In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I have been a part of a lot of conversations about diversity in the past couple of months. It is coming up at church. It is coming up at my college. It's coming up with organizations of which I am a part.

I like diversity! Really, I do. I guess that my struggle is how to "do" diversity in a way that is genuine and keeps integrity.

I've been trying to make a case lately that it is possible, even necessary, to hold both a Lutheran theology and a value for diversity. The problem is that I'm not a good enough theologian to be able to do least not very well.

My other problem with diversity is that is often feel tokenistic. I don't want to ever tell someone, "Oh, I have a black friend." However, I know that it takes some intentionality for me to reach out to someone who is unlike me. I feel like I have to be tokenistic to get to a deeper and truer relationship.

Of course, as a gay man, I know that I contribute to "diversity" as a concept. However, I am also still aware that even as a gay man, I get all the privilege of being both white and male. I can hide my sexual orientation if I need to (I don't often need to), but I cannot hide being white or male.

I feel like one of those people who says that he supports diversity, but in reality still associates with people just like himself.

I'm not sure if you have dealt with this at all, but any feedback is appreciated.


Blogger LoieJ said...

My perspective on diversity comes from being the parent in a mixed race family. Since I am white, my kids are culturally white, despite some effort on my part to at least expose them to differences. But culture generally comes from the mother.

About 10 years ago, I visited my alma mater, an ELCA school, which is more white these days than when I was a student there. I asked about diversity at a meeting. I was told that it takes about $Million to recruit people of various backgrounds. But they, as well as the ELCA school some of my kids attended, proclaim that they have some diversity because of the kids of various races who were adopted by white families who attend there.

Diversity my foot. That is just paint on the skin. The inner diversity isn't there. I know. My family has adopted members.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Vic Mansfield said...

gay or not, as white males, we are part of the dominant power structure. It is hard for me to let go of that. We want diversity, but on our own terms.

Neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female, gay nor straight, black nor white. If it was easy, anybody could do it.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Michael Dodd said...

No wisdom here. I left my religious community and the active priesthood when it became obvious that as a celibate gay man, I was not even going to be permitted the courtesy of openly letting other Catholics know I am one of the many gay men among them who was striving to live faithfully and responsibly.

I was once told that to be prophetic is to stay in and speak out. Guess I couldn't find a way to do that, given the internal political atmosphere in the church at the time.

7:49 AM  
Blogger David said...

Growing up and living in an urban environment in the Deep South, diversity, at least in terms of being around many African Americans, has been a constant part of my life. But being in diversity and "doing" diversity are really two different things. Many of my friends never really sought to understand or to relate to our diverse acquaintances. They were just people we knew.

Diversity, for me, is really just about relationship. It can't be forced, but it does mean we have to learn to be comfortable with difference. Recently, I've been thinking about seeing the image of God in our differences, provoked by a post by Spirit & Flesh, Imago Dei.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

In working with Catalyst, I wanted to make sure we weren't pigeon-holed (or dismissed) as just a "gay organization". So we're having to be intentional about "covering all the bases".

Yeah, I get what you mean about not wanting to just have token people while saying we're "representing" these groups - the blacks, the latinos, the straights, the gays, the women, the seniors, etc.

I think that we end up with just having token people when the outreach stops.

For us at least, in public documentation (website, brochures, etc) and conversation we're intentional about using broad "community" terminology while strategically in-house, we're intentional about first being aware of and identifying potentially under-represented groups (or over-represented groups for that matter) and then being intentional about their inclusion in our invitations and relationship-building efforts.

I think if we're hoping to balance the face of our group, it does take intentional outreach initially to set (or re-set) a precedent of diversity. But i suppose in the long term, the result is a diverse group as long as our ongoing message and vision communicates an image of the broad diverse community.

In theory?

My thoughts....

1:13 PM  

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