What Do “Hate,” “Diversity” and “Intolerance” Mean?

This is old news, but instructive nonetheless, for its issues are astonishingly and disturbingly persistent. I ran across it just now on an inactive blog called “dotmoms.”

 

A friend of mine told me this true story. She teaches at an elite private school, and her kids attend it as students. One day she and all the other parents received an unsigned letter in the mail. The letter “outted” two longtime faculty members; their names were not omitted. The anonymous parent wrote that these two teachers should be removed from their posts because they were setting a bad example for the kids.

Here’s how the principal handled the situation. First, she submitted the letter to the FBI Hate Crimes Division. Then, she wrote a letter to all the parents. She made several emphatic points:

  1. The two faculty members attacked in the unsigned letter are exceptional educators, among the best in the city. They are exactly the kind of role models our children need and deserve.
  2. Discrimination is illegal. Therefore, this letter has been turned over to the FBI.
  3. The author of the letter and any family who sympathizes with its contents should remove their children from the school immediately. We do not condone intolerance.
  4. Diversity strengthens our community. Love opens us to new people, new ideas, and new experiences.

After all the anti-gay legislation this fall, I feel heartened by this story. I hope that as my daughter Pearl grows older, we will be able to find and/or create such a nurturing community.[From DotMoms: Hate is not a family value]

There are many ways to approach homosexuality. We could take a positive moral approach based on knowledge from Scripture and natural law, which both show us that we’ve been designed for heterosexuality. Or we could come at it from the perspective of those who support gay rights, and ask how well they practice what they preach. Do they meet their own ethical standards? If not, then what shall we say about their imposing their standards upon the rest of us?

In this case only have one side of the story, so let’s take it with a grain of salt (Proverbs 18:17). But it’s what we have to work with, so I’ll make my observations based on what it says.

  • Unsigned, anonymous attack letters are cowardly. Based on the information we have here, a letter like this, broadcast to all parents in the school, seems really hateful.
  • We don’t know what kind of “bad example” these teachers were setting for the students. If they had never been “outted” before this letter was written, and if no one knew about their homosexuality, then they weren’t setting any sexual example at all. If that’s the case, then the letter was arguably hateful on that count, too. (If they were openly gay, then this blogger misrepresented the case.)
  • It’s possible the tone of the letter was genuinely vituperous, but I don’t think so. If it had been, this blogger mom would have said so. Her only objection seems to be that some anonymous parent wanted these teachers removed.
  • Granted that the tactic of sending a letter this way was hateful and wrong, and granted that its contents bothered some people: since when did that become a federal crime? Did I miss some legislation to that effect? Why should the FBI be involved? It sounds to me like the principal was using an illegitimate scare tactic of her own.
  • “Discrimination is illegal” is false. If it were generally, unqualifiedly against the law, then this dotmom blogger would be breaking the law herself. She’s discriminating against an anonymous letter-writing parent or two, and people who agree with their letter’s contents.
  • Discrimination is not even wrong except in certain circumstances. Of course some of those circumstances, especially those involving race, have had huge significance for decades upon decades, so they loom large in our minds. Still, to think that discrimination is always wrong is sloppy thinking.
  • Diversity and tolerance seem to be great virtues for this principal and this mom, but with a limited scope. They apply to various sexual practices, but not to diverse beliefs about sexual practices.
  • Hate is a great fault in their minds, but its meaning too has limited scope. Apparently it’s hateful to call for two teachers’ removal from the school, but it’s not hateful to drive out anyone who sympathizes with the idea.
  • Does diversity  strengthen a school community? Always? I can think of exceptions. Diversity must be (ahem) discriminating; otherwise it would welcome anyone and anything without distinction. My daughter’s school is terribly picky about things letting armed thugs in the door. Doesn’t that limit diversity?
  • Maybe it’s just my lack of imagination, but I’m having particular trouble figuring out how “diverse” it is to lock out anyone who won’t submit to sexual-orientation group-think.
  • If love indeed “opens us to new people, new ideas, and new experiences,” are all new people, ideas, and experiences helpful, healthy, and conducive to learning and character? I can think of some that wouldn’t be.
  • What if there were new people, ideas, and experiences that involved persons who disagreed with homosexual practice? Does love open us to them? If not, why not?
  • I can’t say this for sure, but I’d be willing to bet this dotmom blogger believes the letter-writer was terribly self-righteous. I’d be even more willing to bet she doesn’t recognize the same thing in herself.

I do not excuse the anonymous letter-writer. The approach he or she took, based on the information we have, was cowardly and wrong. But I have two closing questions for the dotmom blogger:

  • Are you not displaying hate, intolerance, and rejection of diversity yourself toward people whose opinions differ from yours?
  • Or is there some definition for these three terms by which you are innocent of fault?

For any reader here: what is there in the definition of tolerance, diversity, and hate that makes it hateful to disagree with homosexual practice and virtuous to exclude such “haters” from “nurturing communities;” but not hateful to disagree with people who disagree with homosexual practice, and virtuous to include only people who approve of it?

Christians and other social conservatives get accused of imposing our morals on others. If we do that self-righteously or hypocritically, that’s wrong. There is a better way than that. Meanwhile gay-rights advocates are trying their hardest to force their morality on us. Their self-righteousness in that is exceeded only the inherent self-contradictory impossibility of the values they claim to practice.

Comments 10
  1. Crude

    Just to throw my own two cents in here quickly before heading out the door: Concept is key, and language is everything.

