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Jonathan Kraut: Tolerate different opinions

Posted: April 1, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 1, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Since my days on active duty, my career path has manifested in taking residence in 20 cities among five states.

Not since I was stationed in Georgia in the late 1970s (yes, I am that old) have I been confronted with a community challenged by such deep-rooted conservatism until moving to the Santa Clarita Valley 16 years ago.

This challenge is not one that I would expect from just a 30-minute drive from the high-tech, avant-guard, cosmopolitan, entertainment capital of the world known as Los Angeles.

Without a doubt, the Santa Clarita Valley is home to several deeply entrenched enclaves of faith-based and politically based conservatism.

Our conservative population has lead to local support of charter school movements, the election of conservative political representatives, and a power source from which conservative perspectives and organizations influence our local media, views, and political conversations.

We have creationists elected as school board officials.
Serving as SCV Interfaith Council president for the third consecutive year, I am reminded that it takes cooperation and contribution from every denomination and political perspective to function effectively as one community.

Some groups I might have thought would resist interfaith collaboration have surprised the council with a shared and active commitment to doing community work together instead of going it alone.

Yes, there are also a few groups whose beliefs make it difficult for them to engage with the greater interfaith community. These views remind me of the deep South in the 1970s when racial equality was forbidden and government having the goal of helping the needy was discouraged.

I would characterize the Santa Clarita version of conservatism not in a racial context, however, but one of voluntary isolation from the beliefs and views of those who are different.

Perhaps we could describe this self-imposed isolation as sustaining an “information bubble,” an invisible shield that denies facts if they conflict with their beliefs.

But don’t we all hate to hear of information that conflicts with what we believe to be true?

If America is founded on the principle of freedom to believe what one wishes, then of course there can be no condemnation of those who follow what they believe to be true, even when different from ourselves.

Regardless of one’s views, we should continue to hold out the hand of friendship and cooperation to all people and all groups so long as they adhere to the laws of the land.

The annual National Day of Prayer is Thursday, May 1. The Interfaith Council once again will hold a prayer circle in the east parking area adjacent to Santa Clarita City Hall. This brief gathering of faiths to me is one of the most powerful experiences of the year.

At this annual event we recognize and wish well to our elected officials, public servants, military, and first-responders. We welcome each participant to say a 30-second prayer or blessing.

The informal gathering this year will be held from 12:30 to 1 in the afternoon.

The theme of this year’s National Day of Prayer is “One Voice, United in Prayer.” I challenge each of you to join us.

The parking area is quite big.

The more varied our views and the more diverse our faiths, the more likely working together will benefit our community. Please bring your friends, your neighbors, and your views.

Respect for our differences is part of the charm American society has to offer. The opportunity to participate or decline is also part of what makes our society unique.

So if you want to stay home and growl at us from afar, feel free. And if you prefer to say something on the behalf of yourself or your faith and contribute to the experience of all attending, even better.

Jonathan Kraut serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV and is president of the SCV Interfaith Council. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or other organizations.



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