In Praise of Unity

Diversity is bad. There, I said it. Take me out into the public square, flog me, and burn me at the stake, for it is heresy in our culture. But, I stand by my conviction. I’m not sure where our fascination with diversity came from as Americans, but I think it’s a fairly recent development. I can remember growing up still hearing American being called a “melting pot.” The idea was that diverse peoples came here and became Americans. We assimilated some pieces from the various cultures, but we also expected assimilation to American culture.

There is no strength in diversity and no matter how many times we say it, it will not come true. There is strength in unity. There is strength in various roles, but not in diversity. We, as creatures, tend to be fascinated by the novel. We enjoy an afternoon of chatting with someone completely different than us. We take vacations to regions and countries that surprise us by how different they are. But we always return home. We have a threshold for the novel and we desire a return to the familiar.

But once we have lost hold of unity, once we have embraced diversity, it is problematic to try to reunify. Who is to say what standard becomes the unifying one? It cuts against our “tolerance” to “oppress” a group or groups by expecting them to conform. This is also evident within the church. In 1054 the Great Schism cemented a divide that had formed between east and west in the church. To this day, the Orthodox and Catholic churches remain divided. We point to the year 1517 as the start of the “reformation,” but we can look at the work of Luther and others as effectively further fragmenting the church.

500 years later, the situation is continuing to deteriorate as we continue to split and splinter. Christianity has become more diverse, but I don’t know anyone who sees this as a good thing, not when you really talk to them and peel away the “diversity is good” veneer that we have all been plastered with. Every Christian I know hopes for unity. Or, in other parlance, they hope for their group to gain a bigger market share.

Even evangelicalism, which has sought to bring together Christians across denominations under a common banner, has largely failed. All too often, it has gained some unity at the cost of robust belief. Least-common-denominator faith is not much faith.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (ESV)

Yes, Paul goes on to discuss the diversity of gifts, but differing interpretations of the Trinity, salvation, baptism, the eucharist, etc, is not a gift; it is schism. What then shall we do? There are real differences between sects within Christendom. In humility, we need to seek the truth and then submit to the largest Christian group we can with a clear conscience. We grieve our Lord by our division and I fear that we may see worldwide persecution as punishment for these divisions. If so, may it cleanse us and draw us together.


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