Father Mark, Reflections

Diversity

I am wondering what reaction each of you had to the title of this journal article above—and what your first thought that came to your mind was.  The word, “diversity,” has probably been used more than just about any other word in the English language over the last decade.  Defined according to Merriam-Webster, diversity is the condition of having or being composed of differing elements or variety.  I find this interesting because it leaves up to the reader to determine the criteria of what these differing elements of variety are.  I could easily choose “left-handed” as a criteria for I am a southpaw for the most part.  Growing up it was difficult sitting at school desks that were created for those “right handers” who didn’t give it a thought because they weren’t left handed.  But there are all sorts of categories people use to delineate and focus on their differences. 

Another unexpected use of the word, “diversity” is in how I will use it to describe the town I live in and love.   I’ve lived in a lot of small towns in my life and anyone will tell you that it takes twenty years or more to feel like you’re a part of the community.  In Luling, it’s taken less than the four years I’ve lived here.  People are friendly here and in this way they are not diverse.  I can’t stop to talk with almost anyone here if I am I expected somewhere else because if I do, I’ll be in a twenty minute conversation.   Now the COVID experience has cut down on much of this to our chagrin (not diverse here either) and all of us are non-diversely asking the question, “When is this thing going to be over?”  

The first place that I experienced diversity when I came to Luling, was in the church I serve.  Looking out over the congregation I saw men and women (notice how I said, “men”—as there are more men in the congregation than most churches field and in this way we are diverse).  There are young and “mature” of age, high school educated and post graduate degree educated; rancher/country and teacher (town); some who will sing and some who dare not sing; those who can’t stand the hymns and those who like them (about 50-50 on any given Sunday); those who are good with their hands and those whose talents lead better with their minds.   Notice how I haven’t yet said “Republicans and Democrats” as we don’t speak of this much as there is a God who loves us all on whom we’re trying to focus . 

In the community the same diversity exists but we can add different denominations and those who do not attend church at all.  There are those who have their own businesses and those who work for others or for themselves alone.   The personalities that exist in the community are quite unique and varied, each having their own sense of humor, interests and ways of speaking and communicating—and ways of whipping up some barbeque, while others have a knack for “smoking” meats.   One item I have noticed after living in the country and city-suburbs is that there is a great diversity there.   I have noticed that country people appear to be less self-conscious about being themselves than city folk do.  City folk by in large tend to be a bit (or a lot) more reserved that country people who rarely file off what I call their “rough edges.”  I generally know what country people are thinking because they aren’t afraid to tell me straight out without being rude about it.   City folk, might think that country people are rude in this respect, but they’re really not.  They’re just being open and honest even if their direct way might sting a little.   Country people, especially Texans, value independence, which can be diverse from some city people who might desire conformity more.  

I have purposely avoided using the term, “race,” as I believe the nation and the church have been politically harangued and manipulated by it over the last five or more years.  Race is one of the ways we are diverse, but only one.  Unfortunately racism exists due to a myriad of reasons as stereotypes are easily formed.  Whether we check or act on those stereotypes that might have us forget to address the dignity of every human being is another matter.  Stereotypes, as behavior, can be unlearned.  But the core of any stereotype is one of trust.  A human being looks at another thinking, “Can I trust you?”  Of course, we sometimes forget the other side of the question, “Can you trust me?”  If not, why not?  Trust is a not a given.  Trust has to be earned and exhibited through character and action.   These questions transcend race and places us face to face with another human being who is diverse from us, not only in race but in a plethora of ways. 

Prejudice spans more than race.  Prejudice spans the masculine and feminine, young and mature and other dichotomies.   When Kathy and I get into a tiff, it can be because I am prejudging what she’s going to say from past experiences instead of hearing her in the here and now.   Anxiety, the fear of the loss of something, is generally at the core of this projecting our thoughts on the other.   When parties can drop their anxiety and begin to listen to each other one on one then hearing, seeing and understanding might begin.  No human being can speak for another, even if we’re from the same race.

Speaking of the here and now, there’s another factor about diversity that is transcended by personal responsibility.   That is, I am responsible for my choices and the consequences of those choices as others are responsible for their choices and consequences.   There’s no changing this.  It’s a law of physics—or Natural Law, if you chose to use the philosophical name for it.   

I have strengths and weaknesses.  Others have theirs.   Perhaps by listening to honest dialogue free of manipulation, we can support each other from time to time.  This doesn’t mean to be responsible for others but being responsible to them to treat them with dignity.  Not treating others with dignity reveals that I have lost my own.  All of this revolves around an underused word today called, “humility.”   Humility means to be “of the earth,” which means I’m not above or below the next person.   Jesus’ Golden Rule goes a long way here.

The ultimate form of diversity is the Holy Trinity.  The ultimate form of unity is the Holy Trinity.  In the Trinity, the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier (the One that makes us Holy, in the likeness of the Trinity) are united as One with varying spiritual functions that makes us one with God, ourselves and one another—in this order.  There’s no way I can be at one with myself without God.  There’s no way I can be one with you without being at one with myself. 

I heard an Army Lieutenant say from experience how his platoons was made up of very diverse people but they all “bleed red.”  And this is the most important similarity that overcomes any diversity. 

Come to speak of it.  Jesus bled red for us.  I guess that Lieutenant knew what he was talking about.

Jesus:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is the hardest work in the universe to learn and practice.  We have to love ourselves first by allowing God to love us or we’ll never get to the “neighbor” part of the commandment.

Yes, we are all diverse.  So what.  God made us this way.  It’s not a big deal unless we make it so.  When we learn to love ourselves as God loves us we’ll learn to respect our neighbor.  If we want a relationship with our neighbor, both parties will need to prove their trustworthiness.  Of course, forgiveness has a part to play in all of this too. But that’s a story for another time.

God help us.  Amen.