Prejudice Will Always Be With Us
Reflecting the results of other surveys, Lifeway Research recently said that fewer and fewer Americans believe that homosexual behavior is a sin.
Perhaps that finding is only a surprise to some, but it was the comments of Lifeway Research Vice President Ed Stetzer that caught my eye.
In his blog, Stetzer asks:
"Some are wondering if those who hold to traditional evangelical beliefs on homosexuality are no longer welcome in the public square. In a recent LifeWay Research study, 37 percent of American adults agreed that homosexuality is a sin.
"That number is declining (down from 44 percent, according to a 2011 survey), but it is still a substantial minority. Yet, such views (which were mainstream just a few decades ago) are indeed now a minority position - and viewed as unacceptable by many in society.
"This can be an important moment for America, the media and President Obama's administration to consider a simple question: Are people of faith no longer welcome as they continue to hold the beliefs they have held since their foundation?"
It sounds so rational, asking the question, which was primarily prompted by the announcement that Atlanta's Passion City Church pastor Louie Giglio, an outspoken activist against human trafficking and sex slavery, had withdrawn from Barack Obama's inauguration because of the outing of his 15-year-old anti-gay sermon by a gay rights website, Think Progress.
Stetzer's question is universal. In an era where many cling fast to moral absolutism, what is our obligation to be tolerant of views that are diametrically opposite of those we hold sacrosanct? Should we tolerate the expression of racial prejudice - which, according to most surveys, is not a minority view? Should we tolerate the expression of any views not deemed acceptable?
Is it not in the name of these moral absolutes that the worst violence in human history is perpetrated?
Seems to me we are seeing the social equivalent of Newton's Third Law, loosely translated that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It is not the holding of a belief or prejudice that requires tolerance from others; it is the act of imposing that belief on those who do not share it that creates the conflict.
The stronger stated that belief, the stronger the reaction against it.
That minister Giglio was compelled to withdraw from the inauguration because he holds anti-gay attitudes seems harsh only to those he does not demean by expressing those beliefs.
Why would Obama give such a visible pulpit to someone who is completely opposed to a central tenet in his belief structure? Would we be critical of the president for denying a place to an outspoken racist?
I see no conflict that President Obama wants to have his celebrants reflect his views. Being tolerant does not mean we have to amplify the views of those with whom we disagree.
Giglio's legal rights are not abrogated by his absence from the inauguration, and that should be our focus.
Our legal system is our only valid expression of tolerance; it gives us the freedom to express our beliefs, to exercise our rights, and to afford ourselves of due process when those rights are being violated. And it is the protections provided in our legal system and Constitution that should guide us away from the atrocities we have tolerated too often.
Giglio is certainly welcome in the public square. The Obama inauguration is not THE public square; it is his public square on that day this year, and it will be someone else's in four years.
Frank Daniels III, part owner of The Pilot and cousin of Pilot Publisher David Woronoff, is the community engagement editor of The Nashville Tennessean. Contact him at email@example.com.
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