Inclusiveness and Diversity: You’re Doing It Wrong

So on Friday I got an email about an event being hosted at Calvin College in Grand Rapids entitled Principled Pluralism: Navigating America’s Increasingly Diverse Religious Landscape. It’s sponsored by the Aspen Institute’s Inclusive America Project. The text of the invitation says:

As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, and American society becomes increasingly diverse, we more frequently come into contact with people who have deeply held religious beliefs that differ from our own. Substantive disagreements between people of different faiths—and between people within the same general faith tradition—exist, and no amount of missionary activity or interfaith dialogue will erase them. How we manage these substantive disagreements will increasingly affect the well-being of our local communities and our nation.

What should interdenominational and interfaith interactions look like, particularly when both sides are deeply committed to their views? How can we, as Americans, positively engage our religious diversity in service of shared ideals and the common good?

The panel consists of three men: Alec Hill, the president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; Dr. Michael Le Roy, the president of Calvin College; and Rev. Julius Medenblik, the president of Calvin Seminary. “We got both kinds here, infralapsarian Calvinists and supralapsarian Calvinists.” Inclusiveness and diversity: You’re doing it really, really wrong.

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  • http://howlandbolton.com richardelguru

    You think they are predestined to fail?

  • eric

    I’m curious as to whether this was a failure to invite a diverse set of speakers (which Ed kind of implies), or a failure to make the event appealing to potential speakers outside their immediate pigeonhole. Or both.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    What should interdenominational and interfaith interactions look like, particularly when both sides are deeply committed to their views?

    The easy answer is to get over it and live a reality-based life. Then you can disagree about matters of substance like whether rap or rock’n’roll is better.

  • sprocket

    Reminds me of that Emo Philips routine about the jumper on the bridge.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    And who wants to be that they are not only all men, but men with northern European complexions? Anyone?

  • colnago80

    I’m sure that the blogs resident physics professor, math department chairman and admitted Calvinist would find this event to his liking.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    I don’t see the problem. The discussion really is about interfaith and interdenomination–not about different flavors of Calvinism. Why is it bad for three Calvinists to be on a panel discussing how they can or cannot play in an increasingly diverse landscape? Is the complaint that the panel is homogeneous? If so I still don’t see the problem. Would it be bad for a small panel of atheists to discuss early stages of “how can we work (or not work) with religious organizations on common charitable projects?” without, at least at first, including anyone from the religious community? Just to brainstorm? Just for consciousness raising? As I said, I do not see the problem. I don’t think it is wrong.

    Now might it end up being lamentable? Sure. But in principle it’s fine.

  • Chiroptera

    What should interdenominational and interfaith interactions look like, particularly when both sides are deeply committed to their views?

    Well, if history is any guide, the traditional answer is to start killing one another.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    I’m with Heddle on this one.

  • Johnny Vector

    Would it be bad for a small panel of atheists to discuss early stages of “how can we work (or not work) with religious organizations on common charitable projects?” without, at least at first, including anyone from the religious community?

    Yes. Also pointless and self-aggrandizing.

    Next question.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Johnny Vector

    Yes. Also pointless and self-aggrandizing.

    Next question.

    No, no more questions for you. Anyone who answers a question so smugly followed by the condescending “Next question” is clearly a jackass, in my opinion. And to do this following a comment that includes “self-aggrandizing” puts great pressure on meters of both “irony” and “self-awareness” flavors.

  • dingojack

    Heddle -‘self-aggrandising’? I bow to your clearly superior knowledge of the subject…

    :) Dingo

  • anubisprime

    So after many years of suspicions and sheer hatred of each other they finally realise that the time is actually well past the optimum moment they should have all banded together to fight anti-christs and atheists.

    They missed it by a mile…around the millennium would have been wise…but 14 yrs later they suddenly smell the coffee…and realise they are all sliding into the tar pit of ridiculous nonsense and no one is holding the the rope at the top.

    I suppose better late then never…but their delusion is doomed…they just do not want to believe it or mostly do not realise it and far to late it is.

