Our neighbor George recently commented about the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — the mixing of two cultures and the interesting concept of diversity. Certainly not in the tradition of former royal brides — she is 36, biracial, divorced and an American actress. One writer said, “the diversity she brings to the British royal family is historic and important.”
The concept of diversity reminded me of the gathering in Westminster a year or so ago following the shooting in what was called a “gay” nightclub in Florida. We gathered in the Belle Grove Square to “celebrate diversity” basically saying that all people have worth regardless of their race, religious faith or sexual orientation. The opportunity to share in this moment was powerfully positive.
Many of us believe diversity is positive and should be celebrated and embraced. But is it possible to have too much diversity?
George pointed out that In the Christian scriptures an early leader named Paul wrote some tough words to a Christ-following community in Corinth. He was troubled that although they all pledged allegiance to Jesus as the Messiah they often were back biting one another and apparently destroying the oneness they claimed. Paul used the illustration of the human body saying that the head was Jesus but there were many body parts such as hands and legs, eyes and ears. They are all different and we need to value their differences but he reminded them that they were still part of the one body. He even went so far as to write “that there may be no dissension in the body” — that we are called to care for one another — and then added “if one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
A headline in The Washington Post read “America is more diverse than ever — but still segregated” and the next line read “The United States is on track to be a majority-minority nation by 2044. But census data shows that most neighbors are the same race.” For many Americans, especially those who are white, this is scary. While some see diversity as good others see uncontrolled diversity as tearing at the very roots of the America they have always known. A recent national election may have been influenced by this fear.
One national protestant Christian denomination whose foundation is in Jesus as the Christ is now dealing with serious issues in how they interpret and understand sexual (LGBTQ) issues. How do you find a way forward to allow differences of Biblical interpretation and still keep the church as one? Sexual issues have become very divisive. Can you have or allow diversity to the point that it becomes divisive and still be “one in the Lord?”
Some years ago we thought being “color blind,” was the answer. Now it is suggested that this was the wrong approach. A better approach, others add, is called “different-consciousness.” That is we not only see differences and are conscious of them while at the same time we are willing to openly talk about them to combat stereotypes and biases. We then share life experiences and have honest conversations about our hopes and our fears. For some who are protective of their stereotypes or biases or have never been taught to have open but meaningful conversations may find this uncomfortable and very difficult if not impossible.
One fear some expressed is that if we talk openly and honestly about how we see or feel about differences (race, sexual-orientation, etc.) we may be called racist or a homophile and that immediately ends the conversation.
George said he has friends who live in a village that is “white Christian different conscious.” What is that I asked? That is a place where everyone is white (or black or whatever) or is from the same religious background so their level of conversation no matter how honest they want it to be is very limited. He went on to point out that in one study there were white folks who never have had a meaningful conversation with someone who was black or Hispanic (or vice-versa). Some Christians have never had a honest conversation with someone who was a Muslim or Hindu (or vice-versa). Some who are “straight” never had a conversation with someone who was gay (or vice-versa). If you are rich (that means are warm in the winter, cool in the summer, know where your next meal is coming from, have a car and know where you are going to sleep at night) have you ever really talked to someone who was poor and the list goes on. How can we ever make progress if we really don’t know the people we are talking to or about? Many of us have little practice in talking about differences. Many of us practice monologue rather than dialogue because it is less threatening and we can hold onto our own beliefs even if they are destructive to ourselves.
Recently the Carroll County Times ran an interesting article about a Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education candidate forum. There was general agreement that improving diversity in the schools and especially more diversity in the staff was a good thing. How do you do that in a county that is basically white? One comment was that there is already a lot of diversity right here to which George called the comment “white consciousness diversity.” It may be a start but it doesn’t go far enough. Another interesting comment was to celebrate the holidays of all cultures which might help us not only learn more about one another but also communicate better. How do we prepare our students who will enter an increasing multi-cultural world unless we do it from a very young age?
Believe it or not this whole conversation started because our neighbor George got up early one Saturday morning to watch the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle.
Let the conversation and the dialogue continue. I only ask that you think on these things.