Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happiness and two-way tolerance

Articles, stories, etc., that in some way stand in juxtaposition with each other, tend to catch my eye.

So it was with the first story in the Toronto Star on February 19, about Catholic clergy world-wide making plans to 'rekindle the faith.' Here is a bit of what the article said:

..... New York Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan ....... gave the keynote address to cardinals Friday on how to re-evangelize cultures.......
Dolan, whose speech caused Vatican experts to suddenly include his name among the list of possible future popes, told his colleagues that priests could start by walking the streets looking happy.
“The missionary, the evangelist, must be a person of joy,” he said. “The new evangelization is accomplished with a smile, not a frown.”

I like that.

Boy, have we grown sour. Just look at the political landscape, both in our own country and in the U.S. The level of discourse would make a grade 11 debating class blush with embarrassment. Grown men and women are yelling at each other, calling each other names, accusing each other of being unpatriotic, as siding with criminals, as having a twisted faith, etc etc. In a debate, the idea is to duke it out over ideas. If what we are watching is any indicator, then the days of those 'idea' discussions are long gone. We have devolved back to being swamp-dwellers.

And so it was against that backdrop that I was sent a piece that someone wrote about Muslims in our country. I will not dignify it by quoting a single word of it, it was so spiteful and frothing-at-the-mouth angry. I will tell you that it featured a picture from a Muslim wedding of 24 couples. The tag-line by the author was so insulting and degrading, that if something like that were used against us regular white, law-abiding, damn good Christians who own this country, we would declare all out war, and the comment would go viral on the Internet. But not when it's us doing the trash-talking.

The past two Christmases I have come across writings by Jews and Muslims who tell us Christians NOT to drop the greeting 'Merry Christmas.' Here is a quote from my Blog at Christmas 2011:

One from a Jew who 'detests' the phrase Happy Holidays, and whose faith is strong enough "that it does not need to be affirmed by diminishing the traditions of others." One from a Muslim who notes he would dislike it very much if anyone said Happy Holidays to him instead of Eid Mubarak. He concludes, "I would like to wish all my Christian brothers and sisters a warm and very Merry Christmas."

So here is my point. Tolerance that runs in one direction - from Muslims and Jews to Christians - is, from the Christian perspective, a big fat nothing. Until the tolerance and respect runs in both directions, then we are blowing smoke. And we will walk around with smirks, frowns and heads full of suspicions. Sure there are risks, there are when you love anyone. But do we not trust the power of what we have? It's called the Good News, and needs no ramming down anyone's throat.

Let's start trusting it. Cardinal Dolan gets a repeat with the last word, slightly adapted for the whole Catholic Christian community: (We all) could start by walking the streets looking happy.