For the forthcoming book Abraham's Children: Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Religious Conflict (edited by Kelly Clark), I contributed an eassy on respect. In my view the Christian faith urges equal and universal respect, and it was not hard to find support in Christian classical texts for that view, which is now generally accepted.

A surprisingly little known segment of a verse in 1 Peter, an epistle dealing more thoroughly than any other biblical text with Christian relations to non-Christians, contains an explicit command to respect all people. It says simply and straightforwardly: "Honor everyone" (2:17). I summarized the position in a post on my Facebook wall: "1 Peter says: 'Honor everyone.' 'Honor'—not merely 'don't demean' or 'tolerate,' but honor. And 'everyone'—not only 'those in our political camp' or 'with our moral persuasions,' but everyone."

"Everyone" includes even egregious wrongdoers. I posted the comment just after Jared Lee Loughner shot U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords at point-blank range, killed six people and wounded 14. The reaction of my Facebook friends was immediate. One of them wanted to know whether I really meant what I wrote. "Does this also mean honor the shooter?" "Yes, honor the shooter as well," I responded without flinching. "We should honor all folks whom God loves and for whom Christ died, and who, whatever else they are, are neighbors we are commanded to love as we love ourselves." The reach of God's love is the scope of our respect. As the first is universal, the second must be as well. Similarly, since God loves all equally, we should respect all equally.