Category: Philosophy


From Part 1 it should be obvious that i’m a fan of fully exercised diversity (above and beyond a lip service to the societal value of diversity).  So, what is brilliant about it?  Why did i choose the word ‘brilliance’ to describe diversity?

Well, brilliant has a couple meanings.  One is glittering or resplendent and another is displaying mental keenness or striking intelligence.  I believe rightly exercised diversity is brilliant in both senses.  It is ‘shining’ and it displays someone’s mental brilliance.  The latter of these, of course, begs the question “Whose mental brilliance?”

Well, that would need to apply to anyone who thought of the idea, but more so to whoever originated the idea.  Certainly there a lot of modern proponents of diversity, but what if we look back more than a few hundred years?  I don’t claim to know all of the people throughout history who might have proposed the value of diversity, but I do know of one who predates all modern philosophy and sociology.

The author of the biblical books of Romans, 1 Corinthians & Ephesians instructed Christians to value diversity about 2000 years ago.  This being the case, i’d like to propose that valuing diversity was God’s idea before we became ‘enlightened’ later in history.  (If you don’t buy that God is the source of the bible then either it was just Paul’s idea or some anonymous writer of these books fictitiously attributed to Paul, but still it is not just a modern idea!)

I think the passage that best illustrates my point is Ephesians 3:10.  This passage is fairly well known but usually taught out of context.  Here the author says “His [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known.” Excellent so the church is supposed to display God’s wisdom – this would seem obvious to Christians already.  But what is the context?  He talks about a gospel and a mystery, and it would be easy to just assume he’s talking about the general gospel message and leave it at that.  But look more carefully at the context – what comes before and what comes after.  Especially verse 6 where he tells us straight out what the mystery is: “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” The mystery was that God was bringing ethnically and culturally diverse people TOGETHER through Jesus.

If that doesn’t make HOW God’s wisdom is to be displayed in the church clear enough by itself let’s put all of chapter 3 in context.  Chapter three starts off with ‘For this reason . . . ”  For what reason?  Clearly he’s building on what he just said before that which is:

For he himself [Jesus] is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, . . . His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

And if this isn’t enough, what does Paul talk about in chapter 4 – the stuff that comes right after chapter 3?  He talks about unity and serving each other and diversity of talents and ministries and how God wants to use diverse people working together to make all of us stronger.

So, let’s get back to 3:10 – HOW is the church intended to demonstrate God’s wisdom?  Through it’s diversity AND unity at the same time!  Brilliant! God is wise.  But he wants to demonstrate this wisdom (at least in part) through diversity rightly and fully exercised.  The church is to be brilliant (resplendent, shining) in order to display God’s brilliance (amazing wisdom, dazzling intellect).

But this can’t happen if diverse people simply choose to live separately ‘in peace’, claiming to think diversity is important, but never actually sharing life with people who are different from themselves.  If we are to demonstrate God’s wisdom and experience all the benefits he designed we can’t just be diverse, we have to be diverse AND together.

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Our society is right to value diversity.  Diversity is powerful.  Diversity can and should have good effects on both individuals and society (though only a willfully blind individual could fail to see that harmful responses to diversity are very possible as well).

So, how is it that diversity can be most beneficial?  More specifically, is the mere fact that our society is diverse sufficient for our society to also be better?  Is the mere fact that there is diversity along with my choice to intellectually value diversity sufficient to apply the benefits of diversity to me as an individual?

I am becoming more convinced that diversity must be rightly exercised in order to have its intended benefit, and when it is rightly exercised it truly does have tremendous benefits.  So, what does diversity ‘rightly exercised’ look like?  I think there is a continuum here:

  1. I hate everyone who isn’t like me
  2. I am convinced of the superiority of people who are are like me
  3. Diversity is just a fact and whether i like it or not is irrelevant – it is.  It’s enough that ‘they’ leave ‘us’ alone and ‘we’ leave ‘them’ alone.  Tolerance is important.
  4. Diversity is good, everyone has value, and it’s good that everyone has a place they belong.  But i am more comfortable (and i’m pretty sure they are too) when we all spend most of our time with the people we are most like.  Diversity works best when we all have a place and we all are tolerant and we all respect each other, but there’s no real need for anyone to stretch themselves to really LIVE with diversity.  We all should be able to be comfortable with who we are.  As long as we all get along with and respect each other that’s good.
  5. Diversity is a powerful tool to break down preconceived ideas, fears, suspicion, arrogance, racism, nationalism, parochialism, and a variety of other ‘isms’, but to have this effect it t must be practiced.  Exercised diversity and the benefits it brings are valuable enough to risk being uncomfortable and threatened and make intentional choices to share time and parts of my life with people who aren’t like me.  People who aren’t from my country, my social background, my ethnicity, my gender, my political party, my religion, my whatever!  I come to understand things better and truly become a better person by choosing to exercise diversity rather than just acknowledging its value intellectually.

