Last month, I was standing at the podium getting ready to give a lecture when I noticed a young woman had her laptop computer out. I was amused when I saw that the outside of her computer was adorned with a bumper sticker that said “TOLERANCE” in big white letters. I ignored her plea for tolerance as I demanded that she put her computer up during the lecture. I simply don’t “tolerate” students who pretend to take notes on their laptops while they are, in fact, surfing the net and posting on Facebook.
But I do seriously wonder whether she – or any other student promoting tolerance - really understands what the word means. It is unlikely that she does given that most of her professors do not understand what it means. Like catatonic schizophrenics, professors often mindlessly repeat words they don’t understand. And, arguably, “tolerance” and “diversity” are among the most repeated and least understood words in higher education today.
To illustrate my point, I am including (below) an email I recently received from a UNCW sociologist we’ll call “Tolerant Rob.” It was the third email I received announcing the showing of a pro-homosexual film at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Inter-sexed, and Allied Center at UNC-Wilmington:
I know that I'm ‘taking a chance’ forwarding this to you all. I know that some are intolerant, unaccepting and ‘not comfortable’ with ‘the gay lifestyle’. But someone has to have some huevos around here and that would be me.
Jimmy Wheeler had hopes and dreams. He was a gifted poet and painter and had a loving family who supported and cared for him. But for Jimmy Wheeler, growing up gay in rural Pennsylvania was too much to take. He was abused regularly at school. He was called awful names. In 1997, alone in a cold room, Jimmy Wheeler took his own life. ‘Jim in Bold tells the story of young James Wheeler and tells the stories of gay youth in this country, from the tragic impact of hatred to the triumphant resilience of youth,’ said Equality Forum’s Executive Director Malcolm Lazin.”
The first and most amusing thing you probably noticed about this email is that Tolerant Rob congratulates himself on the courage he exhibited in sending it. Of course, that is debatable since I am the only conservative Republican on the list of professors to whom it was sent. The other two dozen professors in my department are either independents or registered Democrats. Several are Marxists and almost all of them are staunch supporters of the so-called “gay rights” movement. So sending this email to the department is about as courageous as sending a racist email to a bunch of Klansman. But if you read the message carefully it gets even better.
After I received the first notice (from the LGBTQIA Center) about the “coming out” film I simply deleted it without comment. After I received the second notice (from the department Chairman) I again deleted it without comment. Next, Tolerant Rob sent the alert out with a judgmental statement that not only applauds his personal courage but characterizes those who disagree with him as “intolerant” and “unaccepting.”
In other words, Tolerant Rob is not willing to tolerate intolerance. Nor is he willing to accept un-acceptance. At this point, you may be wondering whether Tolerant Rob actually spends much time thinking about what he actually thinks.
The point that Tolerant Rob lacks tolerance of those of us who subscribe to the Judeo-Christian worldview is too obvious. In fact, he is so intolerant and unaccepting of those he considers intolerant and unaccepting that he must underline the words “intolerant” and “unaccepting.” What is less obvious is that he also lacks tolerance towards homosexuals.
Let me make this as clear as possible by using bold letters: Tolerance presupposes a moral judgment. Therefore, if Tolerant Rob claims to approve of homosexual conduct he cannot simultaneously claim to tolerate it. If that doesn’t make sense then let me illustrate with a few examples.
*I approved of the decision to include Anna Kournikova in the annual swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. Therefore, it is not possible for me to “tolerate” seeing her in the magazine wearing a bikini.
*I approved of the decision of Springfield Armory to send me a free personally engraved .45 semi-automatic handgun. Therefore, it was not possible for me to “tolerate” their benevolence.
*I approved of the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. Navy Seals. Therefore, it is not possible for me to “tolerate” their actions as an unfortunate necessity of war.
The problem with sociologists like Tolerant Rob is twofold: 1) They often use words they do not understand, and 2) They often claim to be morally superior to others because they do not believe they are morally superior to others.
The logical incoherence of moralistic relativists can be annoying. But we need to show them toleration and acceptance. They didn’t choose to be sanctimonious hypocrites. They were probably born that way.