“Diversity and inclusion” have become buzz words and they mean different things to different people. The most obvious meaning of diversity seems to be acceptance that different persons, cultures, races, personalities, etc. have equal right to favourable consideration in society. Inclusion would in its turn mean the acceptance by the majority of the minority. The problem comes when the differences and minorities have become politically radicalised and want to become the majority and make the old overthrown majority into a new minority position. That is how I see it.
The current disputes about historical slavery, statues and racial prejudice have muddied these subjects in the same way as politically radical gay and transsexual agendas have done at different times. Another problem is the de-personalising of words and their use to describe collectivist and corporate ideologies. The idea of “embracing difference” seems wholesome and Christian, but it is often a point of manipulation by western ‘liberal’ culture and shallow slogans.
Personally, I am inclined to be quite cosmopolitan in taking interest in the way others live and their cultures. As a child, I never had the slightest problem with people of other races living in England. I even went through a childhood phase of looking for a way to become black! Shoe polish? Humour apart, I never considered them as being in any way “inferior”. I was profoundly shocked when I first discovered that the Nazis killed millions of people simply because they were Jewish, Slavonic or any number of minority cultures living in Europe. I always had a different and more tolerant attitude because I thought of life in terms of the world and not only my own country and race. I think this is the key to understanding these words.
What is most important is to form our own understanding and thought, and avoid following the latest groupthink or bandwagon. Those who use these words in slogans often use violence to promote what seem to be or what should be altruistic ideas for the good of others in this world. However, the radicals cause division and violence. The slogans currently used are Black Lives Matter, cancel culture, taking the knee and others. To me, none of these slogans make any sense, because all lives matter regardless of race. What does cancel culture mean? Perhaps it means abolishing the culture of some of favour that of the victors. Whose language is taking the knee? I would talk of kneeling or genuflecting, of kneeling down – which is a gesture both of adoration and penance, and done in regard to God, not man – except for greeting bishops and kissing their rings as a mark of respect.
Diversity and inclusion are words that describe our respect for others, having empathy and awareness of ourselves in relation to them. What is most essential is our ability to think critically and justly. Our age is increasingly post-rational. Romanticism is built on the reason of the Enlightenment as a foundation for the whole person including the imagination and the emotions. Unfortunately, such a paradigm is outside the thought of most people in our society.
It is self-evident to me that people in other parts of the world or who have found it necessary to immigrate into a country of Europe or America should have the right to life, freedom and the search for happiness. It is simply a question of humanity and humanism, reflected in the teachings of Christ. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
I am realistic enough to know that whatever I write will have no educational effect on tbe general public, for the simple reason that my blog would be of no interest to them even if they were aware of its existence. That is of no importance to me.
Perhaps it is because these words are used that their meaning is so shallow. It is like the ridiculous term social distancing used to brainwash us into taking precautions against catching contagious viruses. We should search for inner meanings, accept those who are different, unless of course they are criminal or violent. I do believe we should seek to resist nationalism and become cosmopolitan, identifying ourselves with a global view of humanity, we in Europe and the UK, the Americas, Russia, Asia, Africa, Australia and the entire southern hemisphere.
I do think it is important for us to learn from Christians who have had profound contact with other religions like Hinduism. I would like to learn more about Dom Bede Griffiths and his experience with the Ashrams of India and his non-dualist philosophy. I do think this could be a key to undoing many of our less Christian instincts. Finally, we will develop respect for others even if we do not entirely embrace their spiritual traditions.
If equality, inclusion and diversity are just empty words and slogans, we will not make any progress in their meanings. Our big problem is mass humanity as named by Ortega y Gasset in 1930, with all the characteristics that Nietzsche and Tocqueville predicted. It is a paradox with our democratic age in that mankind had an opportunity to overcome tyranny and the feudal system only to be rejected by a new type of humanity, the man of the crowd. Not listening to reason, the man of the crowd knows only one language – violence against what does not conform to humanity at its basest. We become influenced by identity politics, so-called woke culture and consumerism. Covid-19 and the lockdowns are truly a sign of a world where wearing a mask (or not) in specified situations is a political gesture.
We seem to need to work towards a new Age of Reason and do away – not with “religious superstition” – but with the irrationality of the mass man and the mob. One big principle of St Thomas Aquinas was the primacy of reason over the will and all the emotions. This is also a principle found in many of the Romantic thinkers who extended the rational intellect with the creative imagination and the quest for the transcendent.
If this does not happen in the next few years, I fear a world war or a revolution that will dwarf 1789 in France and 1917 in Russia. That will not be a pleasant time to live in, nor will it be one of either diversity or inclusion.
One of the things that irritates me about “diversity and inclusion” is the fact that immigrant communities (particularly Muslims) here are all in favour of it because it suits them. If I went to Afghanistan and started campaigning for minority rights and for the equality of my minority Christian faith next to Islam I face being told to go away and shut up at best, and perhaps being stoned at worst. So there’s a double standard.