I really do believe what is in #5 above, and i think a lot of folks in our society do to.  Unfortunately, what I observe in our society is that most people who value diversity are actually stuck in #4.  Stuck with an intellectual assent to the value of diversity and even a pride that our society is diverse, but without any serious effort to live in and benefit from this diversity themselves.  There are also, of course, people still at levels 1 – 3 in this continuum.  But my challenge is really for myself and those of us who are tempted to be satisfied with pride in diversity as a fact and tolerance of others without choosing the discomfort of regularly spending time with people ‘not like me’.

I am convinced that we really are better off as a diverse society, and that diversity rightly practiced is highly effective at helping us mature as individuals and as a society.  But only if it is rightly practiced.  It must become more than a philosophy, more than a societal value.  It really needs to be a value we LIVE OUT through choices of who we choose to invest our time in and who we seek to invest time in us.

And if this seems a little ‘liberal’ for an orthodox Christian, just wait until i get into what God thinks about a diverse society!   (Part 2 to come)

How to miss reality in 2 easy steps

This isn’t really what i want to write about next, but it’s been plugging my cache.  So maybe if i get it out of the way I can get on to something else!

How to miss reality in 2 easy steps:

Step 1 – Adopt an ideology

And it doesn’t really matter which ideology.  It could be a religion, a political viewpoint, a cause (animal rights, environmentalism, poor children in third world countries, gun rights, etc.) . . .  Any ideology will do.  If you think your ideology is immune to contributing to a false view of reality then . . . wow, all i can say is try thinking harder.

Now i know many people think that having a particular ideology is, by itself, sufficient to ensure a skewed view of things.  But in my experience i’ve met people from a variety of viewpoints who still managed to have a pretty clear minded view of things.  They were able to tell when their ‘camp’ was making stuff up and when their viewpoint was based on evidence.  They were able to see the beneficial and the harmful in various views and perspectives.

So, if i’m not incorrect and having an ideology isn’t enough, missing reality also requires one to:

Step 2 – Listen only to approved, orthodox voices of your ideology and immediately discount any view coming from any other ideology

This is the “we are brilliant”  (or just as easily “we are righteous”) and “everyone else is dumb” view of the world.

That’s it.  In fact, that’s all that’s required.  Adopt an ideology, tune out everyone who doesn’t claim undying allegiance to your ideology, and PRESTO instant blindness.

It works (or i guess i should say doesn’t work!) in politics, and examples abound.

It works in religion (even within one religion w/ the denominational mess within Christianity, the Sunni-Shiite split in Islam, etc.).

It works in causes.

It can even work with genders if one becomes too gender-centric (ouch, that just hurt a bit – need to take my own medicine).

Now, here’s how to cure the problem in one easy step:

Choose to respect ALL people enough to actually make some effort to listen to them and evaluate their perspectives based on evidence, logic, and (dare I say it) generosity (Christians call this ‘grace’) rather than based on whether they come from your same ideological camp.

Choosing to listen more and speak less results in a clearer view of how things really are.

How to explain everything

God

Human Evolution

Is humanity evolving?  Even books about the extremely negative side of human behavior like the recent “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” have,  included in them, some hope for humanity to, through self-realization, sensitivity and intelligence, evolve from current state into a more compassionate, more rational, generally superior state of being.  But is this happening?  Is it going happen?  What can possibly make it happen?

That book fairly effectively and, I believe, accurately draws parallels between the modern financial-commercial complex and empire building going back throughout written human history.  Human history is almost entirely a story of the powerful utilizing power to ensure their comfort and material well-being.  I completely grant the premise that the current U.S. is not an exception to this pattern at all.  But the book also romanticizes those who are not in power and their lifestyle/philosophy (much like the Dances With Wolves trend of historical interpretation).  Which misses a very important point.

What happens, historically, when those who aren’t in power, those who are oppressed by the powerful, gain power?  Do they remember their origins for long?  Do they utilize the power to ensure that the ‘least of these’ receive the benefits?  Well, on the rare occasion and for short periods of time maybe.  But by and large . . . no.  By and large the oppressed, shortly after gaining power themselves, utilize the power primarily to benefit themselves.  This has been the pattern throughout history and it is still the pattern today.

Now the fact that the oppressed, if liberated, would very likely behave badly themselves does not at all mean that the powerful’s exploitation of the less powerful is justified.  It isn’t.  But there is a very important question: WHAT IS THE SOLUTION TO THIS MESS?  Political activism?  Socialism?  Anarchy?  Free trade?  Protectionism?

I have a bigger question.  What makes us thinks that we humans – the cause of this mess which has been repeated time after time beyond recollection – have the ability within ourselves to resolve it?  If we are so wise, why are we in this mess to begin with?  If we are so generous and kind, where does all this greed and maliciousness come from?

Are we evolving?  If so, does evolution show from history and the biological record that evolution favors characteristics like generosity and kindness?  Hmmmm . . . I think not!  So, even if we did evolve are we likely to evolve into kinder, gentler creatures?  Some would argue that we must become kinder and gentler and more sensitive to people who aren’t like us if we are to survive long term (and I would agree with them).  But let’s get real.  Is there really any hope of this from the process of evolution or from within ourselves?