True Diversity vs. Fake Diversity: Which Will America Choose?
Like “tolerance,” “dignity” and “inclusion,” diversity no longer means what it used to. Part of what has made America historically great is its immense diversity — racial, political and religious. Amidst such variety, Americans were united in principle to defending the liberty of others and in valuing diversity. We understood that people saw the world differently, came from a variety of backgrounds, embraced distinct lifestyle choices, but there was a belief that diversity contributed to the strength of our nation. Simply put, diversity was considered a virtue, even if we failed as a nation to live it out consistently.
But this view of diversity is disappearing fast. As my father and I point out in The Beauty of Intolerance, there are many popular words that have completely new meanings. Consider a telling example. For his 2008 inaugural address, President Obama selected Saddleback pastor Rick Warren to deliver the benediction. Since Warren was outspoken in favor of natural marriage, Obama received considerable criticism from liberal and gay rights groups. And yet Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for the President, defended the choice of Warren:
This is going to be the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history. The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] issues, but it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues.
In 2008, diversity meant including people of varying backgrounds and beliefs in the wider cultural conversation, even amidst firm disagreement. Obama rightly recognized that people could differ decisively on important issues, such as sex and marriage, and yet still finding common ground to partner for the greater good of society. In 2008, the President was willing to embrace people with views radically different than his own — and he considered it virtuous.
But the shift in how our culture views diversity was made clear in Obama’s 2012 inaugural address. This time Obama selected evangelical pastor Louie Giglio to deliver the benediction. Giglio is known for his work fighting human trafficking as well as other efforts to advance other kinds of social justice. And like Warren, Giglio is an evangelical mega-church pastor. Nonetheless, a 20-year old video surfaced of pastor Giglio preaching a biblical message on marriage and sexuality, in which he provided the standard views held by Christians and Jews for 2,000 years. The LGBT community responded with massive outcry and protest.
But this time the President responded differently, highlighting the new view of “diversity” that has emerged in recent times. Rather than defending the selection of Giglio, the Obama team allowed him to withdraw.
Writing for Christianity Today, Melissa Steffan noted, “A spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee said the committee was ‘not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural.’”
Do you see the shift? Rather than including people with traditional beliefs, as Obama proclaimed in 2008, in a short span of four years, diversity has come to mean the celebration of progressive sexual morality alone. Amazingly, the President shifted his view of diversity to mean excluding the very people he considered virtuous to include four years earlier. Clearly, the meaning of diversity has changed.
In his excellent book Good Faith (co-written with David Kinnaman), Gabe Lyons describes a meeting he had with President Obama and a few other evangelical leaders such as Tim Keller. The President graciously listened to their pleas for the importance of religious freedom and diversity for the betterment of America. And yet, sadly, their case ultimately fell on deaf ears. As the President’s response to Pastor Giglio indicates, he missed a golden opportunity to model genuine diversity and tolerance.
Lyons offers the response President Obama should have given after the outcry against pastor Giglio:
I understand the LGBT community’s anger at the comments made by Pastor Giglio. In fact, I agree with you — and I do not endorse Pastor Giglio’s position or point of view. But that’s all the more reason for his participation in the inauguration ceremony. In America, you don’t have to agree with everyone else in order to have a place in the public square. You don’t even have to agree with the president. Pastor Giglio and his church’s work to end human trafficking contributes to the common good in America and around the world. And while I don’t agree with his views on sexual orientation and gay rights, I welcome his involvement in the inauguration and in the social fabric of a truly diverse United States.
We can only hope and pray that, for the sake of every individual in America, and our collective future as a nation, our next President will embrace true diversity rather than the fake kind of diversity that merely celebrates progressive moral values alone. After all, such “diversity” is really no diversity at all.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.