Unity or Diversity?

Posted on May 28, 2016


As we move inexorably down the path to electing a new president, I think most of us grow weary of all the shouting, insults, and divisiveness coming from the candidates. A hundred years ago we were quite a bit more civil in how we insulted and criticized each other.

When Theodore Roosevelt was running for President in 1904, he, as others, felt it was demeaning for the President to run around the country making speeches and shouting at the crowds. So he had trusted friends and subordinates like William Howard Taft do it for him, although Taft was a unifier rather than divider.

And as I toy around with a new book on Christianity, one of the elements that surprised me is Christianity’s immense diversity. And, what does Scripture have to instruct us about uniformity and diversity?

Why Scripture? Because what I’m hearing on Tweets, interviews, and the cacophony of the candidates and their listeners or critics, screaming insults at each other, is not uplifting, edifying and least of all, persuasive.

How about a clean and rational national political debate? Sigh. It is a lost art.

Nor am so naïve as to believe that the behavior of a politician, whether the governor of Alabama, the president of the United States, or those wanting to be president has to be Simon pure. Good luck.

But is it too much to expect that they be rationale, intelligent, thoughtful, polite, or even honest and truthful?

Or what about abiding in the general rules for righteous behavior expressed in the Bible?

Even the Puritans of the seventeenth century, all striving to overcome their carnal natures and live as citizens of the Kingdom of God, failed pretty abysmally. If you didn’t think or act their way, it was exile or maybe hanging or burning at the stake. This is the exact opposite of the permissive society we have today.

So, which is better? The Puritans, no matter how mean or vindictive, preaching unity? Or those today claiming the high ground of diversity, not only allowing for forms of behavior in total disregard for the rules of the Bible, but also demanding everyone accept their standards. Unity or diversity? Both Puritans and the Politically Correct today demand obedience and conformity.

That is not very comforting, but it is man stepping into the place of God’s word in Scripture.

Jesus said in Luke 11:17 “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.” This argues for unity. Abraham Lincoln invoked that Scripture in preserving the Union before and during the Civil War.

But Scripture also, in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, drew the analogy of Christianity to the way a human body works. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have same the function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5) Paul recognizes that everyone’s calling is different, since, in fact, we are all different.

But we are in fact, all the same, for the same Paul writes the Christians in Galatia that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

What do we have here? A schizophrenic Apostle Paul? No, we simply have a recognition of the human condition, leading us to the answer to our question at the beginning of this column.

We are in fact, united by our diversity. Both are good for they reflect certain key Christian principles, and, indeed, the secular principles imbedded in our founding documents confirm this. Check me out. All men are created equal (Declaration of Independence) and all men have equal rights (first ten amendments to the Constitution) so they can relate to each other with amity, respect, and maintain their natural freedoms.

Sustaining the structure of unity and diversity is the Christian base. It is a perfect base. Unity and diversity become corrupted when woman substitutes her (see, I can be politically correct…) judgment and values for her God’s.

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” wrote the Psalmist. (Psalms 133:11) Unity–like diversity–is a truth from Scripture.

To conclude, while I can’t improve on Scripture, I might amend the Psalmist, usually thought to be David, a bit. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in laws drawn from Scripture.”

Published May 1, 2016 in The Tuscaloosa News as “Is Respectful Behavior Too Much to Ask?”

Posted in: History, Politics