Diversity Plus Love Equals Unity

Photo by Shirin McArthur. Reprinted with permission from https://shirinmcarthur.com/2021/10/25/community-not-communiformity/.

Editor’s Note: This week our guest contributor is Shirin McArthur. Shirin is based in Arizona and brings to us her experience as a lay minister, writer, and spiritual guide. She takes our topic of “love one another” and, in a very practical way, makes the case for why loving each other makes sense and some of the ways our focus on differences blocks our loving.

This fall, I attended the final CONSPIRE conference offered online by the Center for Action and Contemplation. As a faithful Christian in a world where the politicized face of Christianity doesn’t always reflect my viewpoint, I seek to publicly share the values I hold dear as a follower of Christ. In this post, I want to share some reflections on what I consider the fundamental basis for my Christian faith: love.

The phrase which forms the title of this post — Diversity+Love=Unity — was something I jotted down in response to Richard Rohr’s explanation of the third of the Seven Themes which undergird his teaching: Frame. Richard believes there is “no truthful distinction between sacred and profane.” I would say there’s no valid distinction between the two, because we make lots of distinctions, but they just don’t—or shouldn’t—hold up under the weight of God’s love. After all, why would God create something God would not love? And how can anything God loves be profane, or unholy?

But back to diversity and unity. As humans, we are both individually, genetically unique and yet also 99.9% the same. That one-tenth of one percent is both gift and challenge, depending on how we approach it. If God loves what God has made, how do we dare not do the same? And yet, we dare, every day, across the globe. Why? To some extent, it’s developmental. I learn who “I” am by distinguishing myself from “you.” My hair is darker or curlier than yours; I can see that difference and therefore grasp the concept of difference.

But difference isn’t inherently good or bad; it just is. In fact, I would say that our diversity is a great gift because it makes us complementary to each other. Sewing isn’t one of my skills, but I’m awfully grateful that others have it, so I can wear lovely and comfortable clothing. As we raise children and watch their talents emerge and skills develop, I believe we should celebrate the physical and the cerebral equally. We need people who can imagine, people who can create, and people who will labor. When we embrace what each person has to offer, our unity gains a richness and depth that isn’t possible when we focus solely on difference.

That diversity is an important aspect of community. When we live in community, we are literally evoking “comm,” or togetherness (think “commingled”), with our “unity.” The word isn’t communiformity. We don’t all have to look, think, and act identically (although there have been nation-states throughout history that have tried to make us think so, such as the Nazi regime).

Instead, I believe we are called to embrace our complementary differences in service of a broader purpose: living together in peace and, with God’s help, love. As children, we learn to distinguish ourselves from others through noticing difference. That doesn’t mean we then seek to negate or destroy those differences, but rather to embrace them in a unified whole: community.

What does that mean in everyday life? It means that some grow food while others teach children. It means that some are taught how to mend and fix physical things while others learn how to envision more whole and holistic societies. As scripture tells us, we are all members of one body, and cannot say that hands or heart or bones are unnecessary. It is unity, not uniformity, that makes community work.

So, what does that mean for you and me? How can we model community, not communiformity, in our interactions with others? I had some suggestions which Tom shared with you a couple weeks ago. Here are some more. Take a good look around the groups in which you participate. Talk with someone you don’t know or who has a very different skillset and outlook from you; discover what they contribute to your community. Think about places where you have power and voice; how can you encourage a greater meaningful diversity (rather than just tokenism) in your various communities? Also, pray about how you can inject love into your conversations with others.

This post is a revised version of two posts from Shirin’s blog, which may be found at https://shirinmcarthur.com/blog/.

2 Comments

  1. sally mac

    Thank you for the challenge, Shirin! I will take it seriously.

    Reply
    • Tom Adams

      Thanks Sallly, great to have you encaged in the conversations. Tom

      Reply

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