    Much too late any which way and banding together to fight atheism, teh ghey conspiracy, and secularity, cos that is what it is about, well that and the realization they are dwindling in numbers anyway, is a forlorn tactic, they have never done it before they do not know how.

    So divided they stand and divided they will fall but they can all talk about what could have been…they can knock themselves out with that pointlessness..

  • colnago80

    Gee, ole Heddle showed up 40 minutes after my comment (he would have shown up earlier but he probably had a class) with a totally inane comment. As predicted, he would probably revel in this presentation.

  • eric

    I don’t see the problem. The discussion really is about interfaith and interdenomination–not about different flavors of Calvinism.

    The problem is there are no different faiths in this interfaith conference. Becase of that, they are only going to see the potential problems of working with non-calvinist groups from their own perpective, not from the other groups perspective, and that is a recipe for developing collaborative strategies that won’t work.

    Would it be bad for a small panel of atheists to discuss early stages of “how can we work (or not work) with religious organizations on common charitable projects?” without, at least at first, including anyone from the religious community? Just to brainstorm? Just for consciousness raising?

    If calvinists want to brainstorm about how to approach (for example) lutherans, by all means have a calvinist-only discussion. But once you’ve decided to invite lutherans to that meeting, you’d be idiotic not to let the lutherans speak, right?

    Well then consider this: Ed was on the mailing list. And he’s almost certainly not the only non-calvinist. Seems pretty clear that this is an “invite the lutherans” meeting, not an “intenal calvinist planning” meeting. If it was, as you want to suggest, an early stage brainstorming session, people like Ed would not have been invited. So the question remains, why is their speaker list so much less diverse than what their audience list suggests it should be? That is, as Ed says, not doing it right.

  • Michael Heath

    Calvin College’s invitation:

    How can we, as Americans, positively engage our religious diversity in service of shared ideals and the common good?

    I got an idea. How about each individual participant committing to a credible and collaborative search for objective truth? How about committing to scrutinizing all the factual premises that support their present conclusions? How about committing to adapting their conclusions as their prior premises are falsified or found wanting compared to other hypotheses or theories? How about committing oneself to being open to adapting their beliefs to those consistent with objective truth?

    How about that? Nah, I didn’t think so; the close-minded defense of dogma will continue to reign supreme.

    These exercises are beneficial and harmful. They’re beneficial when it leads to the reduction of inter-denominational hatred which increases equal protection under the law, but it also creates political allies that are capable of passing public policy that entrenches hatred and unequal protection towards those outside the allied denominations. These alliances also causes members inside these groups to suffer, like women, children, and GBLTs.

    So I appreciate why Ed supports ecumenical activities, but we must not ignore the costs either.

  • Sastra

    Many years ago a friend of mine was in charge of a Diversity Conference for local high school students (public and private.) She was trying to put together a diversity panel on religion, which was being set up to include as many views as possible so that the teenagers could learn about the different belief systems. There was iirc a priest, a rabbi, a Buddhist, a Bahai, an imam, and a pagan (among others.)

    I asked to be on it. I was gently discouraged. I asked again, with better arguments.

    Then some of the high school principals found out what “pagan” meant. She was a Wiccan. Several of the schools immediately threatened to pull out of the entire Conference (including the public school) unless she was either taken off the panel or the panel was cancelled. So the panel was gone.

    I said that if I had been proposed for that panel, bet the witch could have stayed. Could be worse.

    (One year (can’t remember which) I was allowed a 15 minute talk in company with a neo-pagan on the topic of ‘religious freedom’ though.)

  • busterggi

    Heddle has to defend them, as good Calvinists neither he nor they have a choice.to do otherwise.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    colnago80

    Gee, ole Heddle showed up 40 minutes after my comment

    There are many things peculiar about you, perhaps none more so that you achieve gratification through predicting someone will comment on a subject about which they have a history of demonstrated interest. You must be so proud.

