respecting diversity

in the emu today (memorial union, u of o), i stopped at a petition table to see what it was they were collecting support for. an older man with long hair explained to me that they were petitioning for the reversal of a recent addition to the law - possible military time for students who receive a drug conviction while on financial aid.

"it used to be that you just had to give the money back," he explained. "now they can make you go into the military."

i listened with unfeigned interest. i don't always love to hear people's opinions, but i'm trying hard to respect them.

having said that, i actually am really fascinated by the issues surrounding marijuana use. i enjoy hearing people's opinions about them..

he encouraged me to sign.

i turned him down. i said that i think marijuana abuse isn't a good thing, and that if students on financial aid are participating in it, then they probably deserve some military time.

ok. let's think about it for a minute: financial aid comes from taxes. taxes come from people with jobs.

if people are caught using others' money, which is designated for their education, for drugs then i believe that they should give something back to the people they were, in essence, stealing from. serving in the military is a good way to give back...

well that's my opinion. when i told the man, i was surprised when he replied:
"people who think that need to be cut off."
then he actually go up from his table, turned his back and started to walk off.

he didn't respect my opinion at all. i obviously showed interest in what he had to say, but he didn't try at all to see where i was coming from... how could that be? i thought the diversity crowd would respect everyone's opinions (since everyone has had unique experiences in their lives).

i realized that the difference between me and that older man goes down to the roots, the core values so to speak. we have a fundamental difference:

his core value is tolerance. the message of tolerance is: "respect everyone's opinions and actions so that we can have diversity of thought, idea and relationship."

this man perceived that my ideas conflicted with his. he sensed that both our realities can't exist side by side. in his perception, my ideas were threatening diversity.

the way i thought was dangerous to him because the basis of his worldview is his belief. if i can so easily believe the opposite, and our ideas can't both be correct, then his perception is that i can't be tolerated.

people who have a core value of tolerance can't tolerate someone whose beliefs are directly opposed to them because, in their minds, someone like that threatens tolerance. in practice, tolerance kind of doubles back on itself.

my core value is love. love's message is, among other things, patience, kindness, avoiding envy pride and rudeness, and refusing to seek its own. love hopes all things and endures all things.

i can respect his opinion (even if i had been sure it was wrong) because i respect him as a person. and i can love and respect him a person because he's made in god's image. that's god's love working in me: )
i believe that the truth isn't held up by something so flimsy as a person's belief, but that there is an absolute truth. absolute truth is reality as it is perceived by (and revealed to us by) god...

so i'm not worried about being wrong. i would be just fine if that guy is right or if i'm right, or if we're both wrong. i know that no matter what god is right, and i'm actively trusting him to reveal the truth to me as i need it.

the divergence between our core values made a world of difference. if your core value is tolerance, then many of your relationships with people who disagree with you will become strained or nonexistent. ironically, you won't be able to tolerate them.

but if you make love a core value, and love people first, a healthy tolerance becomes part of that love. the apostle paul said, "love... hopes all things, endures all things."


  1. dude, i totally agree! ..except i may not have been quite so curtious.