Word came out this past week that Rodney King (remember him?) is marrying one of the jurors who helped him win a $4 million settlement in his police brutality case against the city of Los Angeles.
Beaten up by cops in 1991, King received the settlement in 1994. In between, during the riots that devastated the city, King famously asked, "Can't we all just get along?"
It's fortuitous that King has done something to put his name back on the news radar, because his rhetorical question needs to be asked now more than ever. Here's why:
* We've got a Muslim organization that, despite tremendous public outcry, is determined to build an Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York. They have every right to do so, but is it the right thing to do?
* We've got a church in Florida threatening to hold a 9-11 commemorative bonfire with copies of the Koran as fuel despite worldwide condemnation. They have every right to do so, but is it the right thing to do?
* We've got the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation getting ready to pay for some 50 billboards in Atlanta espousing anti-religion viewpoints. They have every right to do so, but is it the right thing to do?
And so on. Frankly, I'm puzzled; I know what I believe, and I think I've got a pretty good handle on what adherents of other faiths believe. Sure, my faith teaches that most of the rest of them will burn in hell, but it doesn't give me permission to light the fire.
Certainly I understand why fervent believers would want to express the superiority of their own beliefs. In fact, failing to do so isn't demonstrating tolerance; it's an admission that you don't really believe what you say you believe.
But for the life of me, I can't figure out why it isn't enough just to express your beliefs, and to even make an evangelical sales pitch if you want. Why does anyone have to take it even further, and trash-talk everyone else's views?
If your religion is the best - and if you don't think it is, why is it your religion in the first place? - shouldn't its superiority be self-evident? Does your sales pitch work only if you can tear down the other guy's faith?
My faith teaches, rather bluntly and emphatically, that you aren't going to enjoy a happy afterlife unless you accept Christ as your savior, yet lot of Christians are squeamish about saying that.
They need not be. In fact, it's hard to imagine a greater betrayal of Christian faith than to ignore Jesus' own words on the subject: No one comes to the Father but through me. That's unequivocal.
Now: Is it intolerant to express that belief? In some respects, of course it is. If you're a Christian, you picked a side. Feel free to root for it. You have no obligation, whatsoever, to cheer for the other team.
However: That doesn't mean it's a good idea to throw rocks at the people who picked a different side. Remember: They're also free to cheer for their team, and they have no obligation to cheer for yours.
They shouldn't throw rocks at your team, either. And if they do, that doesn't mean you're supposed to throw rocks back. You're supposed to let it go - you know, to "turn the other cheek."
I've had enough of people of various faiths and parties and social views being serially "offended." Unknot your panties and get over it already. But I've also had my fill of people who seem to go out of their way to poke a sharp stick in the eyes of those who believe differently from them, as if they can't feel good about their own beliefs without tearing everyone else's down.
Just cheer for your team, let the other guys cheer for theirs, and let everyone watch the game in peace.
Or in the words of another King, as in Martin Luther King Jr.: We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
Can't we all just get along?
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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