Americans have a tradition of being intolerant of religions other than our own. Persecuted minorities who came to America for freedom of worship soon kicked out dissenters like Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams. Puritans even justified the death penalty for Quakers. In the 19th century, Catholics and Mormons were victims of prejudice and persecution as were Jews in the first half of the 20th century. Being aware of our history makes the current hysteria against Muslims understandable if not justifiable.
Yesterday my devout Mormon daughter and her family came for dinner along with some non-Mormon family members. My five-year-old grandson, Plato, watched me prepare a pitcher of iced tea and asked if it was garlic herbal tea which his mother gives him when he’s sick. I said no and he asked what kind of tea it was. “Green tea.” “Is that against the Word of Wisdom?” “Yes it is.” “Are you going to have some?” And here I hesitated. I don’t care to undermine the teachings of his parents. And I do want them to continue coming to see us. Since I don’t feel comfortable lying to a child, I answered that I would probably choose to drink some iced tea. “I won’t,” he said. “That’s good. You should not choose to drink tea,” I agreed. Fortunately, Plato was distracted by an opened bag of potato chips at that point. He will have to sort out later the fact that some adults he loves don’t follow the same teachings his parents give him.
When my grandchildren who are being raised in an evangelical religion get a bit older, I’m sure they also will find that Granny and Granddad don’t adhere to every religious principle their parents consider important. I hope that having family members with differing religious beliefs will benefit our grandchildren. I hope they will learn that good people are found in many religions and in no religions. And I hope they will realize that respecting other people’s beliefs in no way diminishes the validity of their own. If they can, they’ll be light years ahead of most Americans.