  • Nick Gotts

    busterggi,

    Oh they have a choice all right; it’s just that God decided what they would choose before creating the universe.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    What should interdenominational and interfaith interactions look like, particularly when both sides are deeply committed to their views?

    Given the high priority this invite, as worded, places on “both sides'” deep commitment to their views, I’m guessing the answer they’re steering toward is: agree not to say anything offensive to either side, and find a scapegoat for both sides to blame everything on instead. That’s what all religions seem to be doing already: agree to support each other’s con-games and pretend atheists are everyone’s common enemy.

  • dingojack

    Sastra – “There was iirc a priest, a rabbi, a Buddhist, a Bahai, an imam, and a pagan (among others.)”

    Did they all walk into a bar…

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist, lack of ‘free will’ dontchnow?)

    :) Dingo

  • dingojack

    Perhaps it’s my inherent ‘Absolute Degeneracy’* showing.

    😉 Dingo

    ——–

    * as opposed to electron or neutron degeneracy….

  • eric

    Did they all walk into a bar…

    Yes, but only the buddhist didn’t say “ouch.” :)

    …and by the seven arms of Vishnu, where was the hindu!?!?

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    dingojack “Sastra – ‘There was iirc a priest, a rabbi, a Buddhist, a Bahai, an imam, and a pagan (among others.)’

    Did they all walk into a bar…”

    Only three did. The other three were in a rowboat.

  • freehand

    dingojack: Sastra – “There was iirc a priest, a rabbi, a Buddhist, a Bahai, an imam, and a pagan (among others.)”

    [..] they all walk into a bar…

    .

    And the bartender says “What is this, some kind of joke?”

  • bybelknap

    Reminds me of a local interest story in the Scranton dog trainer I read when I first moved up here mumble mumble years ago. It was all about a cultural diversity group. The co-chairs were three white women of a certain age. I don’t recall the particular surnames of the ladies, but one was obviously of Irish descent, another Italian and the third Polish. There’s cultural diversity for you!

  • Johnny Vector

    Oh for Carrier’s sake, heddle. How long have you been posting around here? Have you absorbed nothing from what must by now be hundreds of posts about “diversity panels” that don’t contain any diversity? I would have explained further to a newbie, but you’re supposed to know better by now. Why ever would you think it was a good idea to discuss trying to be inclusionary of religious people without including, y’know, actual religious people? Yes, even when brainstorming. Sure, let’s throw out all kinds of ideas of how to reach people we’ve never been able to, based solely on what our little circle of friends thinks will work. Yeah. That’ll go great.

    The only sensible topic of discussion amongst a small group of X interested in working with Y is “who in the Y community should we invite to discuss this?” By the time you get to “how do we work together”, if you’re not including the people you’re trying to work with, you’re doing it wrong. If you actually get to “Hey y’all, here’s how to work with those Y people,” without including any Y, you’re in so deep you’re gonna need a winch to get out.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Johnny Vector # 28,

    Some of what you say is correct, but not all of it. And you are wrong enough that you shouldn’t say it with such certainty. Group X (say a group of gnu atheists) might ask the question: does it make sense to collaborate with group Y (say pro-science theists like Ken Miller) to keep creationism out of the classroom? Such a group might first meet amongst themselves to decide whether such a diversified approach is advisable. They might decide it is advisable, or they might decide that working with “accomodationists” is not worth the effort. It only makes sense to be inclusive once you decide that you in fact seek inclusiveness. You may instead draw a line in the sand. Once you set inclusiveness as a goal, then it makes sense to include those with whom you seek common ground in the discussion.

    Sorry, it is not as obvious as you suggest, no matter how strongly you assert that is.

    Your God Carrier (I assume you mean Richard Carrier when you wrote For Carrier’s sake) has in fact written some fairly strongly “you are with us or you are scum” type screeds about the ascendancy and superiority of A+ atheists. (I can find the links if you need them.) He would not be the god I’d invoke if I was arguing that inclusiveness is always the way to go. Just saying.

