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Diversity doesn’t have to mean divisiveness

The question of what it means to have a diverse student body looms large in college and university admission offices – particularly in light of the ongoing affirmative action court case involving Harvard University. Today’s contributor shares an elementary school experience that helped her realize there’s a spiritual basis for unity in diversity.

Diversity was a fact of life at my elementary school. Like most kids, I accepted it without much thought. Until, that is, I became the target of bullying that appeared to be racially charged.

My parents contacted school authorities, but at home we prayed. I’d learned in Christian Science Sunday School that I could turn to God and expect to find protection and healing. It was natural for me to trust prayer to make a difference.

Our prayers acknowledged that both the girl who’d been bullying me and I were God’s daughters. The Bible says that “we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). So it’s natural for each of us to act like our loving and good divine Father-Mother.

As I began to see my classmate this way, our relationship shifted dramatically. First, I wasn’t afraid of her anymore. Then, the bullying stopped. By the end of the school year, we had even become friends.

This experience has been a touchstone for me; it taught me that diversity doesn’t have to mean divisiveness. Understanding that we are children of the one God, the spiritual expressions of His love, enables us to see others, even those who seem very different from us, as our brothers and sisters – beautifully individual, but having a common spiritual heritage. This view dissolves hatred and prejudice.

With more colleges and universities striving for better diversity, we can pray in support of these initiatives – to see diversity as a quality of God, rather than confined to labels.

What does that mean? I like to think of this spiritual view of diversity in relation to music, where the principles of music connect and harmonize a wide variety of notes. Similarly, God, divine Principle, expresses the infinite diversity of His ideas, His children, and harmonizes them in lovely ways. Governed by this Principle, we aren’t just safe in relation to one another, we’re brought into constructive and beautiful relationships.

This was not only evident in my elementary school experience but I’ve also seen it in other situations since then. As I’ve prayed to understand something of the infinite yet gorgeously varied nature of God, my view of diversity has changed from a focus on superficial differences to joy in knowing that God expresses Himself in radiant individuality. This has had practical results.

The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, saw the promise of this kind of unity-in-diversity when she wrote, “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself...’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 340).

As we consistently identify those we meet as beloved brothers and sisters, we can expect to see the powerful, harmonizing effects of this prayer in our relationships, schools, communities, and world.

Adapted from an article published in the Christian Science Perspective column, May 16, 2016.

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