Marching against religious intolerance; Marching against me!

Here is what you might need to hear in your church today, but probably won’t: YOU might be the persecutor, rather than the persecuted.

Looking through my news feed this morning, my eye was drawn to a story from Brazil. This past weekend, over 100,000 people joined a march in Rio de Janeiro in protest at religious intolerance. So far, so good. Religious intolerance is a “bad thing” and it’s important to have a free society so that we can practice our beliefs without fear or intimidation.

But then I read further and realised that the protestors were protesting AGAINST Christians. Apparently, evangelical Christians in Brazil are seen as the cause of persecution of especially Afro-Brazilian religious groups.

You can read the story here.

This story disturbed me. Why did so many people feel the need to protest against my faith? You don’t have to deny your own faith, nor do you need to believe that all faiths are equal in order to realise that there is a problem when that many people say there is a problem. Is this the Christianity that Jesus would want to be associated with? A Christianity characterised by exclusion, demonisation, persecution and intolerance? I can’t believe that.

Tolerance of other people’s religions and faiths is something we need to learn how to do as Christians. Maybe the starting point for the right attitude in this regard is to ask whether God is more concerned that we are right (in what we think/believe) or that we are loving (in what we do). It’s not a choice between the two, of course. But which is the appropriate starting point for engagement with the world? What do Jesus’ actions tell us about his starting point for engagement?

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