    Re: Concept, I think a mistake made again and again by many Christians is to treat ‘gay person’ as a kind of unique race of human. Considering the Christian objection is on behavior, why allow this sort of game to take place? It’s part of the reason Christians get beaten up in the debate, because it allows them to be painted as objecting to a person’s mere existence.

    Re: language, I also think it’s a mistake to talk about “gay rights advocates”, because automatically puts a person at a disadvantage – any “rights advocate” automatically sounds as if they get the moral and intellectual high ground nowadays. If a member of the PETA was trying to make it, say… illegal for anyone to own a house cat, and wanted to impose stiff fines on any cat owner, would you call them a Kitten Rights Advocate? Maybe if you wanted to cripple your case before even being heard.

    I bring this up because it seems like you’re objecting to the suggestion that Christians are hateful and intolerant. I’d agree, of course. But getting rid of that objection will require a shift in language and approach, not because the language and approach is hateful, but because it communicates poorly.

  2. Tom Gilson

    Good points.

    I try to keep my language consistent concerning homosexual practice vs. homosexual orientation, but I can see where I could have done better in this blog post. Probably in past ones, too.

    “Gay rights advocate” does have a high-ground ring to it. In my experience, evidenced above among other places, many of them could just as accurately be called “selective tolerance advocates,” “diversity-hypocrites,” and “moral conservative-haters.”

    It sounds harsh. I won’t actually use that kind of terminology—not because it’s inaccurate, but because there has to be a better way to follow Christ in the way of loving our moral-issue opponents while yet firmly disagreeing with them. Do you have a good alternative?

    Language is key. Thanks for bringing that into the conversation.

  3. Crude

    Tom,

    , but I can see where I could have done better in this blog post.

    Don’t take what I say as calling you out or chastizing you for your language here. My concerns here are on the culture-wide problem, the language we see in newspapers, in TV shows, in articles. And I’m certainly not the last word on these kind of things – but the whole language aspect of this has bothered me for years.

    “Gay rights advocate” does have a high-ground ring to it. In my experience, evidenced above among other places, many of them could just as accurately be called “selective tolerance advocates,” “diversity-hypocrites,” and “moral conservative-haters.”

    Trying to find good, concise language to replace these words is part of the problem. But I’ll make a humble suggestion: “Christian rights opponents.” And call “gay rights opponents” “Christian rights advocates”.

    It’s fast, it’s simple – so much so that it could rightly be called lazy. It’s also imperfect. But I think it’s also vastly superior to the alternative it’s replacing, and manages to capture the essence of what’s being referred to.

    There are probably better alternatives, and that’s a conversation itself. Or a conference or book waiting to happen. What do you think of the suggestion, though?

  4. G. Rodrigues

    @Crude:

    Spot on correct. This is also a cultural war. Words have power and if the opponents on the other side of the barricade get to twist their value and their use, the moral battle will be half lost and humanity as a whole, even more crippled by sin and lies. Christians should stand firm, not in replicating these tactics, but in adamantly opposing them.

  5. Brian

    @ Crude – Thanks for a key basic point. In my estimation the “anti-Christian rights” camp have been dominating the language and culture battle. We can’t afford to be sloppy. I try not to refer to “gays” and “homosexuals” but only to the “practice of homosexuality,” to “people who struggle with same-sex attraction.”

  6. Brian

    re: Gilson’s piece, thanks for sharing this. It strikes me as a largely reasonable and defensible position. Because I think your argument for consistency is so strong and effective against the “anti-Christian rights” groups, I believe that we will eventually see a shift in talking points as they abandon that shaky fortress.

    “Ok” they will say, “We are no longer advocating moral and ethical tolerance, we are advocating for a demonstrably superior set of morals and ethics.”

    Already we see this amongst Christians who support the practice of homosexuality and also from others. These simply argue that homosexual relationships are an inherently good and loving thing within God’s order, rather than making inconsistent appeals to “diversity” and “tolerance.”

  7. SteveK

    It’s not about tolerance. It’s about approval conformance, by way of force.

    Florida Teacher Suspended for Anti-Gay Marriage Posts on Personal Facebook Page

    Demonstrating that it’s perfectly acceptable to be intolerant and hostile toward Christian rights advocates *. The school district is intolerant of Christian’s living as Christians in the privacy of their own home. Christian’s will now be frightened or intimidated walking into any of the districts facilities.

    [* thanks, Crude! 🙂 ]

  8. Tom Gilson

    Lauren Ritchie:

    The Mount Dora High School Teacher of the Year inadvertently started an international uproar after he remarked on Facebook that homosexuals make him want to vomit. Now, it seems that every guy nervous about his own sexuality has crawled from under a rock to defend Jerry Buell.
    They argue that being gay runs counter to biblical teachings. They claim it is disgusting. They complain that the First Amendment guarantees Buell freedom of speech.

    They miss the point. This is still America, and every bigot breathing gets to hate homosexuals as much as they want. That’s a given.

    Okay, Miss Bigot-Accuser. “Every guy nervous about his own sexuality has crawled from under a rock,” you say. Tell me again what you don’t like about bigotry? I don’t like it either. I don’t like it when you display it. Do you like it when you display it? Does the word hypocrisy mean anything to you?

  9. Crude

    Thanks for the positive feedback, everyone. This is a culture war indeed, and it’s the daily language where a lot of the real battles are. I think Tom is drawing attention to the right areas, and is asking the right questions.

    I think Brian is right about the ‘abandoning one line of argument for another’ move as well. It highlights that arguments often aren’t offered or adhered to out of a belief that they are right – they are means to an end, and will be abandoned if they fail to serve as those means.

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