of Tolerance. It is possible to hold very firm views – religious, political, even sporting – and allow someone else to differ, to disagree, to dispute and to debate, without resorting to violence or an attempt to control. Mutual tolerance and respect is what we teach our little ones when we ask them to “share nicely”. It’s what is reinforced in our Primary Schools and Secondary Schools where there is open debate in PHSE and Citizenship. So where does it all go so wrong then?
Seeds of evil, unkindness, thoughtlessness, cruelty and despair are real, and take root all too easily. We gardeners in God’s Acre need to be fervent both in prayer and in action against such rank weeds. The song says Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Just so with tolerance and respect; it starts in our own attitudes, actions and words, right here in north Oxfordshire.