Some thoughts about Hemal Jhaveri OpEd

One our fellow travelers sent this request.

Listening to Understand: Discovery or Intelligence Gathering?

Bill, would you be willing to read this article and discuss what, if anything, can or should be said in response to such attacks. 

First, I would make a distinction between a private conversation, which this isn’t, and a public one. If I were to engage Ms. Jhaveri in a private conversation I would try to quickly determine whether or not she was open to a discovery conversation and, if not, simply stop the conversation. Argument only feeds the spirit of animosity demonstrated in the article.

In a written response, really in a person-to-person response as well, a central challenge is not getting into the same attitude and spirit as the article. I do appreciate that she provided links to the source of the policies and statements with which she is concerned. All too often things are alluded to and subject to significant distortion. We have probably all been bitten by a quote taken out of context. So, kudos to her for doing that. Her first three paragraphs are well written and set the stage for what she wants to say in a way that draws the reader in. Then it pretty much goes downhill from there.

The labeling in the article is throughout beginning with the phrase, “…the university’s deeply bigoted anti-LGBTQ+ policies…” Actually that phrase is in itself bigoted. I did a quick internet dictionary search on bigoted and it is defined as, “Utterly intolerant of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.” It appears that Ms. Jhaveri is intolerant of the beliefs of the Oral Roberts staff and students. I clicked on the links she provided and included in those Standards of Behavior and Code of Conduct is an intolerance of violence against any person for any reason.

She then goes on to describe the school as founded by “televangelist Oral Roberts.” Completely true but the term “televangelist” has deeply negative connotations in our culture today as well as in large sections of the Church. Of itself that could be overlooked but she adds another label, “fundamentalist” and again shows her dismissal of any who might be a part of that part of the Christian community by calling it a relic of the past. That is an idea worthy of discussion and exploration but not of simple dismissal without that conversation. This is closely followed by the label “archaic,” and then lists two behavioral standards as indicators of her term closing that paragraph with two more powerful cultural labels; “discriminatory” and “hateful.” Again, I would like to ask Ms Jhaveri if she is not bigoted in quickly dismissing ORU without any consideration. We could get into a good discussion about being discriminatory for we all are. We discriminate in what we wear, who we socialize with and a host of other issues in every day life. When our discrimination (which used to be somewhat synonymous with discerning) dismisses other people as of less value it is destructive and should be avoided. But discrimination of itself is neither good nor bad. However, to assume that holding a behavior as harmful results automatically in the hatred of the one exhibiting such behavior is a leap way too far. Even if one disagrees with ORU’s standard regarding homosexual behavior one cannot assume that all who hold that standard “hate” those who behave different from the standard.

In the next paragraph the author focuses on the prohibition against homosexual behavior being “in the same breath” as the prohibition of the occult. I would ask her if she sees occult behavior as something that is bad and thus using it to prove guilt by association. That probably opens up a very broad community of practitioners that would want to have their say as well. In fact, the breath is a statement forbidding all sexual promiscuity and homosexual behavior is one of three in the stated ban. Notice the ban is against the behavior and not the person just as the ban is against premarital sex and not the persons engaged in such activity. Because the behavior is against the standards of conduct does not mean or even imply that the persons engaged in the behavior are hated.

She then writes that the school has the right to impose whatever standards of behavior they see fit and then makes another broad and sweeping statement, “…even though those standards are wildly out of line with modern society and the basic values of human decency.” They may be wildly out of line with Ms. Jhaveri’s friends and their values of human decency but she takes the point way too far once again. As I engage these kinds of issues I want to walk in humility and speak of my own values and view points. I can’t presume to represent anyone else unless they specifically tell me they are in alignment with what I am saying. There is such a broad range of opinion about so many things even among Christ followers that I could never claim to speak for “Christians” as a whole. Neither does Ms. Jhaveri have that privilege to represent the values of human decency.

She finishes her broadside with a couple of more labels; “toxic notions of fundamentalism,” and “fetishize chastity,” both of which show an utter intolerance for vast numbers of people in our country.

It seems to me that inclusion and diversity in the NCAA has a wonderful opportunity to be inclusive and diverse by celebrating ORU’s Cinderella story showing the world that all are welcome in the banner. If ORU was indeed guilty of fostering hate and violence against those with whom they disagree then we have a real issue. But that is not the case here. Instead Ms. Jhaveri and those who agree with what she wrote are are showing a profound intolerance for those who see life, values and decency through a different lens.

About wwlivingston2015

I am a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ. Now in my 60's there has been a lot of life lived, questions asked, some answered, many not, with the adventure ongoing. This blog is a place for me to share some thoughts, perhaps even have some conversations. I am married to Barbara soon to be 42 years (5/2015) with five children, 10 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren as of 1/2015. View all posts by wwlivingston2015

2 responses to “Some thoughts about Hemal Jhaveri OpEd

  • David

    Thanks Bill, for taking the time to write a thoughtful response. Sorry for the typos that may follow in the hastily typed – off the top of My head comment.

    I am still thinking about what you said concerning a personal vs a public reply. There is much to say about either approach but I haven’t thought it through well enough to satisfy myself as yet. I think there are cases when public rebuttal may be the best choice. If I had a personal relationship with the author I would want very much to defend that by speaking privately. Otherwise, I am uncertain I will come up with a personal rule for all occasions give the massive pluses and minuses all over the place.

    Before someday listing some of the circumstances to consider when to be public and when to be private (personal) I want to look ahead to a time when we have throughly discussed how to listen for understanding. A worthy and important and difficult goal to be sure. But a preliminary one certainly.

    My hope is that understanding the other is a beginning. I also want the other to understand me. Even more, I want adult conversations about values and faith and the reasons behind each. Because the cancel culture is not the only VERY CONCERNED people because our culture is calling good evil and evil good. etc. there are many etc.s.

    I stand in hope for these things, not because I long for philosophical debate but because I am developing an honest concern for people. For some of them anyway.

    This requires much patience for anyone wanting to go very far along these lines. And it may be that conversations of this depth are too difficult for public discourse, but requires the kind of trust that most good friendships don’t even develop.

    If that turns out to be the way of things I will be very disappointed.

    Watching this site with interest . . .


    • wwlivingston2015

      David, I have been thinking about your reply during the week and realized that you caught me, or helped me catch myself. I responded to what the author wrote instead of trying to understand why she would write that. True, in the public space that may be the only option we have, but I could have at least speculated about why her view of ORU is so filled with fear and certainty. To your point about things being all over the place, I don’t think we are going to be able to have rules or even want them. I want guidelines for godly behavior. One of my primary concerns about religious anything is that it is rules based rather than relationally based. I believe our walk with the Lord is to be relational and that the guidelines give us something to keep our subjectivity in check. I have said that I don’t like the bracelet WWJD because that is rules based. I don’t want to try to figure out what Jesus would do but rather what He is doing in each particular circumstance. Being quiet and keeping my thoughts to myself might be right in one circumstance but completely inappropriate in another. But I want to be in a listening spirit even when I am writing a rebuttal, and I failed to do that. I still think what I wrote is okay, but could have had more of His spirit in my while writing a rebuttal. Thanks for being in this challenge together with me and others and thank you for your heart.


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