Dr. Chris Gonzalez, a professor in the psychology department, spoke in chapel Thursday morning.
Dr. Gonzalez began his message by inviting the audience to participate in a poll. He asked who was the better theologian: Chance the Rapper or Kendrick Lamar. After an overwhelming applause for both, he decided Kendrick Lamar won by a “voice vote.”
Gonzalez then went into his talk about the topic of “In -> Tolerance,” or, intentionally moving toward tolerance. He began a thought experiment by telling the audience to “imagine you’re in a room, and there’s one other person in this room. This other person is a different gender than you are. You don’t know this person. They have a different skin color than you, a different religion than you and a different culture than you.
“Once you start talking to this person you realize they’re not just different than you, you also have a lot of disagreements with them,” Gonzalez said. “The more you talk to them the more you realize they are strongly holding to their views. How are you feeling?” He said most people would probably feel uncomfortable, defensive or judgmental, and some might want to walk away.
Dr. Gonzalez then confessed that he likes being around people that agree with him. Then he can have conversations that are enjoyable, and he can let his defenses down. “It’s completely normal to like to be around people that are like me, but it starts to fall apart when I get tricked into thinking I have a right to feel comfortable,” he said.
“Sometimes I get tricked [into thinking] that protecting my comfort is the right thing to do. Sometimes I get tricked into thinking differences and disagreements mean the other person is wrong and I don’t need them.”
Dr. Gonzalez then said, “Intolerance is thinking my thinking my discomfort is someone else’s responsibility, because that’s where blame, accusation, discrimination and violence comes in.” He then told us a better way to deal with these conversations: the theme of “In -> Tolerance.”
“’In -> Tolerance’ is taking tolerance and climbing inside of it… I have to tolerate myself. ‘In -> Tolerance’ sees discomfort as an invitation to grow and learn.”
Gonzalez then gave a few examples of how Jesus practiced this in the Bible. One of which was when Jesus and the Samaritan woman conversed at the well. He talked about how Jesus was aware of all the social barriers between him and this woman: she’s a woman, a Samaritan, had multiple divorces, had different politics, and had a bad reputation. “It was an uncomfortable situation for a Jewish man, such as Jesus, to be in,” he said. “He had everything to lose and not much to gain, but he still walked up to her and things went well.”
Gonzalez invited the audience to investigate the desire to learn, grow and have meaningful conversations with people who are different than us.
Photo by Anna Rogers