When I write my blog posts, I frequently feel that I am “Preaching to the Choir” concerning issues that I am passionate about. My co-workers, friends and family (ie the people who read my blog) often share many of the same views that I do. So why do I write if I am not changing anyone’s opinions? Because more of us need to preach to our choirs about tolerance, respect and working together for the benefit of the whole nation, not an individual person.
Donald Trump has perfected the art of speaking to his choir. Initially, most of us thought of him as an outsider that would not progress very far in the presidential election as his rhetoric was so hateful and based on individual freedoms and not what was best for communities or America. His choir started as a fringe group of the population, but as more people listened to the preacher and reflected on world events, they became part of the choir and sang out to others. The more his comments stray from the factual to the incredulous, the more press coverage he garners. His choir grows even more.
Where is the preacher on the other side? Who is preaching the message of tolerance, respect and improved interfaith dialogue? Where is that choir and why is it not growing larger? We as a nation were founded on the idea of Religious Pluralism – the ability of multiple religions to co-exist in one country. This principle is unique thruout the world and has made us the world leader that we are. This is the very reason that refugees want to come to our country – so that they can freely practice their religion without fear of persecution for their faith beliefs.
Those of us who believe in building bridges for cooperation with other faiths need to become the preachers by demonstrating thru our actions and words how interfaith dialogue can deepen our own faith while overcoming fear and hate mongering by others. In the past, Catholics, Japanese, Jews and Gays have been vilified by our nation. Now we have moved on to Muslims. It is fear of someone different from us that often drives our perceptions. However, religions share many more similarities than differences. It is the extreme, fringe element of each religion that should make us fearful. Islam has ISIS, Christians have cults. Neither group represents what the majority believe and practice.
What can you do to become a preacher and make the choir of tolerance larger? Visit a mosque or have a conversation with a Muslim neighbor or co-worker. Share an ethnic meal or visit an ethnic grocery store. And probably the most powerful experience – participate in an interfaith service project where outsiders can see people of different faiths working together for others. Finally, try to make the tolerance choir larger by speaking out against those who spew hatred and inaccuracies. Repeat stanzas of the same verse over and over. Leaders in our history have successfully done this to shout down the rhetoric of McCarthy, close down the Japanese internment camps and advance the agenda of gay marriage. When we look back in 10 years, I hope that this will be one more battle of tolerance that we will have successfully fought.