"It may not be too much to claim that the future of our world will depend on how we deal with identity and difference," wrote Miroslav Volf, a Croatian Protestant theologian. The value of diversity has been confirmed by science, is evident in religious creation stories, and is proven to be true in the everyday life of communities and religious groups. Indeed, our strength derives from the degree to which we can accept diversity.
Here are some quotations supporting this point of view. We hope they are helpful to our website visitors who are preaching, teaching, and conversing about this crucial value for our times.
- "Diversity may be both the hardest thing to live with and the most dangerous thing to be without."
— William Sloane Coffin in Credo
- "The challenge, then, is to recognize that the world is about two things: differentiation and communion. The challenge is to seek a unity that celebrates diversity, to unite the particular with the universal, to recognize the need for roots while insisting that the point of roots is to put forth branches. What is intolerable is for differences to become idolatrous. No human being's identity is exhausted by his or her gender, race, ethnic origin, national loyalty, or sexual orientation. All human beings have more in common than they have in conflict, and it is precisely when what they have in conflict seems over-riding that what they have in common needs most to be affirmed. James Baldwin described us well: 'Each of us, helplessly and forever, contains the other -- male in female, female in male, white in black and black in white. We are part of each other.' "
— William Sloane Coffin in The Heart Is a Little to the Left
- "If the story of creation (Genesis 1:1-2:4) is anything to go on, God has not only a strong penchant for variety, but also a gloriously inventive imagination. Time and again, we find him calling forth all kinds of new, previously unthought of creations: darkness and light, water and land, the sun, the moon and the stars, sea monsters and swimming things, all sorts of birds, various beasts both wild and tame, man and woman. The scriptures depict God as someone in love with variety; the richness of creation is nothing but a reflection of God's interest in 'all kinds of living things' (Genesis 1:24)."
— Dennis Billy in Under the Starry Night
- "My experience is emblematic of what all of humanity is experiencing at this moment in our history. As diverse cultures come together and diffferent ways of thinking clash, there's stress, tension. Because of this there's more capacity for the visionary to come forth and take the front of the world stage."
— Joseph Rael in House of Shattering Light
- " 'Differentiation' refers to the diversity, variation, and heterogeneity that we see all around us, highlighting how things differ from one another even within the same class or species. In a word, everything is uniquely different, irrespective of its strength or weakness. No two atoms are identical. This variety is enhanced by an essential newness — what Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry call 'an outrageous bias for the novel' — that characterizes the unfolding of life at every level."
— Diarmuid O'Murchu in Evolutionary Faith
- "In ecosystems the role of diversity is closely connected with the system's network structure. A diverse ecosystem will also be resilient, because it contains many species with overlapping ecological functions that can partially replace one another. When a particular species is destroyed by a severe disturbance so that a link in the network is broken, a diverse community will be able to survive and reorganize itself, because other links in the network can at least partially fulfill the function of the destroyed species. In other words, the more complex the network is, the more complex its pattern of interconnections, the more resilient it will be."
— Richard Louv in The Web of Life
- "At the heart of creativity is diversity. Diversity is at the core of the universe and is its art form. We need to embrace and appreciate the differences in places and people. However, creativity and diversity have not been espoused by the bureaucratic structures of our dominant culture. Schools, governments, and corporations prefer predictable, managed behavior. In the creative process, we surrender and often become astonished at what happens as we revere the diversity of ethos, language, history, and place. As we challenge the conformity that leads to boredom and burnout, the door opens to joy, inspiration, and healing."
— James Conlon in Lyrics for Re-Creation
- "In the exuberance of nature begins our own. And nature is self-evidently exuberant. One pair of poppies, given seven years and the right conditions, will produce 820 thousand million million million descendants. A single pair of spiders over the same time period and under ideal circumstances will give rise to 427 thousand million million more spiders. The fertility and diversity of nature are staggering."
— Kay Redfield Jamison in Exuberance
- "God creates diversity so that everyone has something to talk about with everyone else."
— Juris Rubenis in Finding God in a Tangled World with Maris Subacs, edited and translated by Paul Valliere
- "I am a poor sort of shaman. My shape never changes, except, year by year, to wrinkle and sag. I did not become an otter, even for an instant. But the yearning to leap across the distance, the reaching out in imagination to a fellow creature, seems to me a worthy impulse, perhaps the most encouraging and distinctive one we have. It is the same impulse that moves us to reach out to one another across differences of race or gender, age or class."
