What comes to mind when you hear the word “diversity”? Is it gender equality and women’s rights? Is it immigration and our chaotic Southern border? Is it denominational inclusion and capital “C” Church unity? Is it graciously entertaining differences in opinion or religion? Or, for you, is it racial equality and ethnic diversification?
Diversity means a lot of things. It means:
The more your friend group, workplace, and church are diversified, the wider your perspective gets. Do you realize that men and women often perceive God in a different way? Do you realize that our Latino brothers and sisters may know a different side of God than I do as a Native American? We gain perspective in diversity, not just of the world, but of God Himself. What are you missing about God due to a lack of diversity in your friendships?
Diversity often takes courage. At our core, we fear what we don’t understand. I don’t understand what it’s like to be an African American woman in a predominantly white church. I don’t understand what it’s like to grow up believing I have to pray to the Mother Mary. I don’t understand what it’s like to live in a religion where my salvation depends on my husband. So, I fear these things. But what if, instead of fearing and pushing away the people we don’t understand…we brought them near and courageously explored their world with the humility of Christ?
There are so many people hurting in the world. Our African American brothers and sisters carry the burden of generations of hurt, inflicted on them by the white world. Our Jewish and Native American brothers and sisters carry a similar burden. We cannot be a church that tells them to forgive and forget, when we ourselves struggle to do the same. We must be a people that reconcile, and “restore friendly relations between” us (Webster’s definition of “reconcile”). It is our Kingdom calling, regardless of our race, political camp, gender, or relationship status (2 Cor. 5:11-21).
Diversity does not mean many things. It does not mean:
Tokenism is defined as “the policy or practice of making only a symbolic effort (as to desegregate)”. Basically, it means faking diversification. It means I have my one token black friend or my one token Muslim friend and “I’m good”. It means I really haven’t changed, and I don’t really see others as of equal value to myself. It is wrong.
Patronization of diversity means I’m willing to “amen” the pastor’s sermon on diversity, but will not even consider actually pursuing it. It looks like someone who refuses to let “those kind of people” in their house or church small group, but doesn’t mind them at the church or workplace in general. This is not acceptance or the pursuit of diversity, it is the patronization of diversity. It is wrong.
Diversifying your friend groups and the people at your dinner table oftentimes gets mistaken as a mission to make people think and act and look like you. Sameness does not equal diversity. Explore what makes your friend from South America different. Ask your Catholic neighbor what makes her faith different from yours. Get to know someone on the other side of a political debate and ask how they arrived at their convictions. To enter into a diverse world, we must cast aside our desire for sameness outside the realm of salvation. Don’t be “color blind”. Don’t be culturally ignorant. Don’t be ideologically closed-minded. It is wrong.
Our delving into diversity honors the Lord God. We must do so, not to “save people” or “save face”, but merely to glorify the Father and celebrate His unique creations. Diversifying your circles of influence will change your life and will strengthen your walk with the Lord.
In my next blog, I will share some tips on how to diversify your friend groups and circles of influence. For now, comment below with what are some of your challenges in diversifying? Are there people groups or personalities you tend to clash with or fear? What’s keeping you from exploring other worldviews?
Meet the Author!
Hannah Hanzel is an opinionated, passionate gal that loves sharing what God is doing in her often busy and complicated life. She strives to show God's glory in working as the Art Director for the Baptist Messenger, serving as a multi-client freelance graphic designer, and communing with CRBC. When she's not working, you can find her sipping coffee in a hammock, watching classic '40s movies, or going on an adventure with friends or family.