Diversity and the Church: A Culture with No Excuse

I started listening to NPR a number of years ago because I felt a need to hear a different voice, to listen well, and to give consideration to viewpoints that I did not share. Since then, as the tone of challenging conversations around race and politics has become more shrill, and as opinions have become more ironclad, I’ve been thankful for quiet voices of reason that remind me of the holiness of diversity and the call to love.

Deep divides within the church on everything from immigration and the role of women to worship style and the definition of family challenge the body of Christ to be the force that passes through our differences all the way to grace. In the month of February, The Redbud Post is focusing on diversity as a spiritual issue with a collection of writings from Redbud members that challenge readers to practice the “love that suffers long and is kind” in living out our many roles as believers. A studied intention to live as an Ambassador of Unity invites me to trade my litmus tests for conversations with real people and to seek out opportunities within the body of Christ to remember that we are one.

I invite you to join me today over at The Redbud Post to read my essay in its entirety.   Over the past year I have intentionally read books to broaden my own narrow world, and I’ve folded two of them into the post. And while you’re there, take some time to look around and even subscribe to the post so you can receive regular infusions of goodness to your inbox each month.


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My Piece of the Elephant

Long ago and far away there were six men, wise indeed, but, alas, they were all without sight.  An opinionated lot, every one, in the course of their wanderings, they happened to meet an elephant, standing squarely in the center of their path.

Feeling duty-bound to report on his discovery, the first wise man gripped one of the massive beast’s sharp tusks and declared, “It is stunning how much an elephant resembles a spear.”

The second wise man, equally confident, reached out until his hands connected with one large and floppy ear.  “Nay,” he retorted, “you are mistaken, for ‘tis clear to me that elephantine nature is like that of a fan.  Already I feel the cooling of air around me as this fine elephant sweeps back and forth.”

The third wise man could no longer hold his peace, for he had meandered off to the rear and found the elephant’s tail.  “Neither a spear nor a fan, my brothers, could take this shape or form.  Obviously, an elephant is like a rope.”

And so the story proceeds with one sightless hypothesis revolving around the muscular snake-like trunk, another enthusiastic theory about its tree-trunk legs, and a final proclamation that the body mass was surely a broad and impassable wall.

Each was partially right, but all were in the wrong. 

Underneath this ancient story’s observation about human nature lies a chilling truth about the perils of logic on this broken ground. To save time and energy in its quest for certainty, the brain will hide its own biases from itself. All the while believing in the thoroughness of our research, we immerse ourselves in evidence that does nothing but confirm our preconceptions.

A minute’s thought will reveal the six wise men had all they needed to correct their narrow perspective:  the observations of the other five.  A move to the right or to the left, a hand extended to a broader reach, or a question posed to a nearby brother:

“What do you mean, it feels like a rope?  Here, put your hand on THIS and see what you think!”

Any of these would have changed the whole story.

Research indicates diverse groups have the ability to reveal hidden biases. What this looks like here on the ground is that if I share my piece of the elephant, while also listening to my sister’s thoughts on elephant morphology, we both get a more accurate view of the beast in question.

Capture

This month, we’re sharing our thoughts on The Elephant in the Room over at SheLoves Magazine. I’m thankful for the people in my life who rescue me from the blindness of a singular seeing — who keep me from reenacting the elephant story in my own time.  I would love it if you clicked on over to SheLoves to finish reading the rest of my post.  And I hope that while you’re there you’ll share your thoughts, because we do need each other’s voices.

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Beginning September 7th, I’ll be hosting a discussion group focused on Wendell Berry’s  Jayber Crow.  His story spans much of 20th century American history and demonstrates the poignancy of this quote from his musings:

“Telling a story is like reaching into a granary full of wheat and drawing out a handful.  There is always more to tell than can be told.”

 

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.