Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Diversity vs Community

A lot of people talk about the virtues of community and diversity.  What they do not seem to understand is that the two concepts are opposed to each other.  Communities are based on shared values and experience, whereas diversity arises from disparate values and experiences.  Generally, to be more diverse is to have weaker communities, and to have stronger communities is to have less diversity.

However, communities can include a variety of people provided that they share something that is greater than their differences.  For example, the temporal Church is one giant community that is subdivided into many smaller local communities.  The members of the Church seem to be diverse, but in the most important thing in their lives, religious faith, they are similar.  It is because of that shared faith that communities develop between people of disparate backgrounds.

5 comments:

  1. As someone who grew up in a neighborhood with both those of Italiano & Mexicano heritage, I can unequivocally state that community & diversity are not mutually exclusive.
    The problem comes in when you have those who opt to reject the shared values & experience of the wider community. & thus refuse to share what they have to offer to the larger community as well.
    What diversity has come to mean these days is that all values are equally good. Except for the traditional Judeo Christian values that build true community.

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    1. I don't think we disagree. To make my argument more precise, I would say that diversity is opposed to community when there is diversity of core cultural values.

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    2. As a further addendum, I would say that diversity of values and experiences that are not core cultural values (food, music, etc.) are opposed to community in the sense that if they do effect community, it will be a negative, if small effect.

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  2. Very good observations! I would even contend that the racial and ethnic problems of the 1950s and earlier were, at their core, reflective of the strong belief that any group of people who look, sound and dress alike share the same core cultural values. Therefore, anyone who does not look like you does not share your core cultural values and is not welcome in your parish. It should be evident that this provincial attitude of reflexive exclusion, although it creates a superficial sense of community, is uncharitable and, therefore, anti-Christian. It certainly needed to be addressed within the Church where it existed.

    However, significant elements, inside and outside the Church, took a detour over the past 40 years. When the aim ought simply to have been to catechize the faithful that we indeed "share something greater than their differences", instead these well-intentioned souls encouraged artificial 'good' diversity ('traditional' vs. 'contemporary', for example) to distract from the 'bad' diversity (race, gender, etc.) with which we were created but are so uncomfortable. Now, parishes themselves are so diverse in core cultural values, while all calling themselves Catholic (which means 'universal'), that (as Forrest Gump might say) a diocese is like a box of chocolates! This contradiction, so destructive to our sense of worldwide Catholic community, has been reflected most painfully in the area of liturgy and has required the last two popes' attempts to restandardize the Missal internationally. I pray their efforts will be fruitful, for our human desire for community is quite strong and can be harnessed for either ill or good. Under secular political leadership, which do you think is more likely?

    The essence of an 'ideal Catholic community' to me, belying the very premise of provincialism, would be one where all parishioners and visitors, although superficially diverse (color of skin, clothing, regional vocal accent, etc.) approach the Holy Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ with reverence befitting Almighty God and the readiness to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. As such, they could be sent forth, from any parish location and in any language, as one, to charitably offer their graces to the rest of the world, each performing his or her diverse, unique, role (see Acts 11:29). Is this really so far-fetched?

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    1. Well put! Ideally, the Church is a great community in spite of all superficial differences among Catholics. As you point out, the danger to the Church truly comes from substantial diversity of theology.

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