I came away from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast here in Newburyport this past January with much food for thought about diversity. I’d like to share a few insights.
For starters, I’m grateful to live in a community/country where differences/alternatives are to a growing extent accepted and respected. One Webster’s Dictionary defines diversity as “the condition of being different.” Which one of us isn’t different, unique, in some way or another? We’re much like individual flowers that contribute to the beauty of a bouquet. So the challenge is to appreciate the differences and recognize our common humanity. What can make this seem difficult? Perhaps things we’ve been taught, stereotyped thinking, prejudice, fear.
Acceptance of diversity is freeing because it allows us to fully explore our own understanding or way of life and yet appreciate others who are pursuing another path. True diversity allows us to find our own way in a non-confrontational atmosphere. For me, the basis of accepting diversity is that each one of us is a unique, valuable, individual child of God, if you will –– part of the family of man. From that premise we don’t need to see ourselves as white/black, male/female, rich/poor. Though it appears that we are in those categories, we are more than that. Paul in the Bible put it this way: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). I think Paul was talking about a spiritual view of ourselves — that there is more to us than flesh and bones. Don’t we all — whether or not we consider ourselves religious — get glimpses that there is more to life than meets the eye?
To truly love others (which is something I’m still working on) don’t we have to give up unloving thoughts in ourselves? What patience and forgiveness this all takes! But what a wonderful example we have in Christ Jesus. His direction, which Moses gave before him (Leviticus 19:18), to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 19:19) is relevant today. As is the Golden Rule — to treat others the way you would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12) — which is included in many faith traditions.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Christian Science Church to which I belong, wrote of Christ Jesus — “His mission was to reveal the Science of celestial being, to prove what God is and what He does for man” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 26). Eddy could write this at least in part from her experience of being healed of the effects of a life-threatening accident in 1866 by reading an account of one of Jesus’ healings in the Bible.
Practicality and relevance are important here. Jesus was giving us an example we can follow today; he was explaining and showing an actual law of healing, that exists for all time and is available for everyone.
Love and compassion are key to that law, which also gives us a basis to understand true worth, our own and others’ — worth based not on material things but on qualities like integrity, kindness, intelligence. If we can truly see the good in others and in ourselves, it makes it a lot easier to love ourselves and others. Appreciating diversity can be a stepping-stone, not a stumbling block, on our individual paths. Sounds like a win-win goal to me.
Virginia McCullough is First Reader in the Newburyport Christian Science Church and a volunteer at the Christian Science Reading Room, www.christiansciencenewburyport.com.