Diversity is a hot-button topic today. It is as though modern society has realised that it must not only recognise the wide differences that exist within humanity, but allow for their full expression. Below is an interesting description of this concept, from a website linked to the University of Oregon in the United States.

Diversity is a hot-button topic.

“The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognising our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.”

In this post I will show that this contemporary fixation lacks a solid foundation on which to build meaningful community. Contrast with the secular gospel of diversity, I will argue that God’s work of redemption truly brings people together without swallowing up our differences.

A Modern Obsession

The definition quoted above reflects the prevalent mood in modern discussions. You can find it everywhere. Government leaders rehash it in official statements. Hollywood and celebrities preach it. And many organisations champion it in various spheres. If you re-look at the statement I’ve quoted, you’ll notice it’s a call to accept differences along not only racial lines, but also with respect to sexual orientation and gender.

The call to diversity isn’t only along racial lines, but also with respect to sexual orientation and gender.

Such statements on diversity are not merely written in prose. They also come in drama and verse. One recent example is the 2017 musical, The Greatest Showman. Not a few reviewers have commented on the movie’s celebration of diversity, most conspicuous in that stunning musical piece This is Me. The movie is based on the life of American entertainer and philanthropist, P. T. Barnum, and his performing troupe consisting mostly of social outcasts. While the historicity of the events have been questioned by critics, the film is a fascinating tribute to diversity.

Before raising my concerns over the modern fixation on diversity, let me say clearly: the need is real. Society has nurtured one form of oppression or the other for so long. Whether it is colonialism, slavery, the marginalisation of women, or the suppression of minorities in many countries. Much needs to be put right.

Diversity Alone Is Not Enough

The problem with the contemporary obsession with diversity is that the concept simply can’t stand alone. Like the blades in a pair of scissors, it needs the support of the other half to function. That other concept is community.

Community provides the necessary foundation for meaningful diversity.

Community provides the necessary foundation for diversity to be meaningful. True diversity is a recognition and accommodation of differences that exist within a group. Where no larger group exists, diversity simply degenerates into a cacophony of personalities and objects. Without a clear basis for diversity within community, diversity becomes an acid that simply eats away at the fabric of society.

Can Community And Diversity Co-Exist?

The necessity of community for diversity raises several questions:

  • How do we determine what true community is?
  • How can we even identify the differences to celebrate?
  • Is the lifestyle of a rapist or sociopath equally valid?

These are all questions that indicate we need a moral foundation. We need grounds for community that also secure diversity. We need a coherent worldview that makes sense of our God-created diversity, while affirming our God-given social natures.

Secularism offers no transcendent truths. It casts every individual as their own ultimate authority.

Unfortunately, the secular worldview underpinning most calls for diversity is an inadequate foundation. For secularism offers no transcendent truths or norms. It lacks the capacity to deem a particular lifestyle or behaviour to be ‘wrong.’ The best that secularism can do is cast every individual as their own ultimate authority. But this is hardly a basis for building society.

God Creates Wonderful Diversity Within True Unity

The Christian worldview supplies the basis we need. It begins with the God who exists, and always has. As Christian theology has understood for centuries: our Creator is a trinity of persons within one godhead. He is an eternal community, bound together in love. So diversity within unity is no mere human conception. It is God’s very nature.

When God created humanity, he made them in his own image. Refusing to have the human race as a single gender, God established diversity by creating them male and female (Genesis 1:27). And as humanity developed, we see the idea of diversity embedded and expanding in its progress. Different trades develop as diverse skills are nurtured (Genesis 4:20-22). And the entire population is spread across the globe, bringing about an amazing divergence in language, ethnicity, and even skin colour (Genesis 10:32).

Diversity within unity is no mere human conception. It is God’s very nature.

As God forms the Israelites into a nation, we still find the idea of diversity at work. God chooses different individuals and tribes to handle different tasks in the community. He calls Moses to lead; Aaron to serve as high priest; and the Levites to minister in the tabernacle. Simultaneously, God bound the entire community together by his covenant principles and law.

We see diversity further developed after the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit. As the Comforter brings along diverse gifts, Paul reminds the church that everyone is a member of Christ. Though equipped with distinct abilities, they remain one body (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). Finally, at the end of history, we will stand as a multitude of people from every tribe and culture, worshipping God together (Revelation 7:9). For God both creates our distinctions and redeems us in diversity.

“From Every Nation, Tribe, And Language”

There is no sounder basis for diversity than the gospel and God’s triune nature. The redemption of Christ allows men to be men and women to be women; Yoruba to remain Yoruba, and Hausa to remain Hausa. In his grace God brings us to his table, to receive a blessing. He addresses our common problem of sin without flattening out our diversity.

God celebrates our diversity within his glorious work of uniting us in the Church.

God makes us his children. Yet we can go on speaking our own languages. He doesn’t squash our respective cultures or ethnicity. Nor does he deny gender distinctions. God celebrates our God-given diversity within his glorious work of uniting us to each other in the Church. Furthermore, by providing a sure foundation for unity he also helps us to evaluate culture’s current obsession with diversity and inclusion.