Questions About Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Christian Education
Monique and I met with an Associate Dean at a major Christian college a couple days ago. I'm still processing the conversation. But she made one particular point that has really stuck with me. She noted that what started out as the noble enterprise to increase "diversity and inclusion" in Christian higher education is, in many cases, turning into the reshaping of many Christian universities according to the ideas of Critical Theory. I think this is a really important insight.
Recently, Monique and I led a short discussion on "diversity and inclusion" with the staff at a major Christian ministry. The need for clear definitions was quickly apparent. Here's a major issue that needs more discussion: the terms "diversity" and "inclusion" aren't in Scripture. While our culture puts these as some of the highest moral values of what it means to be a "good" person, very seldom are the terms even defined. So if Christian institutions of higher ed are going to use these terms, they must be firmly grounded in Scripture. Not simply with a couple of Bible verses taken out of context, but in a rigorous way that naturally flows from the historic Christian worldview.
Two foundational questions immediately arise for me:
Are Christian universities seeking out a distinctly Christian approach to diversity and inclusion?
Are they offering definitions of those terms that are carefully differentiated from the culture's use of those same terms?
As I look at a lot of Christian university web sites, it seems like these words are used a lot, but seldom defined.
On One Hand...
If we mean by "diversity" that we appreciate how God has made us with different gifts and strengths, then great. I can be on board with that.
If by "inclusion" we mean that everyone should have a sense of belonging, and feelings of being accepted and welcomed, and treated equally, then great. Those are profoundly biblical ideas.
If we mean by "diversity and inclusion" the implementation of some kind of vision that displays the global nature of our faith, then I'm all for it. Sign me up!
Should Christian universities have a strong and intentional commitment to actively recruit a culturally diverse student body? I think that would be wonderful.
Should Christian universities create paths for lower income students to benefit from education? I think that's a noble goal.
Should Christian universities promote an atmosphere of inter-cultural camaraderie and unity? Definitely. I'd love to see what fruit could come from an effort to put forward a positive, uplifting message about racial unity, focusing first on our identity in Christ.
Is it appropriate for Christian universities to provide fellowship for students from similar cultures? That could probably be helpful for some.
Have some Christian universities not lived up to our faith's values of human dignity and equality? Yes. That's definitely been a historical problem. For this reason, it's vital for Christian universities to create clear and objective criteria that lead to promotion for all qualified candidates, without partiality based on nation of origin or ethnicity.
On the Other Hand...
If we mean these terms through the lens of Critical Race Theory, however, then a vastly different picture emerges. In this scenario, we need representatives from different oppressed groups who also hold to Critical Theory to be placed in positions of leadership. Equity demands that White people –– and People of Color who don't hold to CRT –– be de-centered.
Dr. James Lindsay (an atheist) gives an extended discussion on how CRT redefines these terms.
What happens when Christian universities become influenced by the CRT oriented definitions of these terms?
What happens when we don't take the time to truly establish biblical definitions and boundaries of "diversity and inclusion"?
What happens when these noble goals degenerate into categorizing White people as the oppressors?
What happens when chapel speakers make blanket generalizations about White students being indifferent toward racism?
What happens when Christian universities set up an entire Bias Reporting team to investigate students and faculty who may have committed unconscious micro aggressions?
What happens to students of Color when they are perpetually told that they can't break through the glass ceiling of racism?
What emotional and psychological damage happens to students of Color when they are labeled a "victim"?
What happens when students of any melanin content are told that the poor and the oppressed are epistemically advantaged when it comes to interpreting scripture?
At that point, we have left historic Christianity and are now being shaped by the spirit of the age.