Several years ago, I was working in a research library on a college campus. My immediate supervisor had beautiful dark chocolate skin. Her supervisor, a black Muslim woman, acted as an outside committee member on my Religious Rhetoric advisory panel. (There’s a joke in there, on my thesis committee… of a Jew, A Muslim and a Methodist walk into a thesis defense on the apocalypse…but I digress)
Beyond that, our faculty and staff consisted of two Hispanic males, several white people, like me, a homosexual male and student workers of all colors and ethnicities and religious backgrounds. I loved that. I loved working with so many different kinds of people. I loved the conversations it produced. I loved bringing huge exhibits together like the one on Women and one on African-Americans at our traditional all-male, all-white University.
Then, came time for my annual review. My supervisor gave me two perfect scores. I don’t remember the first category in which I scored perfectly, but I remember the 2nd, Diversity. Me. A girl so white, I’m practically transparent. I got high marks on Diversity, because I appreciate and love and respect and want to get to know everyone that came through the library doors. The library director made her change it, downgrading that score to something more in keeping with other employees of my rank and giving me “room for improvement.”
My supervisor was so incensed that she wrote a letter that detailed how much I cared and did and went beyond for people, regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, background, clothing, sexual orientation, religion, or any other category we humans place on each other. I kept a copy of that letter because it meant so much to me that she would write it and because I had never consciously thought about my approach to diversity. It was just something I did.
My perspective on the matter was singular. I had never intentionally set out to embrace diversity, I just loved people. I have never tried to bring “tolerance” into the workplace, I just wanted to talk.
A few weeks ago, on Michael Perkins’ blog, I won a copy of Church Diversity, by Scott Williams, subtitled “Sunday: The most segregated day of the week.” I’m going to be blogging this book, because I’m at a loss to explain why my church is mostly people who look like me (though, to be fair, some have tans). I can’t explain how to make my local church look like the kingdom of heaven, or even my community, for that matter. I do not possess words that would cover why the message of Jesus is filtered by skin color throughout churches in America.
I don’t have anything profound for today, I’ve just started the book, but I want to know what you think. Why is it that 40+ years after Dr. Martin Luther King called Sunday School the “most segregated school in America,” we still choose to separate ourselves like oil and vinegar on Sunday mornings?
Williams says in the book that it’s about PERSPECTIVE. If we change our perspective, we can change the game. We have to be honest about our perspective, first.
What does your local church look like in terms of diversity? I don’t just mean color, what does it look like with regard to age, politics, family background, socio-economic status and education?