  • Suido

    @Heddle #29

    Nice. Admit the other person is correct, then bring up completely different situations that proves the point you tried to make about this situation. That’s a super great way to win arguments, used by all sorts of irrational people. Here’s a clue: this situation is not like the other situations.

    Back to this situation. Let’s look at the text of the invite:

    What should interdenominational and interfaith interactions look like

    Last time I checked, productive interactions require input from both sides. To ensure that interactions are productive, soliciting opinions from the other side is required. This is nothing like the scientific debate about creationism in the classroom or the A+ vs anti A+ stuff. As you so glibly pointed out, there are sides to those debates that don’t want productive interactions. This is not the case here, so your examples are not relevant to supporting your opinion about this situation.

    This is a group saying, we want to have good interactions with people different to us. And we’re going to hold a discussion forum, with a panel of people that having relevant things to say on this topic. And we’re not going to invite any different people to be on the panel.

    And apparently you don’t see the problem with that. Heddle, the mind boggles.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    suido #30,

    Heddle, the mind boggles.

    Well, some minds do boggle easily. The point remains that is perfectly reasonable to have a discussion about how you want might want to precede with an ecumenical approach before launching into it.

    A famous example from evangelical Christianity is the Evangelicals and Catholics Together agreement. This is from before I was a Christian–but I know quite a bit about it. In short, some evangelicals got together with some Catholics to present a joint front on the Culture wars (I’d have been against it in principle since I don’t fight the culture wars, but that’s a different matter.) When they released their ECT agreement there was an uproar in the evangelical community–not because some wanted to work with Catholics but because the agreement contained a joint theological statement that some evangelicals thought was compromising (Theologically speaking, they were correct IMO). For the most part those who signed eventually agreed with the critics and had to go back to redo the ECT. Very ugly. Very embarrassing. It would have been better for all if the evangelicals first had panel discussions among themselves, with no Catholics about how they might want to work with Catholics. They might have agreed that there are common goals but it would be best to form an agreement that did not include a theological component. Having reached a consensus of what type of ecumenical approach they could live with, they could then start an inclusive discussion with Catholics. It would have save a lot of aggravation.

    This is common sense in my opinion. Sorry you can’t grasp it.

  • Suido

    You seem to be missing a central part of the above situation. Ed was invited to attend. As far as I’m aware, he ain’t Calvinist.

    So it’s not a panel of Calvinists discussing the issue for a Calvinist audience as a precursor to a more open forum. Based on the invite, I can only assume it is already the open forum.

    Again, your choice of example doesn’t match the situation at hand, and doesn’t support your opinion. Only that your opinion seems to be founded on your previous experiences, and not the particular circumstances of this case.

    Please, provide more cases that explain why this open forum on diversity and interfaith interactions should only have Calvinist speakers.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Suido, #32

    Please, provide more cases that explain why this open forum on diversity and interfaith interactions should only have Calvinist speakers.

    You need to check both your criticism for factual basis. First, as for the lack of speakers from other faiths requiring explanation, the end of the invitation (from the link, not from Ed’s excerpt, where it is omitted) reads:

    This moderated panel discussion will present Christian perspectives on the subject with a particular focus on higher education.

    So that explains, up front, why there are no other faiths at this time, just Christian tradition. They are not at the point of jumping in, but rather at the point of exploration and strategizing. By design.

    Second, as for the panelists all being Calvinists–How exactly do you know that?

    I am reasonably in-tune with the Calvinist community and I have never heard That Alec Hill is a Calvinist–and if he is an up-front committed Calvinist then I am very surprised he leads Intervarsity, which is not a Calvinist organization (nor is it anti-Calvinist). I could be wrong–do you have a link where he or someone else discusses his Calvinism? In fact Intervarsity at times defends itself against criticism from Calvinist circles. I am sure that Alec Hill participates in many of these sorts of discussions–and in this case it happens to be at a Calvinist venue. So even if he is Calvinist (again, how do you know that?) this panel could easily be viewed the starting point for a strategy discussion on how to be part of a more diverse landscape. More likely, Alec Hill is on the panel not as a Calvinist but as an expert who runs a huge interdenominational organization.

