What is Diversity and Why Does it Matter?
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
The recent national protests and uproar over the murder of George Floyd have catapulted diversity and inclusion to prominence in the internal conversations of businesses and organizations around the world. Usually, the case for increasing diversity in organizations hinges on its practical benefits for the business. For example, research shows that greater workforce diversity contributes to better problem solving, better profits, and better innovation.
But what if diversity costs a business money, clients, and slows growth. Is it still worth pursuing? For Christians, the answer must be an unequivocal yes. We must follow Jesus in identifying the courses of action that we must follow, emphasizing obedience over expedience. Fortunately, obeying God in loving our neighbors by pursuing diversity will usually also lead to greater organizational success.
What is Diversity?
When we speak of diversity, we generally refer to the presence of difference amongst members of an organization, whether that entails racial/ethnic difference, socioeconomic difference, or difference in ability, language, or culture. However, biblically grounded Christian organizations circumscribe diversity to limit the kinds of identities that are actively celebrated. Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, TX coined the acronym G.R.A.C.E. to describe the specific types of diversity that the school intentionally seeks to acknowledge and affirm. In this useful definition, diversity includes Gender, Race, Ability, Culture, and Economic status or class. This is crucially important due to the ways that secular society has embraced non-biblical identities as types of diversity that organizations should champion and accommodate. By aligning ourselves with a biblical model of diversity, we more accurately reflect the kingdom of God without endorsing or approving of sin.
In Revelation 7:9, the Bible provides a beautiful portrait of heaven's diversity. John writes, "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." Notice that even around God's throne in worship, we retain our diversity. Diversity in nationality, language, ethnicity, and culture demonstrates God's creativity and expansiveness. God doesn't erase our differences, but he unites us in our redeemed state as we each wear white robes, signifying that we are forgiven and made righteous by Christ's blood. The fact that we seemingly maintain these differences throughout eternity shows how important diversity is to God.
Moreover, God accords humans an extremely high level of value and worth, independent of their identities or individual characteristics. In other words, no matter what a person's background, experience, or physical and mental traits, that person is worthy of the utmost dignity and respect. In Psalm 8:5, David reminds us that God has created humans just a little lower than angels, and that he has crowned us with honor and glory. Such a lofty view of humanity is rooted in our reflection of God's image. This means that before human equality and dignity were ever secular concepts, they were Judeo-Christian understandings of human worth. The idea of rights emerges from theorists and philosophers who were influenced by this supernatural understanding of humanity's origins and existence.
Why Does it Matter?
It is easy to forget how diverse the early church was. Comprised of Jews and Gentiles, Africans, Greeks, and Asians (see Acts 13:1), they united their differences through an ardent pursuit of God's glory in the practices of prayer, worship, and service. Where geographical regions feature inhabitants of many ethnic and cultural backgrounds, our organizations should too. Otherwise, what are we saying about the reach of the gospel and our love for our neighbors? If we ignore the opportunity to invite others to work, serve, and be served by our schools, businesses, and institutions, we send the message that our brand of Christianity is only reserved for people who look like us and think like us. Our faith becomes homogeneous and subservient to our own predilections and comfort, and we alienate the people who diverge from the majority.
Let us remember that God breathed his breath into all humanity. Every human bears the image of God, and is infinitely loved by God. According to Psalm 138:13-14, we have all been intricately formed by God in the recesses of our mother's wombs. If we believe this to be true, then our kingdom mandate must be to love our neighbors by intentionally inviting them to participate in our mission. Furthermore, just as the scourge of sin has caused all to be separated from God, the remedy--salvation through Jesus' blood--also applies to all. This should motivate our institutions to reach beyond our comfort zones to minister to all people so that they can hear and respond to the gospel.
So what should you do? If you're a university or school, seek greater diversity in your student body, faculty, staff, board, and leadership. If you're a Christian business or nonprofit, seek to diversify your board, leadership, and employees and serve a broader consumer base, marketing to people who don't share your ethnic identity or level of economic status. Even Jesus reached across all levels of Jewish society when he recruited his disciples choosing both fishermen and a tax collector. In summary, we are called to pursue diversity not just because it makes business sense, but ultimately, because it makes gospel sense.