Sweet Land of Diversity
Once upon a time, there was a man who moved his family to a new land. They quickly discovered that they were different from the people of this new land. The family looked, thought, and spoke differently, and the people of their adopted land practiced strange, but not wholly unfamiliar, customs.
The couple followed a God who loved them, and all people made in his image. Their God simply asked them to reciprocate his love and share that love to all people regardless of how they looked, thought, or spoke.
The couple worked hard to model and teach this love of God and neighbor to their children as they interacted with the different people of their new land. But this was not easy, nor was the couple always perfect.
What made it hard was that some of the people of their adopted land demanded that newcomers living in their land think, look, and speak like them, and practice the customs and culture the way they did. Even some of the nice people of this place expected the new arrivals to adopt the land’s culture and traditions.
The man’s children would come home from school and share their experiences of other kids teasing and making fun of their clothing and family traditions. They asked their father not to make them wear their customary garb to not stick out as much at school.
Occasionally, someone would shout something nasty at the family as they drove through their neighborhood, and once in a while, this prejudice would even show up at work. The couple persevered and lived in the land, and they continued to teach and model loving their neighbors as the family worshipped and served their God.
Over time, they discovered that they were not alone; the pattern was ingrained in the culture. The family noticed that others in the land were also treated this way, even though the newcomers were not from the same land as the little family.
Eventually, God called the man to a new job. He took his family to visit this new land before they moved to show them where they would live. These people had culture different from theirs, and the couple prepared to start the cycle again.
Sitting in a restaurant having dinner on the first night, the children became very excited as they noticed the room’s fantastic diversity. Even though most did not look or dress like them, a couple of people did. Several were wearing this new land’s garb, but quite a few were adorned in the tribal clothing from exotic places far away. At one point, the oldest child pointed out that a couple of people dressed in the garb of the land they were leaving, and they seemed to belong as well.
So many colors and cultures. Such different languages and perspectives. The children were pleased that this would be their new home, a Sweet Land of Diversity! From now on, they could be free to be themselves; New England Patriots fans!
The story above is true, albeit a bit hyperbolic.
I don’t tell you this story to trivialize the diversity question in our culture. I want to point out that our ingrained cultures and context can get in the way of embracing people from different cultures than our own, and this parochialism can become systemic and dismissive without us realizing it.
But maybe this is why we hear the cries of people today who look, speak, think, and dress differently from those of us who belong to the 72% who identified as white in the 2010 United States Census.
Final NOTE: In the 1970s, the people of Western Pennsylvania were devastated when the steel industry and coal mines closed up. Whole communities suffered, and everything they knew collapsed under the weight of the financial disaster, even many churches. Yet what brought much hope were the great Pittsburgh Steelers teams winning four Super Bowls under Chuck Noll.
The crisis also created a diaspora of sorts, as people fled Western PA for work or college. To this day, you can find displaced Pittsburghers in most metropolitan areas across the USA. Just look for the Steelers themed bars on a Sunday afternoon; they are called the Steeler Nation.
Two of our closest friends (we think of them as family) were born and raised there, and they are Steelers fans. We tease each other now and then and understand that we don’t expect each other to change. They were incredible role-models for Chewy and Baby on how to love God and neighbor.
Love you “Patricia” and “Walter!”
…I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”Revelation 7:9-10