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‘What if?’: Imagining a world without intolerance

By Staff | May 17, 2019

When some friends gather, they chat and eat; others play games like bridge, or canasta, or Mah Jongg. Quite often, my friends and I will play, “What If?” while we sit and eat. We set a scenario, and then each person answers what they would do.

For example, you are going to be marooned alone on a desert island for the rest of your life. You do not need to think of basic survival items. What three things would you choose to have with you?

You can see how this works. Recently, the game turned darker, and more real. In light of the attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter and other attacks on religious communities in the United States and around the world, what would we choose?

The five of us each agreed we would choose to eradicate intolerance – racial, religious, sexual, gender and ethnic. And you didn’t have to choose something to eliminate in the world. You could choose something to foster — love, tolerance, kindness or gentleness.

In truth, this is not a game or wishful thinking. Each of us has the power to choose what to put into the world, or to take out of it, each day. Each of us can resolve to act so each individual we meet is affirmed as a being.

In most cases, the way a person lives has nothing to do with anyone else. People have the right to be who they are, and to live their lives as they choose, with one imperative – not to harm anyone else.

Each one of us has the right to worship as we choose. The way a person is called to worship and believe, no matter what faith tradition they choose. We do not have the right to harm others who worship in a different way than we worship. The existence of different religious beliefs should not in any way threaten us. This seems to be what occurred in Sri Lanka, California and in other places around the world — the existence of another body of worshippers either enraged or frightened others so much that they acted in violence.

And there are other life choices, which have nothing to do with us: married, partnered, single, divorced, polyamorous. These life choices do not need the consent of any other person outside of their relationship. Heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual — the permission of another is not required. People are who they are. Our opinion does not matter.

As we move through each day, may our words, thoughts and actions bring peace, love, affirmation and tolerance to our community, our nation and our world. This is the only way in which hate will not hold sway. Let light and love be our way in the world.

Shepherstown Ministerial Association member Rev. Gayle Bach-Watson is the pastor of Christ Reformed United Church of Christ in Shepherdstown. She is also a doctoral student at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.