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Diversity and Uniformity

Category Articles
Date March 18, 2003

However, diversity has come to mean for our post-modern society is really not diversity of race or gender, but diversity of ideas and values.

by William Smith

Our society has a remarkable uniformity on the matter of diversity. Universities and businesses tell us that they celebrate and are committed to diversity. Diversity is a core value of many institutions. One who questions diversity is likely to be asked from what planet (or at least what century!) he came. Diversity can accommodate almost anything except being challenged. Those incapable of conforming to diversity will be subjected to diversity training to produce the required uniformity.

But what does diversity mean? Well, in part, it is about skin color and gender. Those committed to diversity in their institutions will want to have yellow, black, and white, and men and women (and perhaps homosexuals, though homosexuality has nothing to do with gender) represented in their constituencies in accordance with the make-up of society (or, to make up for past discrimination, perhaps in ways not reflective of society).

However, diversity has come to mean for our post-modern society is really not diversity of race or gender, but diversity of ideas and values. There are some interesting things to note about this diversity:

(1) It assumes that no idea can make real claims to truth and morality. There is no truth or right in the traditional sense. There are ways of knowing, and perceiving, and deciding, which are each valid for the person or group using them and which each can lead to a statement of truth for me or right for us. The concept of the true and the good, which are discoverable, communicable, universal, and timeless, is characteristic of the old Western way of looking at things, which, is not to be tolerated in the age of diversity.

(2) This diversity requires uniformity among some groups. For instance, a black person who speaks standard English, who thinks like Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, and who believes in merit admissions and hiring, may be not black enough to represent his/her group. A woman who believes in male headship in the home and puts children over career, maybe not be woman enough to represent her gender. There is a limited amount of diversity allowed among those who must represent diversity.

(3) Diversity rules out of court questions of value and quality. Willy Nelson once sang about the cowboy, he aint wrong, hes just different. That is what diversity sings about everything – culture, music, painting, grammar, moral systems. Nothing is allowed to be better. In fact, those who before were considered to be better and who have been given privileged status (for instance the dead white guys who dominated the western canon) must be diminished and demoted, if not dismissed and destroyed. One is likely a racist, paternalist, cultural chauvinist, and religious bigot, if he says that western Christian civilization is the best yet produced by man, superior, for instance, to those which are eastern or Islamic. Diversity demands radical equality. (Dont misunderstand me here. One needs only to recognize superior quality and know when it must be insisted upon, not chose it at every juncture. I can keep on listening to Merle Haggard and eating moon pies, as long, as I dont think its the same as listening to Bach and eating crème brule.)

The current diversity movement is absolutely relativistic. Christians who, out of good intentions, wanting to show humility, love, and acceptance, accept current ideas of diversity, often know not what they do. They do not realize that by embracing a diversity of viewpoints they are in danger of relativizing the faith, that by questioning western paradigms of thought they are putting at risk some of the most long settled matters of theological certainty (e.g., the doctrine of the Trinity), that by assuming the relativity of cultures they may lose the possibility of unity.

Embracing diversity (and its Siamese twin, multi-culturalism) is not only cultural suicide for the West, but will prove to be religious suicide for gullible Christians and churches. Does that mean we must react by retreating to a colorless uniformity? Must the choice be between anything goes diversity or boring uniformity?

There are three realities in the Bible which can give us an idea of the way to proceed.

(1) As Dr. Cornelius Van Til taught, the Triune God is Himself both unity and diversity. He is one God who is three distinguishable Persons. His unity is not threatened by His diversity and his diversity in not threatened by His unity. As the theologians would say, Gods the unity and diversity of God are equally ultimate realities.

(2) Mankind has unity nature and diversity of gender. We are all men in the generic sense. We are all human – bearing the image of God in the totality of our existence. But we are men and women, with all that God made the two genders to be in their maleness and femaleness, including our physical differences, role differences, and our psycho-somatic differences. We are one mankind in two genders. We are different and the same, and in these twin realities lie our wholeness and oneness.

(3) The New Testament Church had unity and diversity. There were not two churches, as well there might have been – Jew and Gentile. There was one doctrine (Jude 3), one worship (1 Cor.11:16, 14:13,14; 1 Timothy 2: 8-15) – one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). Yet while all were one in Christ and in one church, men remained men, women women, Jews Jews, and, for the most part even slaves slaves, and free free. Jews were not allowed to retreat into a Jewish church, and Gentiles were not compelled to be circumcised.

It is from the Bible, not post-modern culture, that we must learn how to handle diversity and unity. We are making our way to one God and one eternal kingdom which shall consist of those from every tribe and language and people, and nation (Revelation 5:9).

WILLIAM SMITH

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Huntsville, Alabama.

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