I live in a very small, culturally diverse neighborhood. This has become true over the past 15 years. My recent frustration with late-evening yard parties blaring music that makes me question where I am, led me to some wrestling with the idea of diversity and its value in a Christian context.
Growing up back in my rural community, there was no real diversity. Most folks were some measure of kin. Even in our strictly black-or-white communities scattered across the county, many of us were kin. We went to the same schools, we all went to church regularly (many varieties, but 99% Christian churches), we knew the same people and repeated the same stories. We were, it would seem, the opposite of a culturally diverse community.
Coming from such homogeneity, one might be easily disturbed when diversity becomes one’s neighbor. Or shares a pew at church.
Speaking as someone who came from a homogeneous (but not necessarily unified) background, I can understand the difficulty in transitioning into a diverse landscape. Speaking as a girl who challenged homogeneity and created her own brand of diversity, I can also see the value of that transition.
The journey toward diversity is ideally a journey that culminates in true unity and not diversity for diversity’s sake.
Perhaps a homogeneous neighborhood or faith community gives a false sense of unity. Perhaps, until your surroundings become diverse, you aren’t challenged to find true unity with your neighbors. Or the person on the other side of the sanctuary. Perhaps true unity exists underneath a diverse exterior.
True unity requires that we give up our pride in “self” and bear up the dignity of the “other” with the same love we so easily give to those who merely remind us of ourselves.
Matthew 5:46-48 (NET)
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? 47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? 48 So then, be perfect, [brought to its end; finished; mature] as your heavenly Father is perfect.