Is diversity good for our communities?

Here is a fascinating post from Allan R. Bevere's blog:

It has become increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.
But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings...

I have several immediate reactions to this. The ancient Greek Philosophers, such as Aristotle, believed that a community's strength was to be found in its shared identity, values, and commitments; it's "hominoia." This idea flies in the face of our more progressive attitudes about the value of diversity, but the study would suggest that the Ancient Greeks and not the Post-moderns were actually correct about what strengthens a community.

That being said it is clear that, in our context, diversity is not going away. We are likely to be more diverse 10 years on than we are today. So how can we strengthen our communities?

My other reaction is to remember the promise of the Bible - that God is bringing together, uniting, people from every tribe and language in his Son Jesus. Every sort of diverse background is pictured in the Book of Revelation gathering around the Lamb of God and singing his praises. The dividing walls are broken down. It is not, however, their diversity that unites these people, but their shared submission to Christ as their King.

If this study tells us anything, perhaps it is that when we see diverse peoples coming together in Christ it really is something miraculous after all, something that we could not have built our way up towards apart from the power of Christ.

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