    The moderator, by the way, is almost certainly not a Calvinist based on his credentials.

  • dingojack

    “Substantive disagreements between people of different faiths—and between people within the same general faith tradition—exist, and no amount of missionary activity or interfaith dialogue will erase them.”

    So this Calvinist talk-fest is set-up to fail, brilliant!

    Dingo

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    DJ, #34

    “Substantive disagreements between people of different faiths—and between people within the same general faith tradition—exist, and no amount of missionary activity or interfaith dialogue will erase them.”

    So this Calvinist talk-fest is set-up to fail, brilliant!

    That doesn’t make sense either as a joke or as an actual criticism. It is actually healthy, imo, for different faiths to agree that they are not going to change each other’s minds about faith matters. In this case it is arguably sensible to have a framework where you are not anticipating that Muslims will convert to Christianity, or that Methodists will become Calvinists. The framework can simply be coexistence, lessened hostility, and–where possible, cooperation on common goals–perhaps things like helping the needy in the local community.

  • Michael Heath

    heddle writes:

    It is actually healthy, imo, for different faiths to agree that they are not going to change each other’s minds about faith matters.

    I understand the motivation for religious people taking this position. But I can’t even imagine a cogent defense that this is “healthy”.

    I would argue the exact opposite. That it is this very inability to be open to considering inconvenient facts and adapting one’s faith/beliefs/conclusions to those facts that is a primary root cause reason explaining why religious people cause so much immense suffering and stifle/obstruct technological, economic, and moral progress.

    Religious people love to vociferously assert they alone possess objective truth, especially when they’re among their own kind. Ironically, the religious groups who make the boldest assertions about truth are also the most close-minded and therefore energetic in their determined ignorance and reliance on logical fallacies. That they’re a predominant group that fiercely avoids scrutinizing what is objectively true. This close-mindedness is not “healthy”, it harms all of us, and our environment.

    So while I get the benefits of ecumenical efforts, if you also seek such social transaction while simultaneously avoiding the the truth claims of one’s faith, that only promotes the costs that are also associated with ecumenical efforts as I noted @ 16. For example, the premises used by Christian fundamentalists and most Muslims to formally discriminate against females and GBLTs.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Why is it bad for three Calvinists to be on a panel discussing how they can or cannot play in an increasingly diverse landscape? Is the complaint that the panel is homogeneous? If so I still don’t see the problem.

    Speaking only for myself, I see two reasons to mock this lame effort. First, religious diversity isn’t exactly a new thing in these parts — it’s something we’ve at least seen on the horizon since the 1960s! Why did it take so long for this particular group to even start asking the questions?! Better late than never, sure, but after a certain point lateness just makes you irrelevant.

    And why is this particular panel still so homogeneous? Did they never invite anyone from outside their original comfort-zone? Or did the invitees see no reason to bother with them?

    And the second problem, as others have mentioned, is the priority they placed on “both sides'” “deep commitment” to their original beliefs. Many of those beliefs deserve respect, but many others are stupid, bigoted, backward, and very harmful to innocent people when put into practice. A conference or other event that puts respect for deeply-held beliefs above changing those beliefs to achieve good goals is an event that is, as DJ said, rigged to fail. It’s really no better — and no more honest and no better timed — than the Republican Party asking itself how to make itself more diverse, while in the same breath refusing to change any of its policy ideas. We’ve seen it before, and we know it’s bogus.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    #36,

    Whatever Michael. Your classic begging-the-question style, wherein you present all your bigoted descriptions of Christians as incontrovertible facts (while, without the blink of an eye, accusing us as claiming to be the sole purveyors of absolute truth) is tiresome.

    My friends and I must have missed the memo. For on many occasions throughout the week I am, as you say, “with my own kind”, and I have never been in a discussion where we “vociferously assert we alone possess objective truth.” It would be kind of hard, given that we tend to disagree, frequently, among ourselves. I am teaching an adult Sunday school on the Parables of Jesus, and they are generating lively disagreements. Meanwhile my pastor and I are in total disagreement about his current sermon series about the Sermon on the Mount and the “You have heard it said but I say unto you” pattern. He is taking the classic Covenant theology position that Jesus is not replacing Mosaic law but correct bad teaching–while I strongly support the “New Covenant” position that Jesus is in fact replacing the Mosaic law. This “borg” mentality that you suggest–even in the most narrow confines of a small group of leaders in a small, independent Calvinistic church–nope, don’t see it. Of course I realize that my actual experiences as a Christian don’t count, and only what atheists say about Christians should be accepted uncritically, but what else can I do?

    Now if you mean nothing more than the obvious, that (most) Christians will claim that the only way to salvation is through Christ–if that is all that you mean, then yes I would agree that in that defining sense we (for the most part) claim to possess absolute truth. (*) In another news flash, Muslims alone claim that Mohammed was a true prophet.

    I can’t speak for other Christians but if you’d like to point out what is “objectively true” that I fail to scrutinize, I’m all ears.

    —–

    * Even that is nuanced. Some Christians think this means that one must proclaim Christ, but some (like myself) accept that as the normative position but argue that some, who may never have heard of Jesus, can be saved through Christ-or at the very least the bible, which tells us God will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy, does not rule out the possibility.

  • Michael Heath

    Raging Bee writes:

    A conference or other event that puts respect for deeply-held beliefs above changing those beliefs to achieve good goals is an event that is, as DJ said, rigged to fail. It’s really no better — and no more honest and no better timed — than the Republican Party asking itself how to make itself more diverse, while in the same breath refusing to change any of its policy ideas.

    There’s an analog here and also one that’s doesn’t correlate and why I think conservative Christians are so energetic in their hatred of gay people.

    The GOP seeks to get non-white people, and people from lower-economic classes to vote for them while maintaining policies that directly cause harm to both groups. They’ve been wildly successful with the latter whereas the former is a potentially emergent initiative. It’s so new it’s still being debated. Conservative Christians have long been able to defend dogma and practices that discriminate against women without losing all that many congregants because they discriminate against women. That’s the analog.

    Where we don’t see an analog is with GBLTs and their families. There appears to be no way for conservative Christian denominations to maintain their bigotry towards gay people without substantial fall-out. Currently it’s a loss of their younger generation. Their bigotry also has them less able to control a GOP that could win elections as they did in the early-2000s. This is a primary reason why conservative Christians are so fearful of gay rights. They’ve been able to control their women, where I struggle to understand why women would voluntarily submit to their own de-humanization, but they can’t control gay people or the larger society that increasingly defends gay people and their families. Gays leave these bigoted institutions when they reach adulthood and increasingly, their taking their non-gay peers with them.

  • Michael Heath

    heddle writes:

    Your classic begging-the-question style, wherein you present all your bigoted descriptions of Christians as incontrovertible facts (while, without the blink of an eye, accusing us as claiming to be the sole purveyors of absolute truth) is tiresome.

    I appreciate why it’s tiresome to you, because it’s true where you want to avoid these facts. It’s called cognitive dissonance reduction.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    My friends and I must have missed the memo. For on many occasions throughout the week I am, as you say, “with my own kind”, and I have never been in a discussion where we “vociferously assert we alone possess objective truth.” It would be kind of hard, given that we tend to disagree, frequently, among ourselves.

    I have no evidence to disprove that assertion — but I’ve heard the same thing said by some really hateful and asinine Christian bigots: “I’m not intolerant and closed-minded — we have such lively intelligent arguments within our church!” And I’m sure the College of Cardinals can be really open-minded too, when the doors are closed and no one else is listening. Such statements don’t have a lot of credibility — all they do is reinforce the impression that someone is perfectly willing to be honest and openminded only among his own in-group.