— Scott Russell Sanders in Writing from the Center
- "There are at least two ways to welcome diversity. One is to personally get to know people of other religions, spending time with them and working together to help build local communities that are just, sustainable, and peaceful. . . . The second way to welcome diversity is to undertake critical, yet friendly, readings of the other religions — even if we do not know people who belong to them — with an interest in appreciating the wisdom those religions might offer us. . . . To get to know people of other religions and to undertake friendly readings of their traditions is akin to lighting a candle that helps brighten our small corner of the world, helping to dispel the blindness that permeates the region. When the small candle is combined with other candles in other parts of the world, it can provide hope for a world too often torn apart by fear, hatred, and confusion. There is a great need in our world for this kind of candle lighting."
— Jay McDaniel in Gandhi's Hope
- "I think that one of our most important tasks is to convince others that there's nothing to fear in difference; that difference, in fact, is one of the healthiest and most invigorating of human characteristics without which life would become meaningless."
— Adlai Stevenson in A Chosen Faith by John A. Buehrens
- "I cannot imagine how stressful it is to be a leader today and to pretend that you have the answer. A life-affirming leader is one who knows how to rely on and use the intelligence that exists everywhere in the community, the company, the school, or the organization. A leader these days needs to be a host — one who convenes people, who convenes diversity, who convenes all viewpoints in creative processes where our intelligence can come forth."
— Margaret Wheatley in The World Café by David Isaacs and Juanita Brown
- "May I mindfully appreciate
of every being I encounter,
who, like flowers,
brings beauty, variety,
to our world."
— Jean Smith in Now!: The Art of Being Truly Present
- "Human and religious diversity is just as much in need of preservation as biological diversity."
— John Habgood in To Pause at the Threshold by Esther de Waal
- "If there is to be shalom, it shall not be just for isolated, insulated individuals; it is rather, security and prosperity granted to a whole community — young and old, rich and poor, powerful and dependent. Always we are all in it together. Together we stand before God's blessing and together we receive the gift of life, if we receive it at all. Shalom comes only to the inclusive, embracing community that excludes none."
— Walter Brueggeman in Embracing the World by Jane Vennard
- "There is great diversity among human beings. Physically we differ from each other in things such as size, body structure, skin color, and facial features. We also differ from one another mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. One of the greatest challenges of a healthy spirituality is learning to tolerate the differences we find in one another and not to view these differences as threats to ourselves. Moreover, a healthy spirituality should lead us to celebrate our differences and to see them as a reflection of God's beneficence and creativity."
— Melannie Svoboda in Traits of a Healthy Spirituality
- " 'Wait, I have something you all must hear. Brothers and sisters, be at peace,' said Jesus. 'Remember: Blessed are the inclusive. In my company there must be a rich diversity. Like God, we must find delight in a variety of opinions, in the richness of different personalities and various approaches to the Way. What we need is not uniformity but unity, love -- always and everywhere. Let us be compassionate with each other as God is compassionate. Let us be like grapes and not like marbles when we come together with conflicting opinions.' "
— Edward Hays in The Gospel of Gabriel
- "The more we let each voice sound forth with its own tone,
The more diverse will be the chant in unison."
— Angelus Silesius in Angelus Silesius translated by Maria Shrady
- "Woe unto the world when everyone is of the same religious opinion and takes to the same path. Then all religions and all thought will be destroyed. Variety is the very soul of life. When it dies out entirely, creation will die. When this variation in thought is kept up, we must exist; and we need not quarrel because of that variety. Your way is very good for you but not for me. My way is good for me but not for you."
— Swami Vivekananda in Selections from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Kendra Crossen Burroughs
- "Pluralism is the position that all the religions together have equal value and an equal claim on the truth. Pluralism, I believe, is the key to transforming the religions from cultures of isolation and centers of potential conflict to dynamic communities that can work together."
— Wayne Teasdale in A Monk in the World
- "Every person possesses one valuable trait that cannot be found in any other."
— Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz in Hasidic Wisdom by Simcha Raz, translated by Dov Peretz Elkins and Jonathan Elkins
- "Siblings define themselves by their differences and learn to tolerate diversity, to live with competition as well as cooperation. We learn the power of heeding one another's counsel and authority, just as we also find ourselves as siblings caught up in a complex minuet of shifting alliances. The world of the twenty-first century may be more about partnerships than superpowers, about the unexpected dance between former enemies, and the reclaiming of peer relations. For all of this, our sibling bonds, biological and chosen, will be an important element in our global survival."
— Brenda Peterson in Sister Stories
- "Every valley has a different language, and every teacher has a different Dharma."
— Tibetan Saying in One Dharma by Joseph Goldstein
- "At the end of our service in our Zen center, we chant, 'Unceasing change turns the wheel of life and so reality is shown in all its many forms.' "
— Diane Eshin Rizzeto in Waking Up to What You Do
- "It's very important to appreciate life in all its different manifestations, in all its manyness. People who focus too much on the oneness of life without seeing its diversity will sometimes establish a single standard for what is human. When we vow to be diversity we vow to work with all forms of life. We work with them by becoming them, by seeing their point of view and looking at life through their individual perspective. No matter who we work with, it's impossible to be an effective peacemaker without taking differences into account."
— Bernie Glassman in Bearing Witness
- "Differences were meant by God not to divide but to enrich."
— J. H. Oldham in Thank You for Being Such a Pain by Mark I. Rosen
- "An attitude of openness, the willingness to recognize and accept the diversity of human experience and the spiritual values of other traditions and cultures, is essential in the practice of nonviolence. We create true peace when we are inclusive of others. Yet inclusion and nonattachment to our opinions are sometimes difficult to practice. Exclusion, getting caught by our views, is a deep-seated habit that arises from fear and misunderstanding of others. To transform our habit of excluding others, we must practice and develop understanding and compassion in all parts of our life."
— Thich Nhat Hanh in Creating True Peace
- "If we embrace the promise of diversity, of creative conflict, and of 'losing' in order to 'win,"' we still face one final fear -- the fear that a live encounter with otherness will challenge or even compel us to change our lives. This is not paranoia: the world is really out to get us! Otherness, taken seriously, always invites transformation, calling us not only to new facts and theories and values but also to new ways of living our lives -- and that is the most daunting threat of all."
— Parker Palmer in The Courage to Teach
- “The more we see of the world, the broader is the range of our curiosity.”
— Theodore Zeldin in Conversation
- “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another….”
— Qur’an 49:13
- “When we deny our shadow, it is virtually impossible to explore the two sides of a polarity without dehumanizing or demonizing. This makes it impossible to bridge the divide. We need to own our shadow. Doing so helps us to avoid the natural tendency to identify exclusively with just one side of a polarity. By engaging our whole self, we can listen compassionately to an opposing side and begin to build bridges of understanding that lead to healing.”
— Don Mackenzie, Ted Falcon, and Jamal Rahman in Finding Peace through Spiritual Practice
- “…most of all, we need to accept ourselves exactly as we are in the moment, and we need to accept others exactly as they are. This unconditional acceptance brings us into the field of love, and the field of love supports the healing that we seek.”
— Ted Falcon in Finding Peace through Spiritual Practice by Don Mackenzie, Ted Falcon and Jamal Rahman
- “In the movement of the tree branches in the wind, Rumi finds a beautiful insight: the branches of the tree sway differently in the breeze but are connected at the roots. There is unity in diversity!” — Jamal Rahman in Out of Darkness Into Light by Jamal Rahman, Kathleen Schmitt Elias, and Ann Holmes Redding
- “Ours is a huge, magnificent world, brimming with beauty, variety, and diversity. What we perceive is a minuscule fraction of the fraction of what really exists. Rumi says that if a drop of the wine of vision could rise our eyes, everywhere we looked, we would weep with wonder. Sadly, many of us are stuck in the confines of our tribal culture and beliefs and are astonishingly unaware of the splendor that lies beyond what we know.”
— Jamal Rahman in Sacred Laughter of the Sufis
- “But I alone can’t ask to be seen fully for who I am and my unique value. If I want you to acknowledge my gifts, I have to be curious about yours. I have a responsibility to look for and honor yours. We create enough space for our own self-expression only by inviting in everybody else’s uniqueness.”
— Margaret Wheatley in Turning to One Another
- —“…the only thing we have in common is our differences. When we understand that…we discover our oneness.”
— Bernie Glassman in Turning to One Another by Margaret Wheatley