Over the years one thing I have frequently noticed is the difference in connecting to others in the mid-west of the US and the west coast. There is a kind of coldness one gets on the west coast in spite of their being more slogans for inclusivism and diversity. My wife is Asian for instance and while we fit in well in the mid-west it has been extremely difficult here in California. This was surprising to me because you do always hear more slogans and promotions for diversity here. One thing I have come to realize though is there is another idea that carries more force and even I think is behind a lot of the way in which diversity is presented here.
Bias is something that we are taught about from a young age. We are taught that we all have biases and that those biases effect everything we do. This teaching is especially prevelent in the liberal arts and in the area of reading and learning. The idea as I sure you are aware is that we can’t understand authors from the past or other cultures too well because we come to the text with implicit western biases. These biases a at as a kind of wall between us and the meaning of the text as intended by the author. All this is pretty typical of bias theory.
When Bias Teaching Steps Beyond Reality
There are variants of bias theory though and the more extreme theories are where I think the issue comes in. One kind of theory says that our biases need our mitigation. So we should use mitigation techniques when we think and learn to overcome those biases and ensure we are being critical. I think this first theory is valid a good amount of the time. Another version of bias theory is more drastic and affects a lot of the conversation on diversity or inclusion today. That theory assumes we cannot know at all if we find ourselves separated from an author or speaker with enough diversity distance. The problem grows because the theory also tends to say most of us do have a ton of diversity differences: background, culture, race, social status, sexual orientation etc etc.
The result of this more radical teaching is not to create an inclusivist community instead what I have seen again and again is it creates these big undefeatable walls between groups. So you have a Chinese church over here, a white church there, a black church over here. Sure we all make sure to remind ourselves of diversity training when we interact in those places where it is unavoidable but we must remember this undefeatable wall is between us. So being good diversity ambassadors we ask how do you feel about this, what did you think of that comment etc. Yet, with all of these questions we ever keep the wall in mind and never know each other.
Christ Offers a Better Way
The main issue is that the bias wall is by no means so large and difficult. As someone who has gone to other countries and gotten to know friends from all sorts of places I can tell you the things that reside at the heart of just about everyone are the same. Things like meaning, purpose, love, righteousness, friendship, beauty all sit there as common ground which we can discuss issues upon understand perspective with and really know others. As Christians especially we have a duty to resist falling into the worldly ways of creating walls for the sake of a fake sort of righteousness. Instead let us pursue to know others, taking Christ as our example who “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
Jesus tore down the biggest bias wall, between God and men and with His help the ones we face are not so high or so strong that we cannot as well.