September 25, 2010
When I took Alexander to the University of Chicago we were struck by the wide variety of nationalities and interests that were manifest among freshman in his house. His roommate is of Indian descent from Los Angeles. I believe we heard as a first language Russian, Turkish, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, and Arabic from among the sixty or so freshmen who were moving in. (I sometimes had to ask what language they were speaking.) The President of the University, Robert Zimmer made much of this reality in his remarks at the opening convocation. He was clear that diversity of opinion and perspective was not a substitute for rigorous academic enquiry but wad the context for really difficult work and the formation of appropriate judgments. Diversity of the kind he applauds does not mean ‘multiple truths’ or relativism, but what I would call hard spiritual work.
For all our socio-economic and other diversity at All Saints’, the world in which we and our children will be living is already much more international and complex than we sometimes experience in our comfort zones. This is why we have said that it is through engaging God and Neighbor that we grow in faith. Learning to recognize, understand and even appreciate difference are critical skills for people of faith. How can we build the development of those skills into our common life?
The work of our 2020 groups looking at various strategic issues such as this one hold promise with clear work in the area of diversity being included in leadership development, global missions, preparation for and reflection on transformational journeys of various kinds and so on. This will demand some of our time and attention and resources as we move forward. Anyone who wants a taste of hat this world is like could visit the student union building at Georgia Tech for a glimpse in to the future that is already present in many of the formative places for students in this country.