God, as triune Three-in-One, created humans in His image as persons-in-relation – forever confronted with differences among them. Sameness, the failure to recognize differences, therefore does not capture God’s heart for creation and His communitarian nature.
Diversity is at the core of a relational creation that glorifies God. Differences honor God in that they make for better relationships – and better humans.
Better at Relationships
Of course, not all relationships honor God as they could – some not at all. According to Romans 1, those with darkened hearts serve unrelational gods and create idols of homogeneity. Practicing homosexuals do away with valuable differences, instead worshiping the sameness of self. The robust diversity in gender is purposeful. If friendship sharpens dull iron, the differences in gender make us razor-like. The work is the value – better relationships make better humans.
The institution of marriage thus becomes the arena for that opposite-gendered relationship to develop, while same-sex marriage negates the opportunity to develop relationally – humanly.
Better at Beauty
As humans create culture, filling, subduing and ruling the world according to God’s Genesis mandate, they form social groups around cultural commonalities. Like the value-laden work involved in male-female relationships, crossing cultural barriers not only sharpens but also beautifies.
God’s creativity explodes in and through cultural expression. Diversity, in all its forms, not only makes people more like God in developing relationships but also opens up a life of joy and worship.
If the cosmos were perfectly created to glorify God, then its original form gives us clues to an ideal order. Before sin, the first couple flourished relationally. A future form, then, in the consummated kingdom’s recreated cosmos must also flourish relationally.
The multitude before the throne in Revelation 7:9 gives us a taste of that future multicultural celebration. We can only imagine the beauty of a thousand ethnicities showing their colors. Isaiah describes a stately procession from across the globe, kings bringing not just their wealth but also their cultural accomplishments into the kingdom (Isa. 60:1-22). John saw, “by its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it…they will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations” (Rev. 21:24, 26). Perhaps it will be something like the opening ceremonies of the Olympics that crescendos with a choreographed falling-on-faces before Christ.
Salad Bowls Not Melting Pots
While much has been accomplished since MLK famously said, “The most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning,” in many places, sameness still rules. There are evangelicals answering the call. Hundreds of churches are opening their doors out into their diverse neighborhoods, and in doing so they are finding the complexities of cultural accommodation. Should a multicultural church merely reflect the demographics of the local context? Is overreaching necessary until some balance is met? Can a church be all things to all cultures?
One thing is clear: Cultures are not to be demolished. If diversity makes better people, both in their ability to love and to enjoy creaturely reality, then encouraging diversity in order to grow one super-culture is not reflective of God’s purposes. Because cultural distinction will remain in the future kingdom, any present attempt to strip away or assimilate the unique elements of minority cultures will be less glorious.
Sociologists, aware of the potential damage, have begun to speak of multiculturalism rather than assimilation, “salad bowls” rather than “melting pots.” The national conversation includes those of a dual citizenry that gives primacy to national allegiance while continuing to practice indigenous traditions. Christians are familiar with dual citizenry, so perhaps our churches should follow a similar pattern. Followers of Christ have an identity and allegiance. Kingdom principles are given priority without forgoing cultural distinctions of tribe, tongue and nation.
Heaven is not a melting pot. Ingredients can and should be added to the bowl without melting away or forming one new ingredient. Churches should reflect heaven’s inclusion without demolition and seek to be diverse for the sake of better relationships and for the enjoyment of cultural beauty. Christians, of all people, should be better humans.