Faculty Column: Pursuing diversity to accomplish God's purpose
For a while it was the catchword for today’s multiethnic U.S. landscape. Almost everyone who had a job in the U.S. needed to be aware of it, trained in it, in agreement with it, and in compliance with its respective policies. Students at every U.S. university had to sing its song.
The term repeated again and everywhere often evoked negative thoughts of malcontent, dissatisfaction among people of color, political correctness, institutional fatigue, submission to accrediting agencies, and so-called “liberal” agendas. The loaded word and all that came with it definitely felt like a burden to many institutions and individuals trying to make the broad representation of differences that would please the “right” people and the powers that be.
At a Christian university we are taught that diversity is God’s idea and that it is good. He created certain differences that are meant to be visible and understood. We are to represent as much as possible the kingdom of God and all its disparate parts. True diversity was always meant to be a blessing. So why does it still often feel burdensome, and why do people still resist it?
Diversity not an end in itself
First, diversity is not a siloed or compartmentalized idea. The word is never explicitly or autonomously mentioned in Scripture, but the concept of diversity is how God reveals himself and his entire creation. Matching God’s intentionality and consistency in the way he creates and reveals, diversity was meant for his people to be constantly lived out and demonstrated, revealing the nature and work of God in its amazing breadth and depth. It is not as though we could go about our daily work and then separately engage in the work of diversity at some other time in order to meet other goals placed upon us. Nor is diversity an end in itself. Diversity does not exist for its own sake (though even without God, his common grace would allow his diversities to be seen), but for us to demonstrate who God is and the work he does.
If diversity was an end in itself, we would never get to the heart of the gospel — reconciliation: between God and humanity, humanity to each other and humanity to creation. The good news and the mystery fulfilled in Christ was that all ethnicities, economic classes and both genders share in the promises of God, and that creation itself will be freed (Ephesians 2:13-16; 3:2-6; Galatians 3:28-29; Romans 8:19-21). Diversity is to help us get to the gospel, and is the ongoing process of that good news becoming more of a reality in our lives every day. It is both an apologetic to the world, as well as a sanctifying process for all of us.
Pursuing diversity, seeking reconciliation
Diversity allows us to see ourselves and others differently, and to develop our multiple identities even as Christ did when he was on earth — his Jewish ethnicity, his Egyptian refugee status, his upbringing in Nazareth, a marginalized city. It offers the spiritual and community development of seeing the truth and beauty of God, Scripture and people from different perspectives and worldview lenses. There is no one person or community on earth who can say that he or she is, or that their communities are fully reconciled, even though we are one in Christ.
Diversity in ethnicity, gender and socio-economics has been the intention of God as the best way to allow the community of God to flourish and to seek justice and equity, especially for the parts of Christ’s body that are underrepresented and seemingly weaker as 1 Corinthians 12:22-25 says. The privilege of diversity is for the process toward the inclusion and freedom for those who are powerless, especially in a majority-rule society. The sanctifying work of diversity is for the increase of friendship and mutuality between those on the margins and at the center. Ultimately, diversity is to help us practice God’s shalom and rule on earth. May we pursue diversity so that God can use it to accomplish his purposes.