More than 50 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 say it’s NOT important to teach religious values to kids, according to a Pew Research Center study reported in the January/February 2015 issue of Children’s Ministry Magazine. Digging even deeper, the Pew Research study found that a divide between conservatives and liberals exists when it comes to teaching religion vs. tolerance. Not surprisingly, conservatives prioritize teaching faith over tolerance; liberals prioritize teaching tolerance over faith.
It’s too easy to demonize the conservatives or liberals–depending on which camp we’re from. What are they both getting at? And what can we learn about how people view Jesus and his “religion”? Are faith and tolerance mutually exclusive? It depends on who we’re looking at–Jesus or the religious elite.
Let’s look at Jesus!
Jesus teaches us to love. Jesus was the most loving person whoever walked the face of the Earth. He taught us that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love others as ourselves.
Jesus loved sinners. More than once, Jesus was criticized for hanging out with sinners–prostitutes, tax-gatherers, drunks. Jesus said that he came to save those who are sick–those who have sinned, which is all of us.
Jesus condemned religious arrogance. The times Jesus spoke most harshly and therefore intolerantly was when he condemned the religious elite for their hypocrisy and focus on the rules of law instead of on love and grace.
Jesus treats the judged with love and compassion. When the adulterous woman was caught in sin, Jesus challenged her accusers to stone her if they themselves were without sin. All walked away.
Perhaps if people could see this Jesus instead of those of us who follow him but tend to judge and condemn those whom he died for and is wooing to himself, we would all vote for teaching children a Christian faith that exudes love and tolerance.
Christian faith need not be mutually exclusive from tolerance–the willingness to accept others who are different from us.