Celebrating diversity

Written by John on Friday 01/06/07

I was looking at a job description for a Research Fellow in the Health Technology Unit at the University of Canterbury. I came across the following requirement:

Personal characteristics for this position include:

• Tolerance - acceptance, indeed celebration of diversity in relation to ethnicity, culture, values, religion and life choices.

This was the first of the personal characteristics mentioned.

What appears to me here is a new definition of "tolerance."

Back in the good old days - tolerance may have meant "put up with" - a rather passive definition. Someone who was tolerant of someone else may have simply "agreed to disagree." However, it now seems that passivity is not enough but action, celebratory action at that, is required.

This is a further example of changes in language that have attached to them expected patterns of behaviour.

What I see here is a move from "respect" to "tolerance" and now to "celebrate diversity"

As a Christian I attempt to respect people of other religions - after all I believe they are all created in the image of God and are loved by Him.

I tolerate their espousing of their religious views in public. Freedom of speech is a value I hold dearly.

I do not, however, tolerate the fact that they are espousing views that are in contradiction to the basic tenets of my religion. I do not tolerate the view that there is no god or more than one god, I do not tolerate the view that Jesus was just a prophet (and no more). These views are insults to God whom I worship.

Similarly, I do not expect people from other religions to tolerate the views I have.

The mere fact that we are intolerant of each other's views, is the point at which we can begin dialogue. It is not, as some would have us believe, a bad thing - it does not lead us all into terrorist acts!

To now suggest I should celebrate diversity in relation to religion is an appalling imposition on my most basic beliefs. It is insulting. I imagine it would be highly insulting to a Muslim and to many others of other religions.

I am a Christian and I can not, will not, celebrate the fact that there are others who do not yet know of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. To do so, would be to deny God.

For those for whom this is all a bit much ... consider this. Imagine if in order to obtain a job at the University of Canterbury you were expected to celebrate the diversity of sporting teams - it you were to celebrate when the Auckland Blues beat the Canterbury Crusaders!

A further illustration of how ridiculous this definition of tolerance is, consider that "celebrating diversity in life choices", must, by definition, celebrate the choice of a petty vandal who smashed my car window, or the choice of so many parents to feed themselves and their children appalling amounts of junk food so that their children will be diabetics for life and die at an early age without getting near to achieving the potential they were born with.

Oh, by the way .. for the apologist ... of course this is a typical example postmodern of the pot calling the kettle black. Would the writer of the statement quoted above please stand up and state that they wish to celebrate my religious position and life choice?

Whilst we are talking about diversity, when and how did it become a value rather than a statement of fact? In the new draft curriculum released by the Ministry of Education last year it was listed as a value to be taught in our schools. From my perspective diversity is no value, it is merely a word used to describe a situation. I happen to enjoy the greater diversity in ethnicities present in Christchurch now than 20 years ago. I do not enjoy the greater diversity in advertising.

Whilst we are on how some words have changed meaning - consider Prime Minister Clarke's use of the language on the radio this morning ..

"Genuine dialogue" - this was dialogue that took place within a meeting as opposed to dialogue that took place between those opposed to what was being discussed in the meeting and others. ie, it is Genuine because the PM said so!

"Extremism of any kind is not good for our world" followed shortly by "Extreme Fundamentalism" - in the context she was essentially putting Destiny Church, Muslim Terrorists, and Gordon Copeland (a gentle if deluded man) into the same basket.

If you want an interesting discussion on the use of the word Fundamentalism, have a look at this article by David Lindsay.