Leading on from that, the other thing that annoys me is the fact that it is obviously anti-Christian. Christianity, in its various denominational forms, was once “established” in Europe. For various historic and cultural reasons, it is so no longer which means that now Christianity has to queue up, on equal footing, with every other bogus religion. Having once been established, and being so no longer, does that not constitute a diminished and abased status for a religion that shaped western Europe until the beginning of the last century? This manifests itself in a number of ways but on a personal level it means that I cannot discriminate between a married couple and two fornicators or homosexuals. You may or may not think that this scenario is correct. I don’t and I think it’s time the mainstream churches started asserting themselves a bit more, putting their houses in order and returning to the hard and fast doctrine of the past centuries as opposed to the lukewarm, lax interpretation that we see today.
I came to live in France and as an Englishman I more or less belong to the same cultural tradition. I went through a lot of formalities to obtain a residence permit and then naturalisation. I am not sure that immigration into France is all that easy for Syrians, Pakistanis and North Africans (for example), even for those seeking refugee status. England is hard to get into also. I believe in integration into the host country, and so does my local Prefecture. I had a French language test to undergo, and it is quite hard even with my decades of speaking the language. I can’t say I blame people for keeping their cultural identity, including their religion. That has always been the case in the USA. That we westerners would be given a hard time if we went to live in a Muslim country, two wrongs don’t make a right.
If Christianity wants status as a state religion, then it will have to take its place in the queue. Well, if the mainstream churches started putting their houses in order… Here in France, people say that if their aunt had wheels, she would be a bicycle (or a car or a cart). Covid-19 seems to have given its answer to many of these questions. Many won’t be returning to church even when there will no longer be “social distancing” and masks. It’s sad but Sic transit gloria mundi.
What about Christianity? The answer is within ourselves.
Dear Father Chadwick, Thank you for a superb analysis. Pure common sense, albeit seeming to be rare. I don’t think it is. It is there, but certain voices which are capturing some itchy ears, are really hollow, but are being ignored by most people. Father, you are at your perennial best in this article. Again, Thanks be to God! Sincerely In Christ Jesus, Larry Clarence Lewis, Canada.
Honestly this turn towards “cancel culture” made me return heavily to the Theravada Buddhism I thought I left behind years ago. I went back and started to thoroughly explore meditation in that school again. Perhaps there really isn’t any refuge out there, that it’s only possible to find by deconstructing the narratives within where we create suffering. There does seem to be an immediacy and a depth to meditation and what you get from it.
Perhaps the outside world and what drives what passes as culture today is really just a reflection of the unhealthy things coming up from people’s unsettled hearts? Inner and outer are related. The greed, anger and delusion in people’s hearts spill out into the world. Cancel culture is coming from wounded and angry hearts. I’m just exploring this deeply and thinking out loud.
What you’ve attempted to do with Christianity through a more Romantic lens (many thanks for the pdf books by the way, and my apologies for not thanking you sooner) is one way of trying to find your own path to understanding the world.
All I know is that I was sorely disappointed with pretty much all the institutional churches. Most have become reflections of all that’s bad in our culture and don’t really offer anything of substance, at least for me.
Well, you know Thanissaro Bhikkhu actually wrote a book about Romanticism and Buddhism, mostly as a critique of wedding the one to the other. Not sure if it would ever interest you but if so I’ll send a link. It’s definitely a challenging book with a different, challenging perspective.
At any rate I hope August finds you well Father. If I recall Transfiguration and the Dormition are coming for you guys on the Gregorian calendar so I wish you the best in both if we don’t talk till then.
Many thanks for your fascinating and thoughtful comment. I have tended to block out a lot of the news about riots in the USA and Europe, though I am still horrified at seeing them tearing down statues. The police have come up with a good idea: spray the rioters with indelible dye with a water cannon that shows up under black light. Then arrest them individually if they show traces of dye. However, until now it is little more than May 1968 in France, except with more damage to cultural monuments, churches, businesses, etc.
I know little about Buddhism or even Hinduism. I have heard of notions of non-duality like some of the old Greek philosophers. Dom Bede Griffiths and his experience in the Ashrams of India must be fascinating. My brother went to India and Kathmandu in the early 1970’s and came back with wonderful tales of the cultures he saw. I have only been outside Europe to go to America.
My best advice to anyone reading this is – if possible – live in the countryside and earn your living by distance work, things you can do on a computer and using the internet. It will also keep you away from pandemics (apart from having to go shopping or get the car repaired, etc.). However, the bottom line is that “Romantia” or the Kingdom of God or Nirvana is within us. Others might call it the third eye or the pineal gland. Consciousness and matter are one. We have to find peace in ourselves before it can spread to those around us and the whole world.
It looks to me like the end of the Roman Empire in more or less the 5th century. The political establishments everywhere are being ruled by ever more foolish people. I haven’t found many Philosopher Kings around recently!
With German mysticism and Romanticism, there seem to be concepts to which western people can perhaps relate. I think we do have a duty to “save” Christianity from its accretions but in a different way from what the Protestants tried in the Renaissance era. If we can distinguish the Beatitudes from ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s horrors (both sexual abuse and selling out to the Chinese) or the filth of the Borgias, then that is a start!
Isn’t it amazing how the two feasts you mention correspond with the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945! May these feasts now bring us peace, love, intelligence and divinity we so desire.