Unity and Diversity

Posted on May 25, 2019


Unity and Diversity

Today we as Americans are struggling with one of the most formidable challenges in our history. Are we going to open our borders and let everyone in, or are we going to seal the borders and keep to ourselves? Or, should we do as we have generally done over the past three centuries, regulate the flow and find some sort of compromise between the principles of diversity and unity, between inclusion or exclusion.

That we have a problem might be the understatement of the new year. You know it. I know it. The challenge is: how do we resolve it?

Let me be upfront here. I am no friend of diversity for diversity’s sake. Nor do I think we all have to conform to someone’s concept of unity.

I thought, well the ideals have been expressed in our laws and legal traditions, in the narratives of the Founding Fathers, and for over two centuries, in the development of laws and regulations from 1776 to 2018 on how to regulate immigrants. We have carved out spaces for all people between the ideal that “all men are created equal” and the various decisions—Brown vs. Board of Education, 1964 and 1965 bills, etc.—that put Jefferson’s famous phrase into practice. We even included a monumental Civil War to decide on whether in fact all men are born free.

There are other great issues at stake. For example, capitalism vs. socialism, liberty vs. equality, privilege vs. work, and all the sub texts beneath some of those large generalities. Socialists don’t mind being labeled socialists, aka Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but they like “democratic socialists” or “progressives” to take on a bit more of an American flair.

Here’s our quiz by the way. Among U. S. presidents, which one is most closely associated with the progressive movement? 1. Theodore Roosevelt, 2. Bill Clinton, 3. Abraham Lincoln, 4. Calvin Coolidge.

Communists don’t mind labels since they know they are right. See China’s politics and Venezuela’s interesting exploration of how to take a country to bankruptcy through socialist/communist policies.

Some think socialism is pure and simple: the government ownership of all property. Others see it with more nuance. If you control taxation and regulation, like of our banking industry, or our energy establishments, or even the medical community, and want free this and free that (all paid for by the government), then you are as much a socialist as if the government owned everything, e. g. communism. You believe, in other words, that government is better equipped to make all our decisions—personal and corporate—than individuals.

The issue of immigration seems to challenge us across all the fronts mentioned above. Is there an answer?

First, and perhaps foremost, we need to understand this immensely complex place that is our country. In reading the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians a few weeks ago I hit his famous and magnificently astute chapter (1 Corinthians 12) on unity and diversity in the body of Christ. Now you atheists, agnostics, and other faith tradition followers, don’t abandon the ship just now.  Stick with me. Paul, BTW, in my humble opinion was a better thinker than all our politicians combined today, of both parties. What did he have to say?

First of all, he was informed by God. That doesn’t just add a bit of luster to his arguments, it gives it an authenticity and truth that surpasses all man-made laws and institutions, although I quickly add, many of ours were inspired by a Godly political body in the past.

We all have different gifts, different callings, “but it is the same God who works all in all.” In Paul’s letter he distinguishes the gifts and callings; some are given extra doses of wisdom, some of knowledge, some of faith, some of the gifts of healing, some to work miracles, others to prophecy, and so forth. Then Paul employs one of the greatest metaphors, at least in my estimation, in the Bible.

The church is like the human body. Both have many members, but all have something special to contribute. “…the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you;’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’…there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”

It seems to me, in my simplistic and credible way of thinking, that our country is like the body that Paul described. We are, in fact, unified by our diversity if I can reconcile a bit here. We are a nation of immigrants and have been for over four hundred years. The Puritans voyaged here to practice their faith free of persecution in the seventeenth century.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” has become part of American history, But, don’t forget the rest of the inscription at the Statue of Liberty, “…Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We also are a nation where laws and institutions were, and are, enacted to protect our freedoms and liberties, enshrined most famously in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution. No man is above the law, and every woman and child have a birthright to enjoy the safety and security of home and hearth.

Along with liberty (think diversity) comes responsibility (think unity). They are all part of the same body, as Paul wrote so clearly. No one part is greater than any other. If everyone argues that they are absolutely right and there is no other way, then you have chaos, the absolute antithesis of how the body parts should work together. The compassionate part of the heart does not dictate to the rational part of the brain, “do it my way or the highway!”

They work together for the good of the whole. So should we.

Published Sunday Jan. 20, 2019 as “We are unified by our diversity“in The Tuscaloosa News.