1. Why did MHCC feel the need create a perspective on religious intolerance?
Toxic talk is occurring anonymously on the internet, in blogs, on talk radio, and is front and center on opinionated TV shows. This has emboldened some to voice hatred and contempt for those they deem different. Sadly, such vitriolic dialog has also pervaded public discourse about spirituality and religion and is often used to mask prejudice and contempt. Our hope, as a church, is to help expose such efforts and counter their harmful effects.
2. How does MHCC define religious intolerance?
We define religious intolerance as a stubborn, entrenched religious position that defies reasoned argument or contradictory evidence. We respect the rights of individuals and institutions to take different positions on important issues, but we reject an attitude that communicates, “I’m right, anyone who disagrees with me is wrong, and I’m so certain of those facts that I will not consider the beliefs or perspectives of others.” Our Creator gave us the ability to think and reason, and those gifts are best used by considering different viewpoints, even those, and perhaps especially those, that challenge our core beliefs.
3. Why care about religious intolerance now?
Why not now? News articles report increasing religious intolerance and its dangerous and harmful consequences. When individuals are ridiculed, demeaned, shunned, abused or bullied, the results are hearts broken, spirits crushed, and lives ruined. When religion is used to justify such actions, it perverts the true message that our loving God calls us to share.
4. How do you justify MHCC’s stance on religious intolerance with what many believe the Bible has to say regarding homosexuality?
The Bible was written by those who were influenced, for good or bad, by their culture, history, and traditions. The divergence of opinion begins with whether these people were guided by God to write the exact words that appear in the Bible, whether these words were actually recorded and accurately translated, and whether they are subject to interpretation or must be taken literally in all instances. Our view as a church is that the Bible is the greatest spiritual work ever written, and the writers were inspired by God to describe the genuine experiences of spiritual men and women. While we believe the Bible should be taken seriously, we do not believe it should be taken literally. We believe the ultimate message revealed in the Bible is that we are created by a God who loves, cares, and wants what is best for all. Our choice is to voice this central message to others.
5. Are you targeting any specific group, denomination or congregation as exhibiting religious intolerance?
No. Painting with a broad brush is in itself a form of intolerance. We choose to challenge the attitude of intolerance, wherever we find it, not by any specific group, church or denomination.
6. What would you say to other denominations to convince them to join your efforts?
We are challenging individuals to consider how we can be more tolerant of each other’s attitudes and beliefs. As individual attitudes begin to change, our hope and prayer is that the groups we are a part of may begin to change. We encourage both clergy and laity to request periodic review of each faith community’s positions that lead to judgment and exclusion.
7. What does MHCC hope to accomplish by publishing a statement on religious intolerance?
In developing the Perspective on Religious Intolerance, we included the statement by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” What matters to us as a church is God’s love for all humanity. Our concern is that religion is being used as a tool by some to exclude others as not worthy of that love. The voice of religious intolerance has been too loud for too long, causing many to think that it is God’s message to humanity. We cannot silently let that extreme view dominate religious thought.
8. What does MHCC mean by being a “progressive faith community”?
Too much of religion is justified by “tradition,” which sometimes means simply that we do what we have always done without considering why we do it. Without progressive thinking and movements, our nation might still be sanctioning discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity or religious beliefs. As a progressive faith community, we challenge what seems unjust while maintaining core religious beliefs.
9. What are some examples of MHCC being a faith community that is inclusive, does justice and honors diversity?
Examples of MHCC’s commitment to inclusivity, justice and diversity include supporting Family Gateway, which provides food, clothing and shelter to homeless families; Austin Street Center, which feeds and houses the homeless; and North Dallas Shared Ministries, which provides food and other assistance to the indigent. In addition, we are focused on being open and affirming to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and poly (LGBTQP) community. We are called to this issue because we believe that God desires to be in relationship with all people, but religion has frequently been used to exclude members of this community and make them think they are reviled by God. The church’s treatment of the GLBT community is at a defining point in modern religious culture. Our passion for this issue is strong, and we will remain vigilant in communicating God’s unconditional love for all.