I think that diversity is over rated. There, I said it. Somebody had to point out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. Before you get ready to throw me over the nearest cliff for being so “non-PC” please hear me out.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that we are all created in God’s image, and that every person should be respected regardless of race or socio-economic condition. I also believe that we can all benefit from getting to know some people from a background very different than our own. I know that it has been a great benefit to me. But when you want to form a close, supportive community, too much diversity is not a good thing.
What is “community?”
Our word “community” comes from the Latin word “communis,” which means “common.” The dictionary definitions of “community” include two basic ideas: (a) people living in the same geographic region, or (b) a group of people who have something in common. The latter can include anything from race and culture to interests and hobbies. The point is that a “community” is a group of people who are connected by something that they have in common. If they have very little in common then there is no community.
That’s why I find it a bit odd when people in Berkeley talk about “the community” as though we are all one, big, happy family. That is nonsense. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of communities in Berkeley. Some of those communities are are made up of people with whom I have very little in common. Some of them are united around beliefs or values with which I strongly disagree. I am not a part of those communities nor are they a part of mine. There is a single community only in the superficial sense of people who happen to live within the city limits.
For Christians, you say, it should be different. As Christians we are all united in Christ. In heaven there will be people of “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). But we are not yet in heaven, and here on earth it is another matter. Theologically all true Christians are part of the universal Body of Christ, but the close relationships that define true fellowship require additional common ground.
How broad should a church attempt to be sociologically? A while back I attended a workshop for Christian leaders held in Berkeley in which the speaker said that a church here should be a place that could be a spiritual home for anyone living within a 10 mile radius. I thought to myself, “he must be kidding!” There must be people from at least 50 different cultural and language groups within 10 miles of the site of the seminar–is it possible for all of them to feel at home in a single church? Will the service be translated into a dozen languages? Will any meals served include 20 different ethnic foods? Will the music blend elements from all those cultures in such a way that everyone feels at home?
Let me hasten too add that racial prejudice has absolutely no place in the church. A church can be racially diverse while having other things in common. Some of the multi-ethnic churches started recently are populated mostly by middle class college educated single or young married professionals. They may be racially diverse, but culturally they have a lot in common. Otherwise people would not be able to experience community in those churches.
I can imagine that there are people who would like to take me to task on several of the points I have made here. It will be interesting to see if I receive any comments. Perhaps I will write more on this topic in the future. In the meanwhile, what do you think?