Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Diversity Culture? As opposed to what? The Conformity Culture?

Clearly, I'm not the target audience for this book. I don't find the idea of diversity controversial. In fact, I find it astonishing that the notion of “diversity” is even under discussion. Especially to the point where Matthew Raley needs to guide an anxious reader through it.

I'll save you the twenty bucks. The book can be summed up thusly: people are more than the boxes we put them in or categories we create. So, throw away your stereotypes and prejudices and love people like Jesus did (does).

Stop the presses.

While Raley tries his darndest to assure the reader that the “diversity culture” isn't really as bad or scary as they might think, I couldn't help but think as I was reading, “The problem isn't 'diversity'! The problem is the culture of compliance that is your primary audience! The problem isn't this 'emerging' culture. The problem is that some Christians confuse cultural and political power with God's power!”

According to the book jacket, “A new culture has emerged. It preaches spiritual openness, moral flexibility, and social diversity – and its making evangelicals feel uncomfortable. Threatened. Excluded.”

What “new culture” is he talking about? The “diversity culture” may be “new” to some evangelicals who've secluded themselves in the suburbs for the last half century. But for anyone who's been paying attention since the 1960's will note that diversity is not “new.” Nor is it an ideology to resist or to be guided through. It's a present reality due to the fact that self-expression is the cornerstone of what it means to live in the 21st century western world.

Raley means well. But I wonder if this book should have been written 40 years ago. The fact that this book apparently needed to be written tells me that there's a problem within some evangelical/conservative/red state thinking.

If they're feeling “threatened” they need to ask themselves WHAT is being threatened. Is it loss of privilege? Trouble finding their place in a changing world they had no hand in creating? The loss of safety in the majority? The disappearance of a past that never really existed?

I don't know if I'm encouraged or saddened by the fact that they're just figuring out now that we don't live in a binary universe, that traditional rural values do not equal historic faith, that Christ's mission is not to create a “Christian culture” but a New Creation, that our job as Christians is to love people without an agenda.

If any of the above is news to you, then you might find Raley's book helpful. Even challenging. But those who've had their eyes open for the past four decades might want to take a pass on this one.

NB: This review is part of my Viral Blogging obligation.

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