Missing the Point

August 28th, 2017

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The recent dustup over diversity at Google indicates we’re missing the point. But I’m looking at it as a Christian. In the Christian faith, diversity is not an organizational aim.

Diversity has become a buzzword in business circles and educational institutions. I noticed it when our kids applied for college. It seemed like every fifth word in college brochures touted a school’s “diversity.” That wasn’t my kids’ experience in college, however. My son Mark had a professor one day ask if anyone in the class was conservative. Mark raised his hand. A student threw a plastic water bottle at him. The perpetrator wasn’t punished. So much for diversity.

That might be what James Damore felt after attending a Google diversity training session. The Google computer scientist wrote a 10-page memo titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” He tried to explain why 80 percent of the tech company’s employees are male. In other words, the company is not very diverse. Damore attributed this to cultural biases (a “politically correct monoculture”) as well as a genetic component.

That last part got him in hot water. Even though Damore proposed steps such as “stop alienating conservatives,” “confront Google’s biases,” and “de-moralize diversity” to increase intellectual diversity, Google fired him for his comments on gender. So much for diversity.

Google is missing the point. I’m all for diversity but it’s not an aim. It’s a manifestation of love. Where there is love, there is diversity.

Recognizing this requires properly defining love. Love is the enjoyment of another and the desire to expand the circle. Love must have a person or object other than yourself (you’re sick if you only love yourself). The “other” is where we get diversity. It’s a manifestation of love.

We see this in the Judeo-Christian tradition. God is love. God is three Persons—the Father, Son, and Spirit—sharing one nature. They are diverse beings. But they are love. Their diversity is a manifestation of their love. The Godhead doesn’t “seek” to be diverse. It’s not their aim.

I think the early church got this. They were lovers of God and neighbors. For example, they gave up all their possessions. Not some. All. That’s love. Within a few decades, the church was a diverse ethnic network (Asians, Greeks, Italians, Jews, Gentiles). But the goal wasn’t diversity. It was love, evident in people like Aquila and Prisca. In Paul’s last letter before his death, he recognized them as showing real love to people wherever they went. Paul was also a lover, writing the quintessential description of love in his letter to the church in Corinth.

That’s why churches seeking to be “diverse” miss the point. Diversity is like sex. In a marriage, if you seek sex, you’ll likely get less of it—and enjoy it less. If love is your aim, you’ll likely get more sex—and enjoy it more. Sex is like diversity. It’s a manifestation of love.

In a post-Christian world, only a few will get this. I don’t expect Google to get it. I don’t expect colleges to to get it. But I do wish more churches got it. Billy Graham used to say Sunday morning is the least diverse part of a week. Most American Christians drive miles and miles, passing by numerous neighborhoods, to attend a church where everyone looks pretty much the same. Not very diverse. And it’s getting worse. In 2005, 47 percent of Americans reported that they knew none or just a few of their neighbors by name. There’s been a sharp rise in that number since, according Marc J. Dunkelman, author of The Vanishing Neighbor.

I know this firsthand. Thirty years ago I planted a church. It became quite large. We rented a school that wasn’t close to where anyone in our congregation lived. People drove miles and miles to attend. Today, I’d plant something like Lawndale Community Church in Chicago.

Lawndale was a blighted black neighborhood in the ‘70s. Wayne Gordon coached wrestling at a one of the schools. He’s white. He lived in the ‘burbs while attending seminary. But then Wayne started to see a number of Lawndale athletes come to Christ. He urged them to attend church. They urged him to start one.

He did. Wayne moved his family to Lawndale in 1978. I visited the church in 1997. It is a diverse congregation. The reason is simple. Members must live in Lawndale. White folks can’t live in the ‘burbs and join the church. Loving neighbors requires being a neighbor. White families have to move to Lawndale. Every member walks to church. And the church has assisted in renewing Lawndale. New businesses. Improved schools. New streets. New homes and condos. Loving neighbors.

In The Management Myth: Why The Experts Keep Getting It Wrong, Matthew Stewart recounts his story of founding a consulting firm that grew to over 600. But it wasn’t about bureaucratic control or efficiency. “It was about love,” he says.[1] If more organizations—be they businesses, educational institutions, or churches—aimed for love, we’d see more diversity in our workplaces and churches. Otherwise, we’re missing the point.

 

[1] Matthew Stewart, The Management Myth: Why The Experts Keep Getting It Wrong (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009)

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7 Responses to “Missing the Point”

  1. Tim Kriewall says:

    John 15:12

    John 3:16

  2. Bob Snelling says:

    Great insight here. When the moral application of love leaves a society, politics must be driven by a quest for power. The loudest microphone or largest gun has its way. My mind immediately goes to something like “When love leaves, diversity also leaves until, like google, diversity is now required by a bludgeon.” But then, is it really diversity? Certainly not because it is not driven by love from the heart.

  3. Marc Horton says:

    Intentionality is, nonetheless, necessary.

  4. Barnabas says:

    Appreciate the re-balance, Mike. Implying that if the education system loved it’s students they would enjoy computing despite, race or genda. Unless there is hidden agenda.

  5. Bob Moffitt says:

    Excellent, Mike. Thanks.

  6. Doug says:

    We see diversity in hiring by treating our applicants with dignity and honor (and yes love) and the outcome is diversity and a qualified workforce.

    I like how The Message reads from James 3:17-18

    Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.

  7. PETE says:

    Unfortunately “diversity” is being used as an inditement rather than as an invitation. In the last 60 years we have progressed way beyond the years involved. Rather than focus on how far we have come we are blasted because we have not come far enough–this is true– but the cultural changes we are traversing should not be force fed or regurgitation will follow. Google’s action will result in regurgitation and further division rather than acceptance will result.

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