Hatred and Intolerance: An Epidemic We Refuse to Cure?
Beliefnet Contributor Andrew Bowen discusses religious intolerance and what we can do about it.
When my family purchased our current home over a year ago, the property was overrun with weeds and untended shrubs. I spent months clearing the cancerous foliage until I finally had a yard I could manage. According to my grandmother, who lives next door, the yard I had wrestled into submission was not always so difficult.
By her recollection, the previous owners were an older, fastidious couple whose yard was the jewel of the neighborhood. A rather nasty divorce however, embittered the couple toward the property and thus the yard fell into years of neglect.
As I sit on the steps of my back porch this morning and look out on the coming day’s yard work. This is my perpetual chore, I muse, cultivating, harnessing, pushing back, nurturing, all the toil and labor of manifesting an ideal, a reality. And this is the struggle we see before us as a nation in the midst of religious violence, bigotry, and hatred.
In recent months, we’ve endured much as a land which prides itself on its freedoms and vibrant pluralistic expression. Mosques razed to the ground, gunmen opening fire on unsuspecting citizens, Sikhs and Muslims attacked in the midst of worship, and countless smaller yet equally tragic, private episodes unfolding every day. At present, it seems that despite our nation’s lauded diversity, we tolerate and accept one another less and less. The violence, the vitriol, the confrontations are on the rise. But why?
When I undertook Project Conversion, a year-long immersion experience into the practice, culture, and beliefs of 12 religious systems, I discovered for the first time just how small and interconnected the world is. The resulting philosophy I now call my own, the Path of Immersion, espouses this integration, a life of seeping into one another just as water soaks and brings life to the soil. What we see now however, in this landscape of shrinking personal and ideological space, is friction and competition. Instead of sharing ideas, concepts, and nourishing one another, our systems have broken free of their traditional borders and are now evolving into more competitive systems.
Indeed, the citizens of this world are now like dominoes in a crowded space. One gentle breeze or heavy step, and one tumble launches the collapse of the entire structure. Is this why we are currently witnessing such a proliferation of violence and hatred? Have we built ourselves as a society of claustrophobic, individualistic dominoes, waiting to tumble with the slightest provocation? Is our landscape too overgrown with ego, xenophobia, intolerance, hatred, and ideological exclusivity?