Welcome different religions as holidays approach

The 2017 Capitol Christmas Tree is lit on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. The Capitol Christmas Tree has been a tradition since 1964, and this year's tree was chosen from Kootenai National Forest in Montana. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Commentators on both the left and the right have praised this newspaper’s efforts to promote transparency in government — and with good reason. To paraphrase Kentuckian and former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, sunlight is the best disinfectant. With public scrutiny, policies, procedures and ideas grow stronger.

We find laughable the notion that public business should remain cloaked in secrecy for the public’s own good — whether it’s the drafting of public pension reform legislation or the selection of Frankfort’s Capital Plaza developer. Yet, when it comes to religion, some who would praise us for this stance may fall prey to a fallacy similar to the idea that darkness is a better disinfectant than light.

In our predominantly Protestant community, the fear of exposure to denominations or religions different from our own is real — if rarely articulated in mixed company. That fear is both misguided and troubling.

It is misguided because a person’s beliefs — or non-beliefs as the case may be — mature only in the crucible of exposure to differing viewpoints. (You don’t truly know what you believe until a debate has forced you to check your premises.)

It is troubling because in our relatively homogeneous community, this ignorance of others’ beliefs can potentially lead us to dehumanize our fellow man whether we realize it or not.

This holiday season, don’t just pay lip service to the importance of understanding other denominations or religions; live it. Talk with a Catholic about his or her church’s understanding of the Immaculate Conception and how that shapes Catholic views on the Virgin Mary. Brush off Maccabees and remember why it is that Jews celebrate Hanukkah. You might even be tempted to light a candle or spin a dreidel yourself.

Embrace it. Your own faith will only benefit from the experience.

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