Saturday, April 24, 2021

Diversity. . . some thoughts

We live in a time in which diversity has become the byword, the pulse of our lives, and the penultimate goal of our evolution.  I hear it everywhere.  I read it everywhere.  From the political banter that precedes elections to the thoughts of those who govern to the shape of laws passed or executive orders signed, diversity remains front and center in the thoughts of those who lead us and many of those who are led.

Nowhere is this more true than in education and, in particular, the university.  From curriculum to content to the face of administration and faculty to the events sanctioned by the schools, diversity is never far from the minds and hearts of those who run and fund our educational system.  Even a church preschool gets questions about the diversity of the students or teachers or what is taught.  From literature to political theory to history, diversity commands the attention of those who teach and those who learn -- whether we like it or not.

Churches are not unaffected by it.  There remain the complaints that churches on Sunday mornings remain the most segregated times in America -- strange because church compels no one to attend nor do very many congregations prevent anyone from being there.  National jurisdictions worry that their demographics do not reflect the ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of America as a whole and it is presumed that churches need to be a microcosm of the greater nation in direct proportion to that nation.  Local congregations feel the same angst.  Though the reality is that most congregations are not struggling because they are monocultural as much as they are aging -- unless you consider graying its own culture.

But the reality is that diversity is not as freeing as we might think.  In fact, diversity pigeonholes and divides people.  It is like the meme that shows VP Kamala Harris claiming to be the first black, female VP except that she belongs to a party in which gender does not matter.  Diversity says it does -- everything matters.  Diversity is, in the words of one commenter, ideologically intoxicated.  Diversity requires categorizing and defining people and forcing people to be defined if not by race, ethnicity, language, economic status, or culture, then by sexual desire, gender identity, or some other criteria that is left to the individual to define.  Diversity is about requiring that those elected mirror all the diversity of those who are being represented.  Diversity is about requiring the literature, art, and music have categories that fit all the various categories by which people divide themselves and their preferences and to have these represented at least in proportion to the population.  We may have thought we were moving toward a future in which differences did not matter but we have ended up in a place where those differences matter most of all.

The Church should have something to say about this.  We should be able to address the dignity that comes not from within the person but from the God who gave up His precious Son into our death that we might live.  We should be able to turn people's search for self-worth from the fanciful of feelings or recognition to the God who has loved us and saved us apart from any value or worth we might have to Him.  We should be able to offer to every person the welcome of God's grace over sinners who have lost their way but been found by the Savior who came to seek and to save.  Tragically, too many churches have begun merely mirroring what the world around us says and does about diversity.  So it does matter the color of the skin, the sexual preference, and the gender identity of our pastors and bishops.  What we do on Sunday morning must at least acknowledge this diversity if not celebrate it, giving each a place in the spotlight or else it is offensive.  The Gospel we preach must, before any thought of eternity, address the inequities felt by those who are here now.  Except, of course, that this may mean sacrificing God for the sake of making us feel better.  And that is the saddest fruit of our relentless pursuit of diversity.

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