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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Let's Not be Diverse for Diversity's Sake

It seems that everywhere you turn that the term diversity is the byword of the day. We hear about corporations who seek to become more diverse to reach an ever-widening global market, diversity training classes for the "insensitive," and the need for more and more diversity across our cultures and institutions. Yes, the call for diversity is increasingly strong, but what is it we're calling for?

image by tadness
Whenever the concept of diversity is discussed, it's nearly always offered as a positive. But it seems that it's rarely well-defined. What exactly does diversity mean and why is it so important? If it is as important as the emphasis seems to show, then there ought to be a clear idea of what constitutes diversity and what path an organization can take to be more so. But, because the term has become such a buzzword, I'm concerned that people are agreeing to a concept that is too amorphous to be useful.

The University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Public Health pperformed an open survey in 2010, asking students how they would define diversity. Most answers centered around two ideas: the primary one was that diversity entails gathering together individuals from all kinds of different backgrounds, different socio-economic strata, different political opinions, different religious beliefs, and even different moral beliefs.  A second idea that surfaced was that these differences are all equally valid. As one answer put it "Diversity of experiences, viewpoints, backgrounds, and life experiences. Tolerance of thought, ideas, people with differing viewpoints, backgrounds, and life experiences." But is this really true? Should we seek all kinds of differing viewpoints for the sake of having difference? Should we tolerate just anything?

Now, I understand that there is great benefit to learning about and understanding other cultures. The Chinese gave us gunpowder, the Persians advanced algebra. Certain cultures excel at different aspects of life and culture A may be stuck trying to find the answer to some problem that culture B has solved long ago. Humans are like that; we think linearly for the most part. However, I have become a bit worried because with all the talk of diversity, we never speak of the other side of the coin. There is a very significant drawback to diversity for the sake of diversity—and that is the danger of becoming less human.

Let me explain. If diversity means sinply accepting everyone for who they are, regardless of their beliefs or cultural differences, then there would be no cultural practice one could call wrong or bad.  Cultural practices are simply different.  But in the real world there truly are some things that are bad and should be discouraged. For example, in many African nations the practice of female genital mutilation is a longstanding cultural tradition. This practice is barbaric, though.  We should not accept it for the sake of wanting a different point of view.  We know that such a viewpoint is simply unjustifiable.

The only way cultures advance is to improve themselves. This may mean looking to other cultures and learning from them, but it may also mean teaching other cultures a better way to do things. If we are simply accepting all cultures, all points of view, then how do we as a human race advance? Christianity has been the leader in helping other cultures across the globe with issues like farming, providing clean water and medicine, providing education, and other advances that western nations take for granted. In so doing, they are not spreading diversity, but unity; they recognize all human beings as worthy of dignity and the best that all our advances have brought to life. I fear that today as more and more people call for diversity across every aspect of life, that they don't realize it will only make a positive impact if it is first run through the filter of moral clarity. That's the only way we can serve humanity well.


  1. I randomly came across your blog doing some research on the phrase "diversity for diversity sake." I agree with you about cultures learning from one another but again I would push back on the "moral clarity" portion of your argument. Who decides what is moral? I am Christian and we might say it comes from the Bible but the Bible can be interpreted in different ways by different cultures. Sad things is as you say, Christianity has done a lot of good through history and maybe spread "unity" but sometimes it became more about uniformity. I do think that diversity may include diversity in morality...for some, steal in all circumstances may be wrong but to others, stealing to feed the starving may be praised...I think we can never come up with just one moral code...I think that love in the context of Christianity supports this...

    1. Dan:
      I think if you examine it closely, even Christians don't get there morality from the Bible. The Commandments relating to moral behavior (kill, steal lie, adultery, are presumably things that reasonable people, even at that time, would have agreed to be in one's best interests to follow. Keep in mind, these commandments meant - Thou shalt not kill a Hebrew! Gentiles and infidels were excluded. Our morality (JudeoChristian) has evolved over the eons, more a result of Free thinking and The philosophy of the Enlightenment. Our trouble with the Muslims is that they still actually practice Biblical justice and morality.


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