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Monday, April 7, 2014

Beyond Diversity

We continue our series on going 'beyond' our current understanding of race to press into God's richer koinonia

Diversity is important. It makes sure that there is a healthy mix of people at the table. It ensures that everyone is invited to join in. It exposes us to many cultures and helps prevent us from being ignorant simply from lack of exposure. Diversity removes us from our isolation and introduces us to more beauty in the world.

But is it all that God would have for us?

Diversity cannot be the end goal, just like counting heads in pews isn't an end in itself. They're merely metrics. Diversity is simply a measure on the way to richer engagement and equality. Diversity is about quantity. As followers of Christ, we must also be interested in quality.

We cannot pretend that getting many different faces in the room alters structural injustice. Going beyond diversity means setting aside our own agendas. It means asking how we may serve the priorities of those around us. We must share power, and set aside our privilege. Diversity itself does not assure these things.

Too often white-dominated organizations (including/especially churches) seek people of color simply to validate their own structures and plans. They want diversity in their brochures and their stats. But they want 'just enough'--not too much. They don't want to be fundamentally changed from the dominant-culture organizations they are. If we believe our own way of running things should be the standard, then we are allowing our own hubris to get in the way of the Church that Jesus envisioned.

We like diversity. We say we value it. We attend training events for it and put it in our mission statements. We like to pat ourselves on the back if we obtain a certain percentage. But have we served the purpose of creating a more just and equitable society?

There is a place for diversity. It helps us be mindful of our group composition and avoid homogeneity. Sometimes we struggle even to attain nominal levels of diversity in our environments, so it remains one of our many goals toward racial justice.

But diversity itself does nothing if unjust polices remain unchallenged. It is useless if voices remain silenced or certain opinions are not valued. It is pointless if we remain oblivious to crucial social issues outside of our cultural bubble. Diversity itself cannot change the deeply rooted inequalities at play in our society. For that, we need press further.

Listen to Rinku Sen discuss
diversity vs equity at 17:30
Who is in charge of making daily decisions? Who makes the big calls? Whose goals are prioritized and whose plans are implemented? Who receives training opportunities and mentoring? Has the culture of the group changed? Or does it still function as hegemonistically white?

For churches, going beyond diversity means raising up pastors and lay leaders of color, within your own church and in the surrounding community. It means not expecting that congregants of color should assimilate into white-centric worship styles. It means looking closely at how church funds are allocated and how that reflects the cultural priorities of the church. It means regularly interacting and socializing in meaningful ways outside of the worship service. It means creating a unified community while also affirming and celebrating the many subcultures that are represented. For the family of Christ, going beyond diversity means valuing, affirming, and promoting those we are in community with.

Continue to 'Beyond Reconciliation'...

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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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