A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co.Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Religious arrogance all too common today By Bob Lott, Editor, Waco Tribune-Herald I.had watched the metal church building go up several months ago on one side of town. Since then I must have pedaled past it 40 or 50 times. I had noticed as the congregation rapidly grew to the point where cars sometimes overflowed a small parking lot. Sunday evening I rode by again. Through the glass front door I caught a glimpse of the preacher in the pulpit. I was not meaning to be nosy, but from a bicycle seat a person tends to allow the eyes to roam. I had gone maybe 50 yards beyond the church when, from behind, I heard someone shouting: “Hey; man, you need to be in here!” It didn’t instantly pierce my consciousness that the shouter could have been addressing me. Clap! Still pedaling, I faced backwards for a look. There stood a neatly dressed young man in the highway access road, clapping his hands to catch my attention. Clap! “Hey, fellow, I’m talking to you. You need to be in here. Come on, now.” I didn’t know what to say. I kept pedaling. But I wondered. Had the preacher seen me go by and sent the young man into the access road to fetch me? Or had the young man taken it upon himself to rescue this poor sinner? Perhaps I shouldn’t have allowed myself to be offended. Maybe I should have appreciated his invitation. But the more I thought of the young man as I grunted up a long hill toward home, the madder I got. His actions symbolized what I see as a growing attitude of personal arrogance with regard to religion. Too many seem to think they possess a patent on the exact truth and that no one else does. How dare the young man, or his preacher, show such uncivil regard for a stranger in the name of religion? How could either of them have known anything about this stranger’s religion so as to assume it needed attending to? How could they know whether or not I had been in church that morning, or whether or not I long ago had committed to a particular domination whose set of truths might, in the end, equal their set of truths? Among all the comings and goings in a community on a Sunday evening, this incident is hardly worth mentioning. It should be allowed to pass, to go unnoticed as a twig in a river of human interchange. But what it represents is increasingly bothersome. Religious arrogance is as old as the hills but gaining too much acceptance here in 1985. Each year, it seems, one encounters more of a mind-set that says: “I know God and you don’t.” It can be found on the tube, on bumper stickers and in personal contacts. It can border on hatred or religious bigotry, though its adherents would claim love. Worst of all, it attacks religious diversity. Through the airwaves, Jimmy Swaggart lashes major . denominations as performing, I gather, the work of the devil. Swaggart himself would be of no great consequence, for such arrogance from the pulpit is nothing new. But to see the thousands in his studio audience lustily applaud when Swaggart berates “smarmy” Methodist preachers suggests a frightening mood of intolerance. At Baylor University, a few students egged on by offcampus zealots surreptitiously tape the lectures of religion professors suspected of being “too liberal.” For what have they gathered their evidence some great trial to determine good men’s spiritual guilt or innocence? That these diverse citizens intolerant college students, Jimmy Swaggart, a young man in the road, kindred thousands are free to practice their religious arrogance is an abiding strength of democracy. But it doesn’t make them right. The young man saw me on a bicycle and not in church on a Sunday evening. But \(if it truly was his business his church building, was any more tending to his spiritual life than I was to mine? How did he know that Sunday and not, perhaps, Saturday, is the usual day of worship for my faith? With freedom of religion so important to the Founding Fathers that it precedes free speech in the Bill of Rights ought to come respect for one another’s spiritual values. Too often it doesn’t. Nothing can be done, except to try to tolerate religious arrogance while knowing it for the meanness it really is. Copyright 1985 Waco Tribune-Herald. Reprinted from the Oct. 26, 1985, edition with permission. American Income Life Insurance Company EXECUTIVE OFFICES: P.O. BOX 208, WACO, TEXAS 78703, 817-772-3050 BERNARD RAPOPORT Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer 14 DECEMBER 